Indian weddings are days-long affairs rife with rituals, traditions and celebrations. They are typically large affairs, and as many as 10,000 guests may attend. Unlike traditional American weddings, the emphasis is not on the bride and groom, but rather, on the couple’s families, who are being brought together socially with the marriage. While traditions vary based on the religion and region, there are many fundamental traditions that occur at most Indian weddings.
Before the actual wedding can occur, to preceding ceremonies must take place. The first is the engagement ceremony, and the second is the Mehendi ceremony. Both involve dancing, music and merriment.
After the conclusion of these events, the main ceremony can occur. The ceremony starts with an event called the Baraat, which involves a procession of the groom’s family members and friends. When the procession arrives at the wedding venue, they are greeted by the bride’s family. The bride’s mother then performs a ritual called the Aarti, after which the groom can enter the venue. The couple then take part in the Jaimala ceremony, during which they exchange garlands.
After this exchange, the most important portion of the wedding occurs, during which the bride and groom say vows and chant hymns with the wedding officiator. Then the couple’s clothing is tied together, and they walk seven times around a ceremonial fire. Each turn around the fire has a particular meaning; in the early rounds the bride leads the walk, signifying that the bride will lead the way in the beginning. The groom then leads the way during the final rounds.
Finally, after the formal ceremony, a lavish celebration occurs with elaborate foods and much dancing and music.