A traditional Indian wedding is a colorful celebration, uniting not only the bride and groom but also two families through meaningful vows and rituals — from the beginning of a couple’s commitment to each other through the engagement and marriage ceremonies.
Before a couple is formally engaged, they and their parents participate in a symbolic exchange of Gol Dhana, a sweet made of brown sugar and spice. This ritual symbolizes an agreement between the two families and indicates commitment to one another without an official engagement. Next, the groom’s family throws an engagement party, beginning the official betrothal of the couple. As Hima Dalal says, “This is more than just a couple becoming engaged as two families accept each other and come together.” In the Hindu faith, this includes meeting with a priest for an engagement ceremony before setting a wedding date. He takes into account each of their birthdays and the guidance of the Panchang before making the selection.
As in the Western tradition, the bride’s family throws the wedding. Festivities begin several days in advance with the bride and groom each having Mehndi parties with their family members where henna is painted on their hands and arms. Not only does the henna provide an ornate decoration, but it is also fragrant, setting a peaceful tone. Hima relates that the experience puts the whole family in a “happy zone.”
On the day of the wedding, the bride is attired in red, white, and dark green with intricate embroidery. She wears ornate jewelry and traditionally places a white sari on top of her gown. In a gesture of welcome, the groom’s mother gives the bride red and gold bangles called chudla.
During the ceremony, the groom places a black-beaded necklace called a mangalsutra on the bride. He also gently puts an orange powder called sindoor in her hair at the part, symbolizing the fact that she is now married to him. To Hima, the most meaningful part of the wedding is the Kanyadan, when the bride’s father gives her hand to the groom. This formal gesture represents acceptance of the bride into the groom’s family as a daughter.
Together with their parents and the priest, the bride and groom take marriage vows and complete rituals together. Afterward, the wedding is completed with a party, where family and friends enjoy good food, traditional music, and dancing with the newly married couple.