Indian Wedding Traditions
Few cultures infuse the wedding with more meaning and traditions than Indian culture. Whether taking place in Mumbai or Massachusetts, an Indian wedding is a pageant of sensory treasures, from the bright colors and gold of the garments to the aromas and flavors of the wedding feast.
A typical wedding, in New England and throughout the U.S, encompasses the wedding ceremony and a reception following it. A traditional Indian wedding, on the other hand, is a series of preparations and celebrations that often lasts four or five days. Rituals vary, of course, according to the region from which the bride and groom come and their religion.
One of the first rituals to precede a Hindu marriage ceremony is called misri, or the ring ceremony. Despite the sound of the word to American ears, this is a joyful ceremony in which the bride and groom exchange rings, and the groom’s family presents the bride with flowers and fruit, and feed her family misri, or rock sugar, which represents the sweetness of the couple’s life together.
The Indian wedding tradition that is most familiar to Americans is mehendi. At this ladies-only ceremony, held the afternoon before the wedding, a Mehendewali draws elaborate henna designs on the bride’s palms, wrists, arms, legs and feet. Sagri is the “acquaintance party,” in which the female relatives of the groom visit the bride’s homes with gifts for her and flowers with which to adorn her. This party may be combined with mehendi.
Sangeet is another exclusively-female celebration held the night before the wedding. Folk songs dedicated to marriage are sung, and unmarried girls perform traditional dances, following which refreshments are served.
On the day of the wedding itself, the bride and groom are cleansed with bright-yellow turmeric powder at their respective residences in the Haldi ritual. At the wedding venue, there will be a brightly colored canopy with four pillars, called a Mandap. The ceremony will take place under this symbolic covering. Perhaps the most important part of the wedding is the Var Mala ceremony, in which the wedding couple place flower garlands around each other’s necks, symbolizing the bride’s acceptance of the groom as her husband. In Saat Phere, the bride and groom exchange seven vows, in which they promise, like brides and grooms everywhere, to care for each other throughout their lives.