A few years ago Chris and I had the supreme honor of being invited to a friend’s wedding in India. The pictures I took are not great and they all look a little blurry, but it was an incredible experience and absolutely worth the long flight (while pregnant and super sick).
Weddings will differ significantly by region, and if a the couple is not Hindu it could be totally different, but from our own experience and talking to others, here are 10 things you can expect:
#1 Lots of colors
Make an effort to wear bright colors and Indian garb. Our hosts had clothing selected and waiting for us upon our arrival in India so we didn’t have to worry about this step. Since we didn’t have time to be fitted, I did not get to wear a traditional Sari but I was thrilled with the beautiful colors and patterns on the clothes I was provided. Traditional Indian clothing will help you feel more comfortable, but if you’re white (like us) don’t expect to blend in no matter what you wear!
#2 Lots of spices
Spices were incorporated in many parts of the actual ceremony and also were offerings at temples the night before and the morning of the wedding. As part of the ceremony spices can be (and probably will be) eaten, thrown on people, thrown away from people, offered to gods or alters, or smeared on faces.
#3 Many people
We attended two days worth of events and the first day had over 300 people. The main ceremony included over 1000 people!
#4 Lots of jewelry
The bride was bedecked with pounds of gold jewelry, from armfuls of bracelets to nose rings. The bride and groom even gave each other gold necklaces as part of the ceremony.
#5 Wonderful food and lots of it
The food doesn’t even wait for the reception either, food and tea were passed around during the actual ceremony at the wedding we attended! I was worried that there wouldn’t be anything mild enough for me to eat (I’m kind of a wimp when it comes to spice) but there were plenty of options at every spice level.
#6 Separation of men and women
The first day we attended was a parade through the streets. Typically the men would dance around the groom and his horse while the woman followed behind. At certain intervals the men would rest and the women would all dance together in the middle of the road. The morning of the ceremony itself the women paraded through the streets to a local temple where only women could enter.
Parts of the ceremony itself involved the women on one side of the room and the men on the other. During this part of the ceremony we all sat on rugs surrounding the bride and groom.
When dinner was served all the men ate first and then cleared out of the dinner area before the women ate. The bride and groom ate together after the men and then again after the women.
#7 Extreme hospitality
Having travelled so far, we were treated like kings and queens throughout the entire wedding. We received front row seats and had people bringing us food and drinks throughout the event. At one point I was looking for a place to put my bag down and the bride herself picked it up and found me a place for me.
In addition to the groom arranging for our clothes, the bride also arranged for a henna artist to paint my arms during one of the non-ceremonial parts of the wedding.
#8 Lots of dancing
The ceremonies the day before and the morning of the wedding both involved dancing in the streets. The day before the wedding we progressed (with the women and men taking turns dancing) from the groom’s home to a nearby temple for some pre-wedding rites. The highlight of this progression was the groom on his white horse and his friends and family dancing around him and waving money at him for luck.
#9 Sitting on the Floor
Chris and I were provided a special mat right next to the pujari for the ceremony the first night we were there. During the main ceremony the women and men were on opposite sides of the room and I shared my mat with several women and children. The ceremonies are very long but wiggling or stretching was common and expected so we were never uncomfortable.
#10 Being a bit of an attraction yourself
This one probably only applies if you are white or otherwise obviously distinguished from the rest of the guests, but we were a huge source of entertainment to the children. The bravest kids would come speak to us in the english they learned from school and the shiest would sit in front of us grinning but refusing to speak. They all giggled a lot when they saw us and some of them would dare to touch us and then run away shrieking with laughter.
Attending this wedding was such a wonderful once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it’s one I would love to repeat! I’m secretly hoping one of my children will marry an Indian so we can throw one of these amazing parties!