Indian Wedding for Dummies-What You Need to Know

A few years ago, my cousin got married in Kashmir, India.  Her husband’s family has a hotel there, so she had been over several times already.  I believe it was the first visit for her parents and her sister.  We were all invited, but it just wasn’t in the budget to make the trip.  I would absolutely have loved to attend.  The photos were beautiful, and exotic.  My cousin looks like she belongs there, a tall, slim, dark haired beauty.

If you are lucky enough to be invited to an Indian wedding, I suggest you jump through whatever hoops you have to so you can make it.  I’ll probably always regret not going to my cousin’s wedding.

What To Wear

Get there early so you can shop for appropriate attire.  A traditional wedding usually lasts for several days, and you’ll need a lot of outfits.  Some people change in between the wedding ceremony and the reception.  Most people will be wearing salwar kameez, a tunic and loose pants, or saris.    If you are invited to a raas-garba, plan on wearing loose comfortable clothing that you can dance in.  For the ceremony, the bride will wear a wedding sari called a panetar and the groom will wear a sherwani, which is like a long coat over pants.  Traditionally they will both be wearing white and red.

Dancing is done barefoot so make sure you have a lovely pedicure!  You’ll want to wear shoes that you don’t mind slipping off and leaving in a pile.  Don’t worry, the groom is only person who’s shoes are usually stolen.  The bride’s sisters are supposed to steal his shoes when he takes them off at the beginning of the ceremony, and he must buy them back.

Mehndi Ceremony

Henna or mehndi, is traditionally applied in intricate patterns to the bride’s hands and feet at a party, like a bridal shower, a day or two before the wedding.  Often, women attending a wedding will also get henna tattoos.  It is believed that the henna invites grace and good fortune to the family.  Like every part of an Indian wedding, there will be singing and dancing.

Raas Garba

This is a celebration before the wedding named after two Gujarati folk dances that everyone is encouraged to join in.  They are similar to line dances and the steps are fun and easy to learn.  The songs are about half an hour long though dancers often join in anytime, and take a break whenever they feel like it.  Usually the music starts off slow while everyone gets into the dance steps, and then builds up speed until the end.

Put A Ring On It

Traditionally, the groom gives the bride a necklace called a mangalsutra during the ceremony, but many modern couples have also adopted the western custom of exchanging rings.  Just like in Bollywood movies, you will see a lot of dancing, but you won’t see PDA, there is no kissing the bride in the ceremony.

Sometimes There Are Elephants

If you are really fortunate, you’ll get to see the groom arrive at the wedding location on an elephant with a dancing entourage, though often they show up in a fancy car.

Marla Kenz lives in India where she is working hard to learn Kannada, the native language of her husband Ravi.




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