An Indian wedding is more than just a festive wedding celebration; it’s an infusion of traditions. “These cherished rituals have been handed down through the ages and across the world to second- and third-generation immigrants in Western countries,” says Shruti Kohli of Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai.
What’s the significance of these enchanting wedding rituals? The meaning can vary , but here’s a guide to the most popular Indian wedding customs practiced at Four Seasons wedding venues around the world.
This elaborately adorned canopy supported by four pillars is one of the most captivating highlights of an Indian wedding. Beneath it, the bride and groom, along with their immediate families, sit before a sacred fire and perform religious ceremonies to signify their new union. The mandap is decorated in shades of red, maroon, purple, silver and gold as these traditional colours are believed to radiate happiness and prosperity. According to Hinduism, the pillars of the mandap symbolise the support of the couple’s parents, as well as the four Vedas, or holy texts.
The day before the wedding, the bride and her female friends and family members paint intricate patterns on their hands, wrists, palms and feet in henna, a vegetable dye, to bestow luck upon the bride. Mehndi is the ceremony of applying this dye. Often, the design on the bride’s palm includes a hidden inscription of the groom’s name. Tradition says if the groom fails to find his name within the intricate detail, then the bride will be the more dominant one in their marriage. It’s also said that the deeper the colour of the henna, the stronger the love between the bride and groom will grow over time.
The groom’s arrival at the wedding is treated with all the pomp and splendour of a parade. During this festive procession, or baraat, he rides on the back of a white mare, since this is considered a sign of royalty and luxury. Friends and family perform a celebratory dance around him to the vibrant beat of a dhol (drum) as they enter the wedding venue.
Following the baraat, a ceremony known as the milni, or merger, marks the joining of the two families. Members from each side greet one another with garlands and gifts. The exchange usually begins with the two fathers, followed by the two mothers, then siblings, uncles, aunts and cousins.