1. A Three-Day Celebration
Indian weddings often last for at least three days. The first day usually involves a Ganesha Pooja, which is a Hindu festival that reveres god Ganesha. It typically takes place at home with close family and friends. The second day is reserved for the mehndi ceremony or sangeet, where the bride and her guests adorn their hands and feet with intricate henna patterns followed by dance performances and dinner. The third day consists of the wedding ceremony in the morning followed by the reception party in the evening.
2. Ceremony Venue
Oftentimes, Indian weddings are held at hotel banquet halls or Hindu temples. There will be a decorated, four-pillared, gazebo-like structure called the mandap where the ceremony will take place. Chairs will be set up in front of the mandap for you to view the ceremony, with the first few rows usually reserved for family and the wedding party.
3. The Holy Fire Ritual
The priest lights a holy fire called the agni. The couple typically steps around the fire seven times, symbolizing seven sacred vows given to each other. The ceremony can last anywhere from one to four hours, so make sure you’re hydrated and fueled up before finding your seat.
4. More Than a Ring
Instead of just the typical ring to signify the newly betrothed couple, the bride usually gets a line of red powder applied on the part of her hair, along with a black and gold necklace called the mangal sutra. These two items symbolize a couple’s devotion to one another.
5. Colorful Indian Garb
You’ll notice that fashions at an Indian wedding are anything but subdued, so the brighter, the better. Most female guests attend weddings wearing colorful saris, lehengas and Indian suits accessorized with glittering jewelry. If you don’t own Indian clothing, feel free to wear a vibrant dress or shawl. Avoid wearing black or white, since these colors often have negative connotations in Indian culture, and red, since that’s the color the bride typically wears.
6. Eats Galore
Prepare to loosen your drawstring when attending an Indian wedding. With a plethora of cocktail hours, appetizer stations, dinner buffets and dessert set-ups over the multiple-day event, you may want to pace yourself. We recommend you sample a bit of everything.
7. Tons of People
There will be hundreds and hundreds of people at an Indian wedding and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. The groom will possibly be riding an elephant or horse when making his entrance at the ceremony. Just sit back, relax and have tons of fun surrounded by oodles of energetic guests.
Oftentimes, couples will request no boxed gifts. Cash or gift certificates are therefore appreciated. Add a $1 to the amount since odd numbers ending in one are auspicious in Indian culture.
9. The Party
After the ceremony, the couple’s families will throw a lavish reception party to finally let loose. Part of the celebration involves a reception program, which includes speeches and loved ones singing, dancing and performing skits for the couple. Following the program a huge buffet dinner and a dance party will take place. Bring your most fashionable, though comfortable, dancing shoes