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Ultimate Guide to an Indian Wedding

indian wedding

Kevin Smith Transportation Group has been fortunate enough to work with many Indian families as they prepared to celebrate a wedding in their faith. We’ve also worked with many individuals who are attending an Indian Wedding for the first time.

As expected, they have many questions. To be honest, so do we. So we sat down with some experts in the field and asked them to walk us through an Indian Wedding, covering the A to Z of what to wear to what kinds of food will be there to what you should expect to see.

One thing we learned when preparing this blog is an Indian Wedding is not just a single event, but a multi-day celebration that should be on your bucket list as much as a vacation to Italy or Hawaii might be for you.   

We will try to answer all of your questions as we kickoff the Ultimate Guide to Indian Weddings! 

Are you looking for a luxury wedding transportation company that can handle all of your needs for your Indian Wedding?  Call Kevin Smith Transportation Group at 610-222-6225 and ask to speak to one of our Wedding Coordinators. They will work with you to coordinate all of your transportation for the entire event.  

If you’ve been invited to your first Indian wedding, you may be curious about what’s going to happen. We enlisted the help of Indian wedding Planners in the greater Philadelphia, PA area to better prepare you for attending an Indian Wedding.

Our first Wedding Planner told us some commonly asked questions (that they often get) about Indian weddings and more importantly, the answers to them.  

Q: What should I wear to an Indian wedding ceremony?

A: Brighter is better. Don’t be afraid to wear a bold color that will help you fit in with the Indian guests who’ll be dressed in vibrant colors and eye-catching jewelry. If you don’t have a traditional sari or lengha, don’t worry. A jewel-tone dress with a shawl is appropriate too. 

Q: Is it true that Indian weddings last for several days? What will I be expected to attend?

A: A traditional Indian wedding lasts an average of three days. On the first night, a priest will often perform the ganesh pooja, a ceremony that usually happens at home with only the couple, the bridal party and close relatives in attendance.

The second day begins with a mehndi ceremony. For this, the bride and her female friends and family members will have intricate henna patterns drawn on their hands and feet. That evening, the sangeet takes place. Every wedding guest is usually invited, and it involves an introduction of the couple’s families, mingling, a meal and dances or other performances.

On the third day, the main ceremony, cocktail hour and reception take place. You may be invited to the last day of the events, or to any part of the three-day celebration. Your invitation should clearly state what you’re being asked to attend.

Q: What can I expect to see at an Indian wedding ceremony?

A: One of the first things that might surprise Western guests is the baraat, or groom’s procession. For this, the groom arrives to the ceremony on a decorated white horse. Guests dance around him to the beat of a dhol, an Indian drum. After that, the bride and her family greet the groom and the couple exchanges floral garlands to wear around their necks to symbolize their acceptance of each other.

For the ceremony, the priest, groom, bride and bride’s parents sit beneath a mandap, a canopy similar to a Jewish chuppah. The ceremony starts off with the kanya daan, in which the bride’s parents give her away. Then the couple joins hands and circles around a small, enclosed fire (the agni) in a ritual called the mangal phera. 

Then the couple will take the saptapadi, or seven steps, as they vow to support each other and live happily together. Finally, the groom will apply a red powder to the center of the bride’s forehead and tie a black beaded necklace around her neck, symbolizing she’s now a married woman.

Are you looking for a luxury wedding transportation company that can handle all of your needs for your Indian Wedding? Call Kevin Smith Transportation Group at 610-222-6225 and ask to speak to one of our Wedding Coordinators. They will work with you to coordinate all of your transportation for the entire event.

Q: What will the reception be like?

A: It’s a fun party! If you don’t know bhangra, a Punjab folk dance, expect to pick up the moves fairly easily. But don’t worry if you’re not comfortable learning new dances. You’ll most likely hear contemporary Western music at the reception too.

Q: I’m kind of picky when it comes to food. Will there be anything for me to eat at an Indian wedding reception?

A: Two of the most common misconceptions about Indian food are that it’s all spicy and it’s all vegetarian. In reality, it depends on which state the couple’s families are from. When served in the US, though, the food tends to be North Indian, meaning you’ll see a spread of naan (a flatbread) with different curries, samosas (savory pastries with spiced meats or vegetables), pakoras (fritters) and a dessert display, which typically includes cake, kulfi (Indian ice cream) and decorated sweets made from nuts. There’ll often be up to four stations of chefs preparing food for guests.

Q: Should I bring a gift?

A: Couples usually request that there be no boxed gifts at the wedding, so guests usually have gifts shipped to the couple’s home or bring an envelope with money.

Tips for attending an Indian Wedding

Our second Wedding Planner put together some tips for someone who has never attended an Indian Wedding. She thinks these are a must-read for anyone who wants to learn more about the celebration that is an Indian Wedding.  

If you have been invited to an Indian wedding for the first time, you may want to know what to expect at an Indian wedding. Attending a traditional Indian wedding is quite a unique experience. You will witness a wide array of vibrant colors, food, ceremonies, rituals and dances blended together in a large and long celebration. If you decide to attend the wedding, be it a Hindu, Muslim or Sikh traditional one, it’s very likely that you’ll get overwhelmed by the bewildering array of Indian wedding traditions, rituals and etiquette. But with the following tips in mind, you will enjoy the Indian wedding with grace, ease and fun.

Are you looking for a luxury wedding transportation company that can handle all of your needs for your Indian Wedding? Call Kevin Smith Transportation Group at 610-222-6225 and ask to speak to one of our Wedding Coordinators. They will work with you to coordinate all of your transportation for the entire event.

Dress Modestly

Many first-timers wonder what guests wear to an Indian wedding, so that they can dress themselves accordingly. While there is no specific dress code at Indian weddings, dressing modestly is a must, meaning no bare shoulders and bare knees. 

For female wedding guests, a traditional sari or lehenga is perfect to show some respect to the religious wedding rituals, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t have. For men, suits and sherwani (a long coat-like garment) are fine.

Western wear for Indian wedding ceremony is also acceptable. While for men, it is preferable to wear more colorful button downs instead of white ones. For women, avoid short skirts, and tight or revealing tops; and adorn your suite with brightly colored accessories.

When it comes to the color of clothes, always choose bright colors, which are always welcomed at this auspicious occasion. But try not to wear bright red, which is traditional reserved for the bride. Black and white colors should also be avoided as they are considered as colors of mourning or bad luck.

Jewelry ia also very important part of Indian outfits. Bindis and bangles are most common jewelries for Indian wedding guests. A pair of chand balis or jhumkas are good adornments for your ears. Necklaces with Indian touches, even a simple gold chain with a sparkling pendant, are perfect accessories to adorn your neck. Payals and mang tikkas can also be your choice to go with your wedding sari or lehenga. For male guests, choose a gold chain or jeweled buttons to make your outfit complete.

Prepare for Strange Hours for the Wedding Ceremony

Many Indian weddings are timed for some strange hours of the day or night. The auspicious time for wedding is often chosen by astrology at around 2 or 3 am, especially for weddings in north India. So remember to ask if it is a late night or early morning wedding so that you can get some sleep the day before.

Are you looking for a luxury wedding transportation company that can handle all of your needs for your Indian Wedding? Call Kevin Smith Transportation Group at 610-222-6225 and ask to speak to one of our Wedding Coordinators. They will work with you to coordinate all of your transportation for the entire event.

Plan Accordingly for a Long Wedding

An Indian wedding lasts at least 3 days, even as long as a week! From pre-wedding rituals like Mehndi (henna) to the 2-3 hours long main ceremony and finally, the reception, there are a lot of events taking place, some of which you may be invited to participate in. Plan your time accordingly and get enough rest to be engaged in the events you’re invited to attend. 

Learn the Customs

Indian weddings are known for their colorful rituals, especially the Hindu weddings. Each individual ceremony, such as the Mehndi, the Saptapadi (seven steps), or the recitation of vows, has a meaning behind it. Knowing about them will help you enjoy the wedding to the fullest. 

For instance, at Indian wedding Mehndi (henna) ceremony held at the night before the wedding, the bride and her female friends and family members will have intricate mehndi patterns drawn on their hands and feet. It’s a common belief that the darker the color of the mehndi leaves on the hands of the bride, the more she will be loved by her husband and mother-in-law. 

In some regions, the groom will apply vermillion or kumkum to the bride’s forehead or put toe ring on the bride to symbolize that she’s now a married woman. 

If you are attending a traditional Indian wedding held in North India or West India, you will have chance to experience the reception of barat (baraat). Barat is a groom’s wedding procession. In the wedding day, it is customary for the groom, dressed in his wedding attire, to proceed to the wedding venue (usually the bride’s house, or the Gurdwara near the bride’s house in case a traditional Sikh wedding) on a white decorated mare, accompanied by his family members, relatives and friends. After arrival, the barat will be received by bride’s family and offered abundant food and drinks.

Get Involved

Many Indian weddings require a lot of guest involvementfrom witnessing and blessing the couple at many key steps to getting on the dance floor during the reception. Although it’s acceptable to leave for a while, have a cup of chai, eat snacks, and socialize at the 2-3 hours long wedding ceremony, getting involved is a way of showing your respect to the bride and the groom. 

Are you looking for a luxury wedding transportation company that can handle all of your needs for your Indian Wedding? Call Kevin Smith Transportation Group at 610-222-6225 and ask to speak to one of our Wedding Coordinators. They will work with you to coordinate all of your transportation for the entire event.

Enjoy the Food 

As a guest, you should take part in the wedding feast, meaning accepting what you can eat, as it is considered as your approval of the wedding and bringing your best wishes for the couple. Try some Hindu wedding food with an open mind. You may like them more than you expect.

Guests are usually treated to appetizers or snacks once entering the wedding venue. The main course is usually served once the wedding is over. This is where the regional variations are seen. 

In many west and south Indian weddings, only vegetarian food is served. In the North and East India, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes are served. If you’re kind of picky when it comes to food, enjoy the snacks and desserts.

Don’t Kiss or Dance with the Bride

After the wedding ceremony day, there is a reception party for the couple to receive the blessing and gifts from the society and relatives. The party is a ton of fun with good music and non-stop dancing by the guests. 

Keep in mind, however, that it is not a custom for male guests to kiss or dance with the bride. As in Indian culture, brides should be demure on their wedding day.

Money is the Traditional Wedding Gift

Giving gifts is a common tradition at Indian weddings. The traditional wedding gift is money, which is regarded as the most thoughtful gift for the couple to start their lives together. This is better done by placing money in a pretty envelope or embroidered bag, along with your best wishes. 

The amount of Indian wedding gift money should be an “auspicious” number ending in 1, regardless of what the currency is. As to a reasonable amount, it mostly depends on how much you can afford and how close you’re to the bride and the groom. 

Other gifts that you will give for a non-Indian wedding would also be appropriate, such as decorative items, jewelry, and silver items.

Check before Taking Pictures

For most of the time, it is OK to take pictures at an Indian wedding, but during some of the rituals, particularly in a Hindu ceremony, even wedding photographers are not allowed to take pictures to avoid the distracting from the flash of cameras. Look around and check if others are shooting before you click.

Book Hotel Rooms Beforehand

Indian weddings are usually held with hundreds of guests in attendance. To get a hotel room before they are booked up and the prices rise, especially when it is near the wedding venue, you need to book as soon as possible after you receive the invitation letter.

Are you looking for a luxury wedding transportation company that can handle all of your needs for your Indian Wedding? Call Kevin Smith Transportation Group at 610-222-6225 and ask to speak to one of our Wedding Coordinators. They will work with you to coordinate all of your transportation for the entire event.

Custom and Ceremony 

The engagement is the first agreement between the families and that’s when they set the wedding date. “The wedding rituals themselves begin 15 days before the wedding,” says our Wedding Planners. “That’s where a piece of thread, called Mauli, is tied to the hands of both the groom and his parents, to humbly request a safe wedding day from the gods.”

The next step is Mayara. “It’s also called the ‘Maternal Uncle’s Ceremony.’ He brings gifts for the mothers of both the bride and the groom, including the dresses they will wear at the wedding.”

During the Tilak Ceremony, a red turmeric powder called Kumkum is put on the groom’s forehead. This is normally done by the male members of the bride’s family and is often followed by giving gifts to the groom.

Traditional Parties

Before the wedding day, an Indian bride takes part in a Mehndi ceremony, where the bride and her female family members and friends gather to apply henna.  It’s said that the deeper the color, the stronger the bond between husband and wife, and the better you will get along with your mother-in-law, so brides often let the henna dry for up to eight hours. The names of both the bride and the groom are “hidden” in the artwork, and the groom is meant to find the names.

Punjabi, or Northern Indian couples, are treated to a Sangeet the night before the wedding. Guests come together in a less formal setting for a talent show of sorts. Their friends and families perform choreographed dances, skits, and songs for the couple.

In the state of Gujarat, couples are joined the day before the wedding by family and friends, to celebrate a Garba Raas. Guests gather the night before to eat and dance with the couple. Women traditionally dance in a circle during the first portion of the night, or Garba. Later, both men and women take part.

The Bou Bhat takes place on the afternoon following the wedding day. The groom’s family and friends are invited for lunch, and the close relatives of the bride are also invited. At this event, the bride is formally invited into the family, the groom pledges responsibility for her food and clothing, and as a sign of fulfilling that pledge, he gives her a new sari and serves her food.

Are you looking for a luxury wedding transportation company that can handle all of your needs for your Indian Wedding? Call Kevin Smith Transportation Group at 610-222-6225 and ask to speak to one of our Wedding Coordinators. They will work with you to coordinate all of your transportation for the entire event.

Thank you for reading today’s blog on Indian Weddings. Hopefully, the tips and facts shared by some of our Rock Star Wedding Planners will make your first Indian Wedding an amazing experience.