Indian weddings are one of the richest cultural experiences filled with colours, ornately beautiful dresses, Hindi music, Bollywood dancing, delicious food, hearty laughters and meaningful traditions. For a culture enthusiast like myself, going to A Big Fat Indian Wedding has been on my bucketlist ever since forever!
Just my luck, a good friend from college was tying the knot in Udaipur, Rajasthan, and I had the pleasure of being invited. The City of Lakes was also dubbed the most romantic place in India, making it a favourite wedding location.
If you have also been invited to an Indian wedding, congratulations! You are going to have an absolute blast. However, it can also be quite nerve-wrecking not knowing what to expect.
What do I wear? What do I bring? What do I do?
I remember scourging through the internet and getting advice from my Indian friends to prepare for this ultimate cultural experience. So I've decided to compile a step by step guide for other foreigners who are just as clueless as me.
1. Mehndi - Henna Ceremony
What it is: A ceremony where the bride gets elaborate henna artwork on her hands, arms and feet whilst surrounded by friends and family. Once she is done, ladies will take turns getting their henna done on their hands and usually the designs are less elaborate than the bride's.
With catchy Hindi music in the background, guests will randomly break into dances, which I later on realized to be a normal occurrence throughout the wedding.
What to wear: Traditional Indian costumes such as lehenga or sarees. Unfortunately I didn't have enough Indian dresses for all five ceremonies, and I dare not commit the offence of repeating costumes - so I had to be a little creative!
Tip: Accessorize with plenty of Indian jewellery to instantly transform your look to be more Indian.
2. Sangeet - Dance Performances
What it is: A night where family and close friends perform dances on stage - everything from contemporary to traditional Indian dances. The bride and groom will also perform a few dances of their own, the highlight of the night. At the end of the night, guests are invited to join the party on the dance floor, each attempting to show off their best dance moves.
For those clueless on how to dance to Hindi beats, fret not. Just Youtube 'Hindi Dance songs' and you will be presented with an array of videos to learn from. Side observation, there seems to always be a token white girl dancing in the background of a Hindi music video XD
I just LOVE how much effort everyone has put into practicing their synchronized dance moves, from the bride & groom's parents, to their aunts and uncles to their childhood friends. It's confirmed - Indians are born with good dancing genes.
What to wear:
3. Chooda - Bangle ceremony
What it is: A Punjabi tradition, the bride is presented with a set of bangles from her maternal uncle and aunt. The bangles symbolizes fertility and prosperity, and has to be worn for at least 40 days.
Sadly I missed this event when I missed the memo of venue change :(
What to wear: Traditional indian costume...duh
4. Baraat - Groom's Wedding Procession
What it is: Traditionally, the groom will be sent off on a horse accompanied with a percussion band and hordes of dancing family & friends. In this slightly modern twist, the groom was sent off in a Rolls Royce. The elders of both parties greeted each other at the designated meeting point, before the bride and groom meet.
4. Wedding ceremony
What it is: Ok the actual wedding is finally here. Once the bride and groom meets each other, they are greeted with flower garlands. They sit underneath a pavilion adorned with flowers before making their way to the Hindu wedding ceremony. The couple will pledge their vows around a holy fire, witnessed by both parents and a priest. They will then proceed to taking seven steps around the fire, symbolizing the seven lifetimes they will be together.
What to wear: The most important ceremony so make sure you're dressed to impress! Need I say any more? Indian costumes such as sarees, lehengas or punjabi suit-whichever suits you best!
What it is: The final event of the wedding, an event to thank guests for their attendance by huge spreads of food, a firework show and photo session with the couple on stage.
Needless to say, I think any wedding I attend after this is going to be pale in comparison. Special thanks to Sadhvi and Mayank for having me on your big day :)
Photo credit: Mushamir Mustafa