India is known for a lot of things like its culture, food and of course, its weddings. Weddings in India are about extravagance, religion, and impeccable hospitality. And of course, it’s the perfect opportunity to show off or maybe on the downside meet some set societal standards.
But, this past week I had the amazing opportunity of being a part of my cousin’s wedding. So finally, I could go to a wedding where I knew people that weren’t my parents’ friends or awkward acquaintances and could dance my heart out because I had the official, sisterly right to do so.
My cousin had a traditional north-Indian, Hindu wedding. The actual wedding ceremony, which involves the couple circling around a fire pit, can be a little monotonous for some, especially me. It’s everything that leads up to that moment that’s exciting, almost a week long process in some cases.
My cousin’s wedding prep started 3 days before the D-day. It started with the Haldi (turmeric) ceremony, which is basically just the application of a turmeric and milk paste on both the groom and the bride in their houses by close friends and relatives. This is like a traditional beauty treatment to add glow to the skin before the wedding. The next is the henna ceremony, where the bride puts henna on her arms and legs, it’s a sign that a girl is newlywed or is about to get married. In some regions it is a tradition to put the groom’s name somewhere in the tattoo that the girl gets on her hand.
Now, lets jump to day 3, this night is all about music and dancing. It is called the sangeet night or the Ladies’ sangeet (music). This event is traditionally limited to the women of the house but with changing times people have transformed it to an all-inclusive, party like atmosphere.
Now for the actual wedding day, I’ll try describing it simply. It is almost like a fairytale. The groom comes riding on a white horse; yes it has to be white with a procession of live band and crazy friends and relatives dancing their hearts out ahead of the horse, or in some cases a chariot. The bride’s sisters welcome the procession using traditional flower garlands and prayers. The bride enters, escorted by her brothers, under a veil of red cloth or flowers. The couple exchanges garlands and then click hundreds of pictures with guests while waiting for the pre-determined time of the pheras (circles around the fire pit). This time is decided by the pundit/guru using astrology. After the pheras, the groom puts a black and gold necklace around the bride’s neck and red powder on her forehead, these symbolize that the woman is now officially married.
These traditions can vary, depending on the geographical location. But the basic process is usually similar in all Hindu weddings.
After all this, the entire family gets together to extend a big goodbye to their daughter. A lot of crying and sad moments later, the couple leaves the venue in a new car usually gifted by the girl’s side. Things don’t finish here, but I don’t want to confuse everyone with too many details.
To end this I would just say, a typical Indian wedding is an experience and I don’t think words can do justice to them, it’s very personal. I highly encourage everyone to try being a part of one, if possible. I assure you, you will not be disappointed, good food and music make up for everything!