Indian marriages are held in very high regard in Indian culture. They are seen as a sacred commitment made by two people and two families as they are joined together in holy matrimony.
Indian weddings are usually a five-day event that involve lavish preparations. After the engagement there are three ceremonies - Haldi Ceremony, Sangeet Ceremony and Mehendi Ceremony that are held before the traditional Indian wedding ceremony. Each ceremony incorporates a blend of traditions, values and celebrations. While the main theme of each of the ceremonies remains constant throughout India, there are variations depending on the region, community and religion.
If you are attending any of these ceremonies or just want to know what they are all about, this page contains information on each of the ceremonies and some styling tips.
According to Indian marriage culture and tradition, the engagement ceremony happens several months before the marriage. The ceremony marks the formal marriage announcement and a promise between the future bride and groom. The engagement also signifies the beginning of the planning process for the wedding ceremonies.
The engagement ceremony starts with the father of the groom asking the father of the bride to allow his son to marry his daughter. The parents then have to promise that their children are worthy of each other before the couple exchange rings and are blessed.
The engagement ceremony doesn't involve any of the dancing or slightly messy rituals that the other ceremonies do. Therefore, you don’t need to worry about practical factors, which means that Indian dress for an engagement ceremony can be fairly experimental. Outfits can include floor length anarkalis, fusion sarees, suits, sherwanis or salwar kameez.
Find out what to wear for an Indian engagement ceremony here.
The haldi ceremony is either held on the morning of the wedding or the day before. During the haldi ceremony the bride and groom are covered in a paste known as ubtan (or mandha or tel baan, depending on the region) by family members. It is believed that ubtan, which consists of turmeric (mixed with milk or rose water to make it into a paste) has healing properties which will ensure that the couple are protect from ailments and blessed with blemish free skin for their wedding.
The paste leaves the couple with a glow that ultimately increases the attraction between the couple. In some regions it is also customary to apply a small amount of ubtan paste onto unmarried friends and relatives, so that they too will find a good looking partner.
Since this is the messiest ceremony of all, it is best to wear something that is either easy to clean or is a colour or material that will hide any residual ubtan paste!
See our selection of suitable outfits for a haldi ceremony here.
The sangeet ceremony takes place a few days before the wedding and is arguably one of the most fun parts of the pre-wedding celebrations. Initially sangeet was seen as a women only affair and was organised by the bride’s family, but is now usually celebrated by everyone.
The ceremony is filled with joy, excitement and plenty of jokes as the bride and groom’s family and friends come together to dance, sing Indian wedding sangeet songs and eat snacks and sweet dishes with the happy couple.
We would advise you to wear something that is light and comfortable and allows you to move around easily because there will be lots of dancing!
Find out how to dress for sangeet here.
The mehendi ceremony celebrates beauty and elegance and takes place just before the marriage ceremony. It is organised by the family of the bride and is attended by friends and relatives. As with sangeet, there is plenty of dancing and laughter. However, the main purpose of the ceremony is for the bride to have mehendi, also known as henna, applied on her hands and feet.
Traditionally the mehendi design was applied using the dried leaves of a henna plant. Today however, there are numerous types of henna application including 'Tattoo Mehendi' and 'Rajasthani Mehendi'. The ceremony is supposed to awaken the bride’s inner light and so the sun is an important symbol which is traditionally included at the centre of the mehendi designs. Some believe that the darker the colour of the mehendi the more the groom will love his bride.
Pick an outfit that will go well with the mehendi design and will be comfortable to sit in for a long period of time!
For outfits appropriate for a mehendi ceremony, see here.
Mehendi culminates in the main event; the traditional Indian wedding ceremony, which involves numerous symbolic rituals. The ceremony starts with the groom’s big arrival, when guests proceed to dance around him to the rhythm of an Indian drum. Afterwards, the bride’s and groom’s families greet each other and floral garlands are swapped to represent the joining of the two families.
During the ceremony the bride, groom, their parents and the priest sit beneath an Indian wedding mandap (canopy) on a wedding stage. First-off the bride’s parents give away the bride and watch as the couple perform the mangal phera which involves joining hands and circling a small fire. The couple then take the saptapadi (seven steps) as they promise to love and support each other.
The ceremony ends with the groom applying red powder to the centre of his bride’s forehead and placing a mangalsutra around her neck which shows she is now married.
The wedding ceremony is the main event, so go all out and wear a lavish and elegant outfit that will make an impression!
The wedding reception varies according to the region but it often includes at least two dances and two speeches. The wedding reception is the first public appearance of the newlyweds since the wedding ceremony so you can expect a lavish celebration.
The couple will receive gifts and good wishes from the guests and the bride is officially welcomed by the groom’s relatives and friends. Once the dance floor opens you will usually hear a mixture of traditional and contemporary Indian music and Western music.
Following on from the post-wedding reception is the dinner, a jovial affair with stacks of food, so make sure you’re hungry.
The wedding reception and dinner is all about having fun and celebrating so wear a stylish evening outfit that you can feel relaxed in!
Our wedding reception outfits can be found, here.
Image sources: indianweddingsite, pinterest, biyaniphoto, sensephotoz, mariannechua, vivahsangrah, easyday.syndle, fashionlady, niteshwedsnamrata, bigindianwedding, yahoo, brandx10, business-opportunities