One of the really great parts about being Orange County Professional Photographers is the opportunity to photograph so many different types of weddings. Orange County, as well as Los Angeles and the rest of Southern California, is full of diverse people with different backgrounds and cultures. We truly appreciate the opportunities we get when we can witness and be part of their special day. Three16 Photography is proud of their Indian Wedding Photography and honors Hindu and Indian Wedding Traditions throughout the world.
One type of wedding ceremony and reception that we are seeing more and more of these days is Indian Weddings, which includes the popular Sikh Weddings, Hindu Weddings and many others. Of course, being photographers, we love that these weddings are filled with a lot of vibrant colors, details and has so much activity. It keeps us on our toes to capture all the right moments, and then some.
One might wonder about where all the various traditions come from in an Indian Wedding. So, we thought we would introduce you to a little of history and more modern traditions of an Indian Wedding.
Wedding traditions of India usually include the traditional Hindu wedding marriage, which represents the union of both the couple and their families becoming one. The families in India are very involved in who their children marry and often will choose the bride or groom. Just a few decades ago the bride and groom would first meet on their wedding day, but in most urban areas today people are able to choose for themselves who they want to marry.
That said, arranged marriages are still common practice in India and they often use their horoscopes to see if they are compatible. It also continues in more advanced areas of the country, but usually the couple will meet to see if they have common interests. However, marriages for love are becoming a more common occurrence.
A couple months before the wedding there is an engagement party called Mangni or Nischitartham. At this time the two families will meet to perform rituals to make the engagement certain and then a date and time is set for the wedding depending on the horoscope. Then the newly engaged couple is blessed by the elders of the families and is given gifts of jewelry and clothing. Sometimes a ring will be given to the soon-to-be bride and groom to show that they are engaged to one another.
Not so much here in Southern California, but in India, Indian weddings can generally last about a week. The wedding starts out with a ritual bath known as a Haldi, which is where the bride and groom are both bathed by married women with oil, turmeric and water. After the bath, the bride will go to a ceremony called a Mehendi, were the soon-to-be bride’s feet and hands are painted with detailed designs using an ink called Henna. It is said that the darker the Henna the more the groom loves the bride. One of the perks of having Henna applied is that the bride does not have to do any house work until the Henna is gone.
Most likely the bride will wear a Sari that contains gold and silver embroidery. The color of the Sari is either yellow, white, green or red. Red is the most common color worn by Indian brides as it represents fertility, wealth and a happy marriage. The bride will be decorated with very elaborate gold jewelry, along with precious stones while her hair is decorated with jewelry and flowers. In some weddings the bride will wear a veil over her hair as a gesture of respect to her elders and their gods. The groom will wear his choice between a Sherwani or a Dhoti and the color is usually either beige or white. In some weddings the groom will wear a turban and carry a sword.
The Wedding Ceremony
The typical Indian wedding ceremony is about three hours long and is held at a wedding hall or the bride-to-be’s house. The groom will arrive to the wedding venue traditionally on a decorated horse or elephant, but nowadays most grooms choose to arrive in a nice car. The groom will also arrive with music, fireworks, dancing and singing while surrounded by friends and family. The bride will wait for her groom with a garland of flowers that they will exchange when they meet.
The giving away of the bride is called Kanyadaan, which is a very important part of the main wedding as this is where the father hands over his daughter to the groom asking him to treat her well. In Indian weddings they are not married by the priest as they themselves will marry each other while the priest will just recite holy hymns.
When the groom ties a thread three times representing the god’s Maheshwara, Brahma and Vishnu, he promises to take good care of his bride as long as he lives. Once this is done, they are considered married. The wedding happens around a fire, which represents the fire god Agni, who serves as the main witness to the wedding. Then they circle the fire seven times which represents the seven goals for their marriage which are: prosperity, sensual enjoyment, liberation, salvation and both moral and religious duties.
Afterwards, they will perform the Sapthapadhi, which mean taking seven steps with one another. When they take the seven steps it represents that they will be friends for life treating each other equally. At some weddings they will have games for the couple to play such as having them untie a knot using only one hand each. By doing this they are showing that they will be able to solve problems together in life.
Hindu Wedding Traditions
Since Hindu is such a huge part of the Indian culture, we thought we would introduce you to the Wedding Traditions of a Hindu Wedding as well.
The wedding traditions of Hinduism is said to be many, but unfortunately the origins can be somewhat unknown. With that being said, the Hindu wedding is one of their most honored ceremonies and would often last over several days. In today’s society things have changed now that everyone has much busier schedules, therefore they had to condense the ceremonies to the night before the wedding, as well as the actual wedding day itself.
Hinduism is still considered as one of the oldest religions still being practiced in the world today and has sacred writings that go back as far as 3,000 B.C. In the Hindu wedding ceremony, the bride is not the main focus as she is in Western culture, but it’s more about the families from both sides coming together on the wedding day. The heart of India's culture is centered on the Vedas, which are the sacred scriptures. The Vedas, which divides life into four celebrated stages, are known as:
A marriage in a Hindu ceremony is considered a sacrament, because you are going from the phase of life called Studentship to the new phase, Householder. Householder begins to form the foundations of the different phases of life; therefore, much of a Hindus’ life will depend on a successful marriage.
A couple of traditional Hindu wedding traditions would be to have the ceremony take place under a Mandap, also known as a canopy, while the bride is traditionally painted in Henna on both her feet and her hands. These wedding traditions are known to honor the couple’s love for each other. To ensure that their marriage is a success, they would invoke the blessings of their different gods, while the families join in the celebration. In some weddings, they may pray to Ganesha, who has the head of an elephant and represents the god of wisdom and salvation. By praying to him, they believe that he will remove all obstacles from the wedding ceremony and will take place either the night before or a couple of days prior to the ceremony.
Prior to the wedding ceremony the groom’s family and party, which are called the Yara Yatra, will arrive with much dancing and singing. It wouldn’t be unusual to see the groom enter the ceremony riding on an elephant or horse, while the bride’s family and friends greet them. They are greeted with a plate that is carrying a lamp with garland, some rice and will have a dot placed on their forehead called a Tilak. The Tilak generally symbolizes a third eye and is often connected with many of the Hindu gods.
Just before the wedding is to begin, a ceremony takes place that is known as the Grahashanti, which simply means “peace with the planets.” In the ceremony, each planet will be called by name and will be prayed upon for blessings for the couple’s new life together. The bride will then be led to the mandap by a male relative, which is usually done by either her uncle or brother. They will lead her to her groom, who will be waiting along with the bride’s parents.
At this point the Kanyadan ceremony will begin. The Kanyadan is where the bride’s parents offer their daughter in marriage to the groom. They will wash the feet of both the bride and the groom with milk and water symbolizing them as being purified for their new life together as a couple. The groom and his bride will then hold both their hands open while the father of the bride holds his palm over theirs as the mother-of- the-bride pours water over her husband’s hands, this will allow the water to fall onto the couple’s hands.
The Hastamilap is the ceremony in which the groom and brides are joined together by their hands. They take the bride’s right hand and place it nicely onto the groom’s right hand. Then the priest will say some holy vows, as their hands are being tied together with cotton thread. Since the thread is known to be so thin and easy to break, the thread will be tied around them several times. This also serves as a symbol of the couple’s unbreakable bond with each other.
Most Hindu weddings are very colorful as the women wear beautiful and brightly colored sarongs. The bride will usually wear a red Sarong that is full of very intricate designs and will be covered in gold jewelry, while the groom will often wear a hat that includes tassels, which in turn will cover his face.