All photographs are of Sabyasachi Indian Wedding range.
The Indian wedding ceremony is a breathtakingly beautiful expression of everything marriage stands for; the joining of two families, spirituality, tradition, love and joy. While the elaborate rituals have evolved; with some celebrating ever bigger, bolder destination weddings, what remains the same is the reciting of the 5,000-year-old sacred Sanskrit ceremonial mantras; now with English translations thrown in for a new generation.
HOW LONG IS AN INDIAN WEDDING?
The Indian wedding ceremony is famously intricate and extravagant. The festivities can be drawn out over several days and as a guest, you are welcome but not expected to attend all parts of the wedding.
The celebrations will typically start with a pre-wedding ceremony, which involves closest family members who will meet and rejoice over the union of their houses. A Pandit, (priest) who would have chosen the wedding date for bride and groom based on their Vedic horoscopes, conducts a prayer in Sanskrit to invite an abundant married life for the young couple.
After this there will be a ‘sangeet’, where families get together to rejoice and sing and dance to traditional wedding songs in celebration of the big day.
The night before the wedding is called ‘mendhi’ where the bride and her close family and friends come together to apply intricate henna on their hands. The bride wears the simplest of clothes and saves the magic for the main event.
The morning of the wedding, close family and friends come together to smear bride and groom with a paste
Once the preserve of Kings & Queens, masks have since become an integral pre-wedding ritual. On the morning of the wedding bride and groom are smeared with ground herbs by over-zealous friends and family to signify shedding their old skin and preparing for their new lives, looking their most radiant selves. Each new day offers an opportunity to start a fresh. It is this ritual that was the inspiration behind our Radiance Mask & Exfoliant". Bittu Kaushal
The bride and groom then shower and dress in the finest silks and jewels. The groom’s aunty applies black kohl in the corner of his eye to ward off any jealousy and brides uncle puts a set of ‘choora’ on her. The choora are a set of white and red bangles that are worn for a minimum of 40 days, up to a year after the wedding. The bangles are said to bring the couple abundance and also mark them out as newlyweds, so all who come into contact with them can wish them well.
Once at the wedding venue, ‘baraat’ (brides family and friends) arrive singing and dancing around the groom, who is traditionally sat on a white horse. The key family members of the groom exchange garlands with the bride’s family, to mark the union of two families. All the while the bride looks on, out of view. The baraat try to impress the bride’s family with their physical prowess. The groom will have to put his manhood on the line by attempting to crush a sumput (clay pot). After proving his worthiness, he will be escorted to the Mandap.
The beautifully decorated ‘mandip’ – a raised pavilion on four legs, representing the four parents/pillars of the newly formed family is the place under which the ceremony takes place. The bride and groom will circle the Agni– a holy fire which serves as a divine witness to the ceremony – 7 times, while making their promises to one another:
Finally, their union will become official by the ritual of the Mangala Sutra. It is a cord with two gold pendants tied around the bride’s neck by the groom. This cord necklace represents the bonding of two souls for 100 years and the bride will often continue wearing it as a sign that she is married.
WHY INDIAN WEDDING DRESSES ARE RED?
Indian brides wear red to symbolise commitment, spirituality and fertility. Red is the colour of life in the Indian tradition and the exquisite wedding saris often combine it with gold, to represent prosperity. The groom applies red kumkuma (sandoor coloured powder) to his forehead for good luck.
WHY DO INDIANS WEAR HENNA ON THEIR WEDDING DAY?
The ritual of decorating the bride’s hands with an elaborate henna pattern is another element of the Indian wedding tradition. It takes place at The Mehndi Party, which is a female-only event similar to a bridal shower. The tradition states that the darker this semi-permanent henna tattoo turns out, the stronger the new marriage will be.
WHAT NOT TO WEAR INDIAN WEDDING
The perfect attire for an Indian wedding would, of course be a sari. But in the absence of this traditional Indian dress, a brightly coloured outfit will also work well. Colours are symbolical in the Indian tradition so it’s best to avoid wearing white or black – which are considered funeral colours. And of course, stray from red, as this will be reserved for the bride.