Indian weddings are fascinating in that they represent a diverse amalgam of religious, local, and family traditions. Remarkably Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Muslims share many of the same wedding customs. Still, due to India’s diversity as a nation weddings for each of these groups can vary based on caste, region, and ethnicity.
Traditional Indian weddings generally contain several universal components. These are: the pre-wedding ceremonies, the wedding day ceremonies, and the Vidaai – when the bride is formally sent to the groom’s household. As most weddings are arranged in India, the traditional Indian wedding focuses as much on uniting the families of the bride and groom as on the individuals themselves. “Love marriages,” as it is called when a couple decides to marry without family involvement or assistance, remain rare in India and occur primarily in urban areas.
Indian weddings are typically lavish affairs that last for several days. Full of bright colors, elaborate rituals, and much celebration, it is not unusual for an Indian wedding to boast anywhere from 100 to 10,000 attendees. The weddings typically take place in a hall of some sort, in either a local farmhouse or hotel. These halls are then elaborately decorated with bright colors and flowers. Additionally, a marwha, or sacrificial fireplace, is usually installed for the event. This marwha is where the bride and groom will perform the phera, moving in circles around the sacrificial fireplace to complete the ceremony of their marriage.
As elaborate and bright as the decorated halls can be, the bride and groom are often even more resplendent. They are both also traditionally bedecked in colorful fineries. Brides adorn themselves with gold jewelry that is often inset with diamonds and other gemstones, and apply mehndi in fanciful patterns to color their hands and feet. They are clad in beautiful bridal lehengas or sarees. Bridegrooms, though less decorated, generally wear fancy and colorful sherwanis or designer wedding suits.
There are certainly cultural differences that cause traditional Indian weddings to vary. For example, although both Hindus & Muslims engage in the flower bed ceremony, the timing of this night of consummation is different. Overall, despite India’s diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, traditional Indian weddings are all events filled with color and complexity, ritual, and tradition.