They are an opportunity for Indian couples to pay tribute to their heritage and ancestry, while incorporating elements of their particular religion and cultural customs.
Rather than one stereotype, Indian weddings may reflect Hindu, Sikh, Muslim or other religious traditions, with each event a unique combination of ceremonies and celebrations which are often held over multiple days. From the henna adornments of the Mehndi party to the grand entrance of the groom’s Baraat, these rituals draw on ancient cultural traditions that have evolved into modern Indian wedding celebrations.
While the focus of the day is on the bride and groom, Indian weddings also put a strong emphasis on the union of the two families. The warm emotions, tears of joy and unrestrained passion that this evokes makes for beautiful candid moments to capture throughout your day. Indian weddings are also an opportunity for the family to go all out in creating a truly lavish event, with exquisite details and decor that can be documented to last a lifetime through captivating wedding photography.
Overflowing with sights, sounds and smells, Indian wedding celebrations are undeniably vibrant events to capture, featuring bold colors, rich traditions and plenty of live music and dance.
The Mehndi ceremony is a coming together of the bride and her female friends for a henna party and is usually held on the day before the wedding ceremony. Intricate henna designs are drawn on not only the bride, but also her female guests’ hands, forearms, feet and lower legs. It is an opportunity for the women to come together, feast, celebrate, and enjoy the anticipation of the wedding ceremony that lies ahead. The Mehndi ceremony is not only an important aspect of Hindu weddings, but also Sikh weddings and Muslim Indian wedding celebrations.
The Sangeet is a big celebratory party held the evening or a few days before the wedding ceremony. It originated in North India as a party strictly for the women, but has spread throughout the country and beyond as a celebration for both families to enjoy together. It is an opportunity for them to meet, mingle and feast, with both the bride and groom’s families learning songs and dances to perform for each other. Traditional Indian music normally accompanies the event, with dancing well into the night.
The Baraat is the groom’s grand arrival at the wedding ceremony, traditionally on horseback, accompanied by guests dancing around him to the beat of an Indian dhol drum. Both the groom and his horse are elaborately decorated as they approach the elders of both families, with the bride’s relatives sprinkling him with rose water and offering a token of good luck. In some Indian cultures, such as Sikh weddings, both male and female wedding guests take part in the Baraat, while in others, such as Rajput, it is solely for male members.
The Milni ceremony follows the Baraat and symbolizes the coming together of the bride and groom’s families. As the groom arrives, he is sprinkled with rose water by the bride’s relatives and offered a token of good luck, before the male members of the bride’s family welcome him by exchanging flower garlands and sometimes offering gifts of money. In some traditions the groom’s feet are washed at this moment and he is offered milk and honey, or his sister-in-law playfully steals his shoes and requests money if he wants them returned! One of the most important aspects of the Milni ceremony is the meeting of the two fathers, recognizing their acceptance of the marriage and the bond that will tie the two families.
In Hindu ceremonies, a Ganesha Puja takes place after the groom is seated at the mandap (wedding altar), with the priest invoking the Hindu elephant God, Lord Ganesh. He asks for good luck and blessings on the married couple and their families as they step into the next chapter of their lives, as well as strength in the face of any challenges.
While some brides opt to see the groom following the Baraat or before entering the wedding venue, others prefer a traditional Kanya Aagaman, or “arrival of the bride”. Her maternal aunt and uncle escort her into the mandap, sometimes accompanied by her sisters, cousins and friends, or she is carried aloft on a small doli carriage by her male relatives. In some traditions, a white cloth is placed between the couple so they can not see each other until the Kanyadaan rituals have been observed.
The Hindu wedding ceremony traditionally starts with the Varmala and is often the first time the bride and groom meet on the wedding day. They exchange mala flower garlands, signifying their acceptance of one another and the union which is about to take place, made from marigolds, roses and carnations. In some traditions it is a playful moment, with the groom’s family teasingly trying to prevent the bride from placing the garland around his neck, while in other Varmala ceremonies the mother of the bride applies a tilaka mark to the groom’s forehead and performs an aarti ceremony to protect him against any potential evil eyes.
Kanyadaan is the traditional giving away of the bride, with the father taking his daughter’s right hand and placing it in the groom’s, asking that he accept his daughter and signifying his official approval of the union.
After the Kanyadaan, a sacred fire is lit by the priest in a small copper bowl using ghee and woolen wicks. He then recites mantras and the bridal couple praise the Lord of Fire, Agni Devta, bringing purity to the rituals which are about to take place and making offerings of herbs, sandalwood, sugar, rice and oil to Lord Vishnu. The phrase “it is not for me” is repeated over and over to recognize the selflessness of marriage, and the couple request that Agni Devta act as their messenger to sacred Hindu gods in their requests for wealth, prosperity, health and children.
With the couple’s right hands joined and the presence of Agni Devta, the traditional “joining of the hands” ritual known as Hastamelap takes place. The mother of the bride pours sacred water onto the palm of her husband’s hands, which flows onto his daughter’s and his future son-in law’s hands. The groom’s sister or mother then ties the end of his scarf to the bride’s sari in a symbol of their eternal bond, with betel nuts, rise and copper coins incorporated to represent prosperity, happiness and unity.
During the Hastamelap the bride and groom exchange their vows, expressing love and support for one another, together with their expectations for married life. They also recognize the compassion and good will they extend towards their families, and vow to stay bonded for the rest of their lives.
Translating from Sanskrit as “sacred thread”, the Mangalsutra is a black and gold necklace that is traditionally given to the bride by the groom as a symbol of their love and friendship, as well as a protective token from the Gods. It shields the bride from evil and recognizes her status as a married woman.
The bride sits on the groom’s left hand side, closest to his heart, and he places the Mangalsutra around her neck. He recites Vedic mantras as he ties it into three knots, symbolizing the bonding of the two souls for 100 years. He then applies red vermillion in the center of the bride’s forehead and they exchange rings, committing to their life together as husband and wife.
• The color, life and vibrancy of Indian weddings is second to none, and we love the opportunity to capture this through beautiful and creative wedding photography.
• We know that each individual ceremony you select is a reflection of your Indian culture and heritage, and the opportunity to be a part of that is just as exciting for us as it is for you and your wedding guests.
• We love that Indian weddings are held over multiple days, with the opportunity for us to really get to know you, your family and your wedding guests during this joyous occasion.
• Indian wedding celebrations are often very glamorous affairs, with no expense spared, and we love to capture this opulence in all the individual details and decor of your event.
• The highly intricate detailing of Indian bridal attire, coupled with sacred tilaka adornments and ornate jewelry, make for absolutely stunning wedding day portrait opportunities of both the bride and groom.
We know that Indian weddings are often large and multi-day affairs, so we always bring a team of photographers to ensure that no moment is missed.
We always have a meeting with our bridal couples before their wedding to ensure we understand each and every element of their Indian wedding plans and are prepared to photograph it creatively and evocatively.
From tears of joy to intimate exchanges during sacred ceremonies, we know that Indian weddings are overflowing with emotion, as well as when and where we need to be to capture these beautiful expressions.
We know that the bridal attire, details and decor of Indian weddings are absolutely exquisite and set aside plenty of time to capture these in the most atmospheric natural light.
Using high-quality camera equipment, including fast lenses and state-of-the-art lighting techniques, we know how to freeze all the festivities and movement of your sangeet and baraat ceremonies to create images that are infused with joyous celebration.
• Indian weddings are often on a large scale, with multiple events to plan and wedding vendors to coordinate, so we recommend you hire a wedding planner to take care of all the logistical details and make sure things run as smoothly as possible, allowing you to relax and really enjoy each and every moment.
• If you are investing the time and money into having a lavish Indian wedding celebration, we highly recommend that you make photography a top priority and schedule in plenty of time in your wedding day schedule to capture all the opulent details and decor you have selected, as well as beautiful couple portraits in each and every outfit.
• Decide on which Indian wedding rituals are reflective of you or your partner’s Indian heritage (and those which are important to your family), and discuss with your wedding planner any western elements you want to incorporate throughout the event and how best to do this.
• Make sure you convey to your wedding photographer all of the traditional elements you have planned throughout your Indian wedding, to ensure they can be in the right place at the right time to capture them from the best vantage point possible.
• When writing your wedding invitations, make sure your wedding guests know which ceremonies or parties they are invited to take part in and the dress code for each (remember it may be the first Indian wedding they ever attend!)