Whether the couple is Hindu, Jain, Sikh or Muslim, Indian weddings tend to be vibrant, joyous celebrations. Many wedding customs are common among the religions and tend to reflect the beliefs of the region, caste and the families involved. These ceremonies focus heavily on the combining of two families, and less on the engaged couple. Indian weddings can last for days and are rooted deeply in culture and heritage.
Many Indian weddings are arranged, though love matches are possible. Once parents have made a match, the engagement is celebrated with a misri, or ring, ceremony. The couple exchanges rings and garlands and becomes promised to one another.
The bride will then have a shower attended by her female friends and family members. Mehndi or henna is painted on her hands and feet, and the color of the mehndi symbolizes the love of the new couple.
On the day of the wedding, the couple is separated and pasted with turmeric powder in their childhood homes as part of a sacred beautification process.
Brides usually wear bright red saris draped over the body and hair, but white is also an option. The groom wears a long shirt and leggings. Depending on his faith, the groom may also wear a turban. The couple, as well as the guests, traditionally wears flip-flops or slip-on shoes. Footwear is not allowed under the mandap. and any shoes must be removed before entering.
The wedding ceremony takes place outside under a tent, or mandap, that is decorated with flowers. Seating beneath the mandap is usually on the ground or on carpets. The four pillars holding up the mandap signify the four parents who helped to raise the new couple. A sacred, confined fire is lit under the tent while the groom's party processes in. Once the bride and her party arrive, hymns are recited by a priest and vows are exchanged. The newlyweds may also feed each other sweets and exchange garlands of fresh flowers.
Since the reception is usually organized by the family of the groom, most of the attendants are friends and family of the groom. Close members of the bride's party may attend, but the reception is traditionally used as an opportunity for the bride to get acquainted with her new family. The celebration is filled with fine food, music and dancing.
The food served at Indian weddings can vary depending on the region. Indian feasts are always lavish and have multiple courses. The meal may start with a variety of finger foods, as well as both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. Rice and roti, a type of bread, is almost always present on the table. Many of the popular main dishes include Mishti Doi, a sweet curd; Macher Kaalia, a fish dish; and Dal Makhani, a dish of boiled lentils. Depending on the preference of the families, alcohol may be served.
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