By Oscar LaVerde
LONDON, ONTARIO — Are you planning an Indian wedding in London, Ontario? Or perhaps you’ve received an invitation to attend a Hindu couple’s union in Ontario? Congratulations! It is a marvellous opportunity to experience the rich wedding traditions of Hindu culture.
The world is full of so many marital customs and ways to celebrate the union of two individuals, but this kind of wedding celebration is perhaps the most lavish of them all.
If this is your first time planning or attending a Hindu wedding, you may have a few questions about how everything will go. Perhaps you’ve heard stories of grand events with hundreds of people in attendance and no expense spared, and you want to be ready to plan something on a scale this large. Or maybe you want to brush up on your Indian wedding etiquette, so you can make sure you’re behaving respectfully at the event.
Whatever the case, we’re here to help. Read on for everything you need to know about what happens at a Hindu wedding in our Indian wedding guide:
There are several reasons that weddings and marriage are so significant in Indian culture. Among these is the idea that marriage is not only for one lifetime, or “til death do us part.”
According to the worldview supported by Hinduism, which accepts reincarnation as fact, a marriage is made in heaven and on earth, and the bond between the souls should last for seven lifetimes. That’s a big commitment, so it’s no wonder Indian weddings are a big ordeal!
For a couple, marriage marks the beginning of the second stage of their life, called the Grihastha ashram. So this major life event takes on an added spiritual significance. Hindu weddings feature many rituals to reflect these spiritual beliefs.
Indian weddings tend to be very large-scale events, and as such, many guests will be on the invitation list. It’s a common practice to not stop the invitations at close friends and family members of the bride and groom but to go beyond that and extend invitations to as many acquaintances as possible.
Often, the close friends and family of the bridal party will receive invitations, as well as coworkers and casual acquaintances of the bride and groom. Especially for Indian weddings taking place in Canada or the US, it’s not uncommon to extend invitations to other members of the local South Asian community, even if they aren’t very close friends. The more, the merrier!
As could be expected with any large event, an Indian wedding requires a great deal of planning, some of it well in advance of the day the ceremonies begin.
The wedding date is often a selection carefully made by advisors based on its astrological significance. Couples will want to book venues over a year before the event to ensure access to a venue on a specific date.
Additionally, Indian wedding festivities take place over multiple days and involve a great deal of food, rituals, and general merriment. Because of the scope of these events, plenty of planning will need to take place in advance to organize things like catering, decorating, and other logistical issues.
At an Indian wedding, there will be a lot of food, both during the day and in the evening, across multiple days of festivities. Usually, the traditional food from the regions in India where the families hail from will be on the menu.
Some dishes you could expect to see are curries, samosas, and dhal, as well as a variety of breads like naan and paratha, and a sweet option such as gulab jamun.
Keep in mind that you should not have meat dishes during the day if the wedding involves a religious ceremony. However, the evening meal can have more varied options.
Let’s take a look at the day-by-day of what to expect when attending a Hindu wedding. Indian weddings typically take place over the course of three days (although some can be as long as five days). The invitation should state the day or days for the festivities.
Each day of festivities features specific rituals, ceremonies, and events. Here is a breakdown of what typically occurs on each of these three days.
The first day begins with the ritual known as the Ganesh Puja. The Ganesh Puja is a prayer offered by the family to the Hindu deity Ganesh (or Ganesha) concerning the coming ceremony. The prayer is a request for the deity’s blessings to help maintain a peaceful and harmonious atmosphere during the festivities and set a positive beginning to the couple’s marriage.
This religious rite performed by a priest takes place as an intimate gathering with only the couple, the bridal party, and close relatives of the bride and groom. The ritual is the starting whistle of the wedding festivities, setting all the other events in motion.
The second day of wedding festivities is when the Mehndi ceremony takes place. This ritual is when the bride and other women in attendance will have their hands and feet adorned with complex and elegant henna patterns. The pigmentation should remain for several days, leaving everyone’s skin beautifully decorated for the wedding ceremony the next day.
On the evening of the second day, the gathering known as the sangeet occurs. Most of the wedding guests will receive invitations to attend the sangeet, and it is a more relaxed opportunity for mixing and mingling with the other guests. Usually, the sangeet involves food, dancing, and some other form of performance.
On the final day of the wedding festivities, the most important events will occur: the wedding ceremony and the reception. Sometimes there is also a cocktail hour held in between these two events.
The ceremony begins with the groom entering on a white horse to the beat of drums played by the guests. After this procession, the bride and groom will exchange floral garlands to wear during the ceremony.
The bride and her parents will then sit beneath a canopy for the Mandap ceremony, and the bride’s parents will perform a ritual called the kanya daan to symbolize giving her away to her new husband. The bride and groom then join hands and walk around a small fire.
The bride and groom then perform a ritual called the saptapadi, or seven steps. The groom will place some red powder on the bride’s forehead and a necklace around her neck to finish the ceremony. These adornments symbolize her new status as a married woman.
The reception falls on the last day of festivities after the wedding ceremony. It’s essentially a big party to finish off the three-day event with a bang. There will be plenty of music, singing, dancing, and general fun all around. It’s the perfect way to let loose after three days of ceremonies.
To begin with, some guests may make speeches or perform a dance or song for the bride and groom. After this, there is the final wedding banquet, and then all the guests can dance. Musical offerings typically include both Indian and Western music and modern dances as well as Indian folk dances.
The sensational, vibrant clothing adorning the wedding party and the guests is one of the most exciting parts of an Indian wedding. Guests typically wear traditional clothing from their region in bright colours, paired with lavish and intriguing jewelry.
It is perfectly acceptable to wear Western formal wear if that makes you comfortable. Still, it’s often encouraged to buy traditional clothing, like a sari or lengha, for the event or to wear something elegant and vibrantly coloured to match the overall vibe.
If you are a guest attending multiple days of ceremonies, be sure to plan an outfit change!
When you look back on your special day, you won’t have any regrets about smaller venues or guest lists. All you will remember is how wonderful it felt to marry the person you love. My candid photography will provide you with pictures you can enjoy for decades to come.