Topic: Wedding Tips
In August of this year, we had an opportunity to photograph a Vedic (Hindu) wedding ceremony. In fact you can see our blog post for that wedding on this blog under Weddings (Erik & Dimple). Since that time, however, we have had some inquiries about the ceremony itself, since it is so different from a typical American ceremony, religious or civil.
So, at the bride's suggestion, we decided to write another blog essentially describing the ceremony with photos, using the program as a guide. So, rather than focusing on the love story of the bride and groom as we did in our regular posting, this one focuses on the Indian wedding customs and traditions, some of which are religious in origin and others from Indian culture. While many Indian weddings can be a week-long series of events, the one we photographed was just two-days, beginning with Mehndi Night the evening before the wedding ceremony itself.
The night before a wedding is known as the 'Night of Henna” or Mehndi when the bride's hands and feet are decorated with elaborate designs. The designs are usually floral with some signifying fertility.
I am told that there are a number of traditions associated with the henna. The groom at the wedding we photographed told the assembled crowd of family and friends that the amount of henna the bride applies is indicative of how much she loves the bridegroom. One of the guests also explained that how long the henna on the bride's hands lasts is indicative of how well she is cared for (it lasts longer if she does not have to do any chores), Finally, I read on the web that in some cases the groom's name is hidden within the right palm of the bride, and he must find it before he is allowed to sleep on his wedding night.
Clothing was of course traditional Indian.
Wedding Day Attire
The next day saw all new traditional outfits for both the bride and groom. Most interesting to western brides will be the fact that the Indian bride traditionally wears a red or maroon gown, rather than white. I am told that in the Indian culture, white is usually reserved for funerals. At an Indian wedding, the clothes are so colorful, the only flowers are usually just in petal form.
As you might guess, it takes a very long time to get an Indian bride fully dressed and ready for the ceremony.
Swagatam - Welcoming Groom
Once all is ready, the groom will arrive accompanied by his family and friends, where they are greeted by the bride's family and the priest.
When all have arrived, they proceed in sort of a parade to the wedding location to the beat of an ancient Indian drum.
At the entrance to the wedding location, the bride's family greets the groom. The groom is fed sweets and then escorted to the spot where the wedding ceremony will take place.
Antarpat - Curtain Ceremony
Once the groom is in place, a curtain is held up to block his view so he will be unable to see the bride's grand entrance. The bride then enters, accompanied by four male members of her family.
Only after the bride is in her spot on the Mandap, will the curtain be lowered and the groom be able to see his bride-to-be.
Welcome & Invocation
The priest welcomes both families and offers invocation prayers.
Jaimala - Garland Exchange
The bride and groom then exchange garlands of flowers, symbolizing their acceptance of matrimony.
Offering of Sweets & Announcement
The bride's family then offers sweets to the groom, after which the priest invokes God's blessing and officially announces the wedding, inviting the guests to be witnesses.
Kanyadaan - Giving Away The Bride
The groom is requested to accept the bride as an equal partner in his life. Water is poured over the groom's palms and flowing down onto the bride's. This is said to symbolize the continuity of the life cycle and passing of heritage to the next generation.
Tying The Knot
Attendants then tie the bride's and groom's clothing together symbolizing the bonding of the two together for all time.
Pani-Grahan, Shilarohan, Lajahom
The priest then has the bride and groom recite a series of pledges and prayers, accepting each other as husband and wife.
Next, while the priest chants hymns, the bride and groom walk around the fire seven times. During this ceremony, the groom led the first three times around and the bride led the next three. I heard someone suggest whoever leads the last time around will be the leader of the marriage.
As the couple makes their way around, they are showered with rose petals. When they finally return to their seats, they switch places, so that the bride is now to the groom's left in order "to be nearer to his heart."
Seven Marriage Vows
The bride and groom walk seven steps. At each step they take another marriage vow.
They conclude with an exchange of vows that include accepting each other's family as their own.
Sindoor, Mangalasutra & Ring Exchange
During this part of the ceremony, the groom applies vemillion powder in the part of the bride's hair, which in Indian culture indicates that she is now his wife. He then gives her a necklace, signifying good luck, love and friendship.
While not normally a part of an Indian wedding, this couple chose to also exchange rings, as is common in most western weddings.
The Mandap is set up in such a way that as the bride and groom exit to the side, they will be taking their first steps together toward the sun, "that there may always be light shining on them."
As the couple makes their departure, they may receive blessings from family and friends.
Following the ceremony the couple will change clothes again for the reception.
Posted by Warren