Indian weddings are extravagant, beautiful, scenic, colorful, a paradise for foodies, full of mischievous ceremonies, a display of the most interesting dance performances by the heavily intoxicated friends and family members — and mostly, they are expensive as hell. Hinduism is one of the oldest religions in the world and even across eras, there are so many traditions that we hold onto when it comes to weddings and it is the fusion of the modern and ancient culture that makes them so much fun. India contains more diverse cultures than the whole of European Union; there are too many spoken languages and as many different ways to get married so even if you Indian, chances are that you haven’t attended all sorts of possible Indian weddings. These are my personal favorite things about Indian weddings:
There was a time when people had to travel long distances on horseback to reach the venue for the wedding, which was generally the bride’s house or a temple close by and sometimes they traveled even to cities far away. The people accompanying the groom would celebrate and play music as they traveled. Now we have cars and planes but this travel a.k.a ‘Baaraat’ still is the most fun-filled part of the event. Now people reach a place which is, at max, a mile away from the venue and hire a horse for the groom while everyone else walks and dances on foot until they reach the venue. This may not sound so cool but the wedding band accompanies them too and sometimes they have an entire an entire DJ console on wheels. There are always a few cars that accompany this Baaraat that carry booze so that people can stop over from time to time to make themselves a drink. Some people take this up a notch by having a mobile bar with bartenders pulling off fancy tricks and serving cocktails and snacks, so think of it as a moving club on the road with one guy sitting on a horse. But don’t even think about making fun of the groom for being on a horse because his attire includes a sword and its terms dictate that once withdrawn from the sheath, it cannot go back in without being stained by blood. In short the groom’s entry is as big a deal as the bride’s. Also since people do not serve alcohol at the venue where the holy fire will light up for the bride and groom to take their vows, the groom’s friend make it a point that this party moves at the slowest possible pace and they just do not stop partying even when they are right in front of the entrance.
2. Kashi Yatra
Unlike most of the weddings in the northern part of India, weddings down south take place at torturous timing, right around sunrise. It feels a little weird because everyone is too sober and a little sleepy but they have the most hilarious role play called ‘Kashi Yatra’ right before the wedding starts and it is totally worth sacrificing your sleep for.
Thousands of years ago, men who wished to lead their lives for intellectual pursuits did not take a wife or father children, so at one point or another, someone probably had cold feet before marriage and was confused if he should leave for Kaashi/Varanasi in the pursuit of inner peace and knowledge or get married and settle for a domestic life. This role play is still carried out when the groom has to make a sudden declaration that he wishes to leave for this journey in pursuit of knowledge and it’s the bride’s brother who needs to convince him to get over his cold feel and go through with the wedding. Now depending on how comfortable they both are with each other and how mean the friends are, this can take a very hilarious turn. Sometimes the brother in law will offer bribes, sometimes he’ll ask him to stop throwing fits and the bashing goes on, when the groom might not have cold feet. Then sometimes there are grooms who honestly make a run to scare people. I just love the idea of letting the guy openly explore his cold feet situation for the entertainment of others.
3. The perfectly synchronized Bollywood dance numbers
It’s not fictional — in Indian weddings, a large portion of the crowd or certain groups start with a perfectly synchronized dance number. We do hire choreographers and practice for weeks unlike in the movies where the whole thing is impromptu, but what can I say, we Indians love dancing and it is spectacular to watch.
4. The food
If you attend an Indian wedding, you’ll probably get to taste everything amazing that the Indian cuisine has to offer and there’s so much variety that you probably won’t have enough space in your stomach even if you’re just tasting small quantities of everything available. If you are one of those weird people who do not like Indian food, even then there are several cuisines from all over the world. If there is anything Indians love more than dancing, it is amazing food and you might end up gaining a few pounds during the course of the wedding. South Indian weddings have an even more amazing concept of serving food on banana leaves instead of plates which is by far the most interesting way in which I have eaten.
5. The vows
The bride and the groom are supposed to welcome each other with garlands before they take their vows and it is believed that the one who bows down during this ceremony will be dominated by the other for the rest of their lives, so there is a lot of playing around and lifting both of them until one of them gives up. Also the altar is in the shape of four poles with flowers hanging all around and the holy fire burning in the center. The bride and the groom are supposed to hold hands and circle the fire with every vow they take while people around them shower flower petals on them. The vows are recited by a priest who asks if the bride and groom agree to all of them with every revolution they make around the fire. These vows are still recited in an ancient language, Sanskrit, and so that people from all across the country or foreigners can understand, they are translated in Hindi and English, which contributes to some moments of good laughter since a lot of these vows were written ages ago and some of them sound odd for a marriage in the 21st century, But that in no way shadows the beauty of the words, the emotions behind them and how some of them make people well up.
6. The venue
The most interesting weddings are destination weddings that take place either in the palaces in desert areas, by the beach, or in the mountains. The weddings where people book palaces and have an ancient royal wedding theme are completely magnificent and if you are ever invited to one these, RSVP like your life depends on it.
There are numerous little ceremonies that go on for a week but a lot of people cut them short to one or two days to maintain a reasonable budget. It is difficult to understand the reasons behind all the ceremonies, games and role plays that occur during this week long period or to follow how all of these customs originated but it is something so beautiful and fun filled that everyone should experience it once in their lives. Also remember that if you are invited to a proper extravagant Indian wedding, do not pack light! There are so many events that you’ll literally need to buy an Indian wardrobe to be properly attired.