Every element of a Hindu wedding celebration is steeped in tradition and brings with it a long line of historical significance. From pre-wedding events such as the sangeet party, where family members gather to celebrate the impending wedding, to the mehndi party where the bride and close female friends adorn their hands with henna, each piece of an Indian wedding ceremony is special and carefully planned. Even the sacred day itself, the muhurta, is chosen by astrologists who take into consideration the birth dates of the bride and groom and the position of the stars to decide on their special date. The ceremony itself, as depicted by the below rituals, is the culmination of these events, centered around love, joy, and acceptance.
Haldi Ceremony: The morning of the bride and groom’s wedding begins with a ceremony in which a turmeric paste called haldi is applied to their bodies to keep evil spirits at bay and usher in prosperity and healing.
Baraat: The groom makes his entrance, traditionally seated on a white horse, accompanied by his family and guests. They sing and dance along the way to signify their joy at the wedding about to transpire and their acceptance of the bride and her family.
Milni: After the groom makes his procession, the bride and groom’s families meet at the entrance of the venue and exchange garlands to acknowledge their approval.
Kanya Aagaman: Literally translating to “arrival of the bride,” the bride enters the ceremony and walks to the Mandap, traditionally accompanied by her uncle on her mother’s side, or other relatives or bridesmaids. The Mandap is the covered structure at the front of the wedding ceremony site where the wedding will be performed, similar to an arch, canopy, or Jewish chuppah. Traditional decoration of the mandap includes flowers, lights, and swaths of fabric.
Varmala: Once they are together under the Mandap, the bride and groom accept one another in the varmala ritual by placing a garland made of flowers around each other’s necks.
Kanyadaan: The bride is then given away by her father or another male guardian. Her right hand is placed in the groom’s left by her father, symbolizing his approval of the wedding. The mother of the bride will then pour sacred water over the father’s hands, which trickles to the bride, and finally, the groom’s hands.
Vivaah Homa: A sacred fire is lit under the Mandap in a ritual called the Vivaah Homa, where the bride and groom feed the fire with ghee while reciting prayers.
Granthi Bandhanam: In this unity ceremony, the brother of the bride ties a white cloth to her sari and drapes the adjoining end over the groom’s shoulder, the knot signifying the unity between the families.
Saptapadi: Following the tying of the knot, the bride and group embark on their Seven Sacred Vows. In this crucial part of the wedding ceremony, the bride and groom make seven circles around the sacred fire, establishing their friendship and commitment in the recitation of seven promises to one another. By the end of their seventh circle, they are officially married in the Hindu tradition.
Ashirwad: The wedding ceremony closes after the priest announces the bride and groom as husband and wife. They receive Ashirwad, or blessings, first from their parents, and then from their other family members. As they exit the wedding venue, their guests shower them with rice or rose petals, and more blessings.
After the conclusion of the wedding ceremony, the reception begins. Following most wedding traditions, the reception is a huge expression of joy in the form of dancing, food, and music. While there are many variations on Hindu wedding ceremonies, the key elements above are the traditional steps that comprise the wedding ceremony in celebration of unity and love.