Traditional Hindu weddings are elaborate affairs. Many modern ones crinkle their brows at the mention of a possibility of attending these never-ending rites of passage. However, if you look closely, you will find that these cultural events are great fun. Besides, the sumptuous food is always a super bonus!
Not all tiresome ceremonies may be all about amusement, but some of them are really all about lively banter, dance, music, food and great fashion. Here’s a list of 10 absolutely enjoyable and entertaining rituals and marriages’ related events that you must Not miss (if you ever get invited to them) –
1) Engagement – Indian people love their dance, drama, food and fashion. So, engagements – yes, the formalization of the bond and the announcement of the impending wedding – often are crazed, power-packed, exciting events.
There may be some basic Hindu rites and poojas/ havans involved, but they surely add to the overall charm. Besides the customary exchange of rings and the ‘romance in the air’ feeling, you will get a glimpse (and a chance) of all the smiling, hugging, dancing and excitement. The themed floral decorations and large spreads of food are un-missable too.
What to wear – Check if the invite mentions a ‘theme’. Be inventive! Stick to contemporary silhouettes with Indian details/ elements. Pair a light Lehenga skirt with an embellished crop-top. Men should channel the Nehru jacket or dhoti (readymade) trend. Avoid anything that’s too heavy. Believe me – you won’t want to sit around, as the party gets into the groove.
2) Sangeet – As the name suggests (Sangeet means music), the celebratory dance and song pre-wedding affair is all about mingling, entertainment and jiving to the music. You will get to experience games, pre-rehearsed dance routines, choirs, loud singing, foot-tapping dhol music, funny relatives with two left feet, finger-licking good munchies and much more.
And, you will enjoy the professionally choreographed moves as much as the absolutely amateurish ones. The air will be electric, and the entire atmosphere contagiously happy.
What to wear – Can’t say no to all the crazy frenzy! Don’t wear anything that will weigh you down. But, don’t go too simple as well, as Sangeet is a perfect occasion to display your wares. Backless cholis and sexy ankle-length lehengas are great for girls, while men can experiment with kurta lengths and comfy pants. Avoid wearing anything that’s too tight or synthetic, as you will be sweating a lot. (Pun unintended ;-))
3) Mehendi – The application of Henna or the ground Mehendi paste on bride’s hands and feet is the main agenda of the Mehendi function that takes place at bride’s home. The other female guests also get their palms hennaed. But, that’s not it! There is a lot of female talk and singing/ dancing involved.
Relatives plan and stage role-plays and funny narratives, and amidst all the friendly jibes and pokes, there is tonnes of elating bonhomie. This is also a perfect time for photo-ops!
What to wear – Wear something that you won’t mind getting spoilt a bit. Stick to shorter sleeves or without sleeves blouses/ cholis or kameez. This is a great time to flaunt halter neck and backless styles, as many girls also get henna tattoos on back, upper arms and shoulders, these days. If you are going to get a henna tattoo on feet too, wear a mid-length lehenga skirt. Avoid tight or light colored clothes. Forest greens, henna greens, earthy tones of rust/ tangerine and black (if your customs allow) are good colors.
4) Haldi – This ritual involves application of turmeric paste (usually mixed with other skin soothing herbs and chickpea flour) on the bride’s or groom’s skin. The Haldi ceremony is held individually and separately in both the homes. It is symbolic of positive tidings. Turmeric is also known to ward off the evil eye. And, the ubtan or body pack made using it is said to enhance the glow of skin.
What to wear – Stick to casual or simple clothes, as you may end up getting the ubtan even on your own clothes. You may also need to sit down on the floor to attend the havan/ yagna. For men, a long cotton kurta paired with jeans or (readymade) dhoti is a good idea, while girls/ women should wear something bohemian and fun, like a long skirt paired with a short kurti, or a Patiala Salwar Suit.
5) Chooda and Kaleere – This ceremony usually takes place only amongst Punjabi or North Indian families – at the bride’s home. However, there may be similar functions in other parts of India, with varied names. It generally follows the Haldi ceremony. The maternal uncle of the bride gifts her – a set of red and white – marital bangles called chooda. The bride is supposed to wear chooda, as a wedding symbol, for at least 1.5 months after the wedding.
Post the Hindu worship rituals, chooda cleansing and scared thread tying ceremony, the friends and female cousins/ relatives of the bride tie golden, red and colorful trinkets on her bangles. These are known as Kaleere. This is a fun event.
The bride continues to wear these kaleere on her arms, through the wedding ceremony, as a good luck charm. Once the wedding is over, the bride tries to remove these by shaking them on the heads of all her unmarried friends and relatives. It is believed that on whosoever head the trinket falls – that girl is usually the next in line to get married.
What to wear – Most people outside the immediate circle and family are not invited to this intimate affair. You can continue to wear the same outfit that you wore to Haldi ceremony, as most likely there won’t be much gap between the two events.
6) Baraat – The most fun-filled and boisterous event of an Indian wedding is the baraat. This wedding procession carried out by groom’s family, as they embark to the bride’s home involves tons of dancing and singing.
The first round of drinks, dancing and friendly banter begins right at the groom’s home, after Sehrabandi – a ritual where a ‘Sehra’ or sacred headgear is tied on the groom’s head. Then the party heads to the venue. Although most distance is covered in vehicles, a short distance to the venue is covered on foot, as the guests in baraat continue to dance onto the thumping beats of dhol and crazy Bollywood songs.
What to wear – You will attend this fun part, if you are from the groom’s side. The outfit you wear to baraat will be the one that you technically wear at the wedding. Save your most elaborate or ornate dress for this ceremony. However, try not to wear something that keeps getting tangled in your feet, especially if you plan to be a part of the crazy dancing. Elegantly draped designer sarees look great at weddings!
7) Bridesmaids – In case you were wondering, the Hindu weddings too have a custom of the bride having the bridesmaids. These girls – usually the sisters, cousins and friends of the bride – may not be always addressed similarly as the bridesmaids, though. But, they surely add an element of fun and ebullience to the whole affair.
Dressed in most colorful and attractive outfits, each paling the other in the looks and style departments, the bridal clique members stop the groom right at the entrance, demanding that he gift them something, before he gets to enter the wedding venue and see the bride.
What to wear – If you are going to be a bridesmaid, you should dress up in a gorgeous pastel colored lehenga choli or a fun Indo-Western suit outfit to keep the vein light, fun and youthful. Don’t overdo on make-up or jewelry, as it will restrict you from dancing and running around. Invest in pretty but practical shoes.
8) Milni means the formal meeting of the two families at the gates of the wedding venue. This is an extension of the wedding ceremony, so if you are here – it means you are attending the ‘real’ ceremony. Listen to the fun verbal exchange that ensues between the groom’s party and the bridesmaids. Look around and see how elaborately dressed everyone is! You will also get to know of the key relatives from both the sides, as they greet each other with flower garlands.
What to wear – This is a part of the wedding ceremony. Save your best dress for this occasion. Girls must take care of their long, floor-trailing lehengas and pallus, as amidst the crowd, someone may end up stepping or pulling on them. Men look great in Indian sherwanis or western 3-piece suits for weddings. But, you can also wear a formal shirt and waist-coat/ elegant Nehru jacket paired with formal trousers and great shoes.
9) Var Maala and the actual Wedding – Well, this is what you have actually waited for! The ‘real’ thing – with lots of glitter, sparkle, dance, drama and food. The scintillating crowd, stunningly dressed bride and groom and the amazing food are the highlights of this ceremony. Be at your communicative best, as this is your chance to chat up some interesting guests.
Var Mala refers to customary garlands’ exchange between the groom and the bride. This takes place on a special stage. If you don’t jostle your way amidst the crowd and cheers, it’s unlikely that you will get to witness this from close. There is a lot of fun verbal exchange, as the ritual ensues. It’s a great photo-op moment too!
What to wear – Your actual wedding dress! Unless it’s extremely hot, you can go all out, while planning for this lovely Indian custom. Females can wear anything from dressy sarees to demure lehenga cholis and contemporary Indo-Western suits or Gowns. You can also opt for airy Lehenga suits and easy to wear Lehenga Sarees. The choice is endless! In winters, do keep a wrap or shawl handy, as most Indian weddings continue till late in the night, when it gets quite chilly.
10) Joote Chupai – is not a ritual but a fun custom, which involves hiding the shoes of the groom. After the wedding meeting and greeting and festivities are over, the couple heads for the Pheras – the holy wedding rituals and Saptapadi (7 oaths). During this, the groom removes his shoes outside the mandap (enclosure for worship). His shoes are then hidden by the friends and cousins of the bride. The bride’s clout seeks gifts and money from the groom – in return for his shoes.
It’s a super fun custom, and no one minds the friendly banter between the groom’s gang and the bride’s bevy!
What to wear – Since this ceremony takes place right after the marriage festivities, most people continue to wear the same outfit they wore for the main event. However, at times, this takes place late (and continues till the wee hours of morning). In that case, carry an extra – less ornate and more comfortable dress change with you. Anarkali suits, Punjabi suits and floor-length suits are good options for women. Girls can also wear a dressy mid-length tunic with a lehenga or leggings. Men may change into relaxed Kurtas too. Keep woolens, wraps, shawls handy, if it is cold.