Joota Chori

The joota chori, or joota chupai, is the shoe-stealing ceremony common at Hindu weddings. When the groom enters the mandap, or wedding altar, he takes off his shoes because the wedding ceremony is a puja, or religious ritual. Hindus do not wear shoes during pujas.

When the groom takes off his shoes, the bride’s sisters, bridesmaids, cousins, nieces, or friends will steal the shoes for later. Usually, this just involves female members of the bridal party, but sometimes men will join in, too.

When the ceremony is over, the groom will arrive to find his shoes have been stolen. In order to get them back, he must pay the thieves a ransom. The bounty might be a small amount of cash, but in modern wedding ceremonies we’ve seen the dollar amount raise exponentially.

Grooms: be prepared. Pack some cash in that sherwani before you leave for the wedding — it’s why you have pockets on those outfits.

Antarpat

The antarpat is an opaque cloth, usually a dupatta or shawl, used as part of a Hindu wedding ceremony. Akin to the veil worn by a bride in a Western wedding ceremony, the antarpat is held between the bride and groom as the bride walks down the aisle, so neither the bride nor the groom can see each other during the processional.

As the bride approaches the groom, the people holding the antarpat will pivot so the bride and groom don’t catch a glimpse of one another. The bride and groom then stand on opposite sides of the antarpat as the priest begins the wedding, eagerly awaiting their first glimpse of one another on their wedding day. At the designated moment, the priest will ask for the antarpat to be lowered, and the bride and groom will see each other for the first time.

Who holds the antarpat? It depends. Most of the time we see male relatives of the bride and groom playing this role, probably because (1) it’s hard to hold the antarpat for the entire processional and (2) you need tall people to hold the antarpat at a level that blocks both the bride and groom from being able to see one another. If you have a brother or cousin you’d like to include in your wedding somehow, this is a nice way to honor them.

Like most things in Hindu weddings, this is an optional addition to the ceremony. It is more common in modern weddings as a way to inject some fun and drama into the occasion, especially as brides and grooms are less frequently covering their faces during the wedding ceremony and could therefore easily see one another without this handy screen.

Shoe Stealing

A tradition unique to Hindu weddings is the stealing of the groom’s shoes. As the bride and groom ascend to the mandap, or wedding altar, they remove their shoes. This is because the wedding ceremony is religious, and Hindus do not wear shoes when conducting religious rituals.

At some point after the groom removes his shoes, the bride’s sisters (or bridesmaids, or cousins, or nieces, or friends — you get the idea) will steal the groom’s shoes and hide them away. In order to get his shoes back, the groom must pay a bounty to the bride’s sisters. The ransom may be a combination of cash, jewelry, and other gifts.

In most cases, the exchange involves negotiation, with each party holding out for the best deal they can get. This is a humorous interlude in the wedding, and a nice break from the seriousness of the ceremony itself after the couple has officially wed. We’ve seen cute adaptations where the groomsmen refuses to wear shoes to the ceremony at all, so the bride’s sisters steal a groomsman’s shoes instead; or where the groomsmen hide away the shoes before the sisters can steal them, only to be foiled in the end by a generous groom who gives the sisters a gift anyway. Approach the “joota chupai” ceremony with a light heart and be prepared to laugh. And if you can, get in on the fun!

Mithai

In Hindi, “mithai” refers to sweet, sugary desserts.

If you have never had Indian sweets before, you’re in for a super sugary treat. Mithai are usually sweeter than most western desserts, so start small. Our favorites include gulab jamun (fried donut holes soaked in sugary syrup), jalebi (fried funnel cakes soaked in sugary syrup), and rasmalai (spongy cakes served in sweet milk).

 

Ghori

You might hear people at an Indian wedding talking about a “ghori” a lot, especially when you’re starting the baraat. It might sound like they’re saying the word “gory” a lot. You might start to wonder why they think this beautiful festival of dancing and singing around a horse is so filled with gore. You don’t see any gore around here. Are they offended by horses? What is going on?

The “ghori” is actually the horse. In many traditional Hindu weddings, the groom arrives astride a white, female horse. This “ghori” usually has some decorations on her bridle, and may be wearing festive gear to celebrate the wedding.

Want to learn more about the baraat? Check out our other posts by clicking on the tags below!

Sarbala

The groom in an Indian wedding will often participate in a flashy and energetic baraat, which we’ve written about before. And who tags along with the groom during his wedding processional? The sarbala.

In English, we might call him the best man. But really, he’s usually a young boy. Most grooms will choose their nephew, younger brother, or cousin to be a sarbala. If the mode of transportation allows it (e.g., riding in a chariot behind the horse rather than astride the horse itself), some grooms might choose to have multiple sarbalas.

The cutest part? Some grooms will opt to have their sarbala dress like them, so a mini-groom rides in with them to the wedding.

Payal

“Payal”  (or sometimes “polki”) refers to gold or silver anklets commonly worn by girls and women when dressing in Indian clothes. Payal can be elaborate or simple. They frequently have bells on them, so a woman’s every step will result in some pleasant music. These are far from mandatory for a wedding, but they’re a fun addition to your outfit if you want to add a bit more bling! They’re also the perfect accessory to the henna a bride wears on her feet.

  

Fun fact: “Payal” is also a popular female name among Indian people!

How To Wear a Sari

Do you want to wear a sari but don’t know where to start? Hooray! We’re here to help.

Step 1: Buy a sari. We recommend something that is lightweight, preferably made of chiffon or georgette material. Lighter saris are easier to wear for beginners, and they’re good for warm weather.

  

Step 2: Buy a petticoat. You will need to wear this underneath your sari. A petticoat is a plain, solid color, cotton skirt that ties with a drawstring.

They are generally one-size-fits-most. If you are particularly tall or short, or particularly thin or heavy, you might need to special-order a petticoat. But in our experience, women ranging in sizes from 4 to 14 can share off-the-rack petticoats. Big relief for those of us who like Girl Scout cookie season a bit too much.

 

Step 3: Buy a blouse. Saris are essentially just really beautiful pieces of fabric, like a toga. However, unlike a toga, you will wear a separate blouse with your sari. The blouse is meant to be seen, at least a little. Most blouses fasten in the front using hook-and-eye closures.

Saris usually come with a “blouse piece,” which is a 1-2 yard piece of fabric that matches the sari and can be sewn to make a blouse. However, it is hard to find a tailor who knows how to make a sari blouse from scratch. Plain sari blouses in standard colors (black, gold, silver, red, etc.) can be purchased online for a reasonable cost and usually track normal American sizing. These are a good option, and can be used with multiple saris!

  

Step 4: Make sure the sari has a “fall” sewn in. This is a 3-inch strip of fabric sewn to the inside bottom of the plain end of the sari to protect the sari from your feet while you walk. Without a fall, the sari could fray or tear easily if you accidentally step on your sari. With the fall, the sari is protected … a bit.

Step 5: Obtain a few large safety pins.

Step 6: Wrap your sari. Put on your blouse, put on your petticoat, and start wrapping yourself in fabric. We like this video by Good Indian Girl for a basic tutorial on how to “fold it.”

There are several options for wrapping your sari, but the most traditional method involves wrapping from right to left so you end up with the decorative sari piece (pallu) draped over your left shoulder. Secure your folds with a safety pin just below your waist, and secure your pallu to the back of your left shoulder with one additional safety pin.

Surma

You may know surma by its more common name: kohl. This eyeliner is the great-grandmother of the black self-sharpening eyeliner pencil that we all have in our makeup drawers. Eyeliner is actually an important part of a Hindu wedding ceremony: the kohl is viewed as something that can protect you from the evil eye (sometimes called the “nazzir”).

Brides usually satisfy the kohl requirement by lining their eyes in heavy black pencil, but most modern grooms are less interested in wearing makeup than their female counterparts. In their cases, you’ll sometimes see a black “x” drawn on their head, behind an ear, or a black dot in the same place. This has the same effect of warding off the evil eye and keeping the wedding ceremony lucky for the bride, groom, and their families and friends.

 

 

 

Sehrabandi

The sehrabandi, or sehra for short, refers to the face-covering headdress that many Hindu grooms wear to the ceremony. This headdress looks rather like a miniature hula skirt that is tied around the groom’s head and which shields his eyes during his baraat and the wedding ceremony. In a way, this is like a veil for the groom. The sehrabandi is tied to the groom’s head during a ceremony known by the same name. The groom’s sister or female cousins usually ties the sehra on his head, but in some cultures this differs.

The sehrabandi may be made of flowers, beads, or thin cords, and usually is some combination of white, gold, and silver in color. The veil is thought to protect the groom from evil, which is a nice sentiment. In some cases, the sehra will be removed before the wedding ceremony, mostly because it’s a mild annoyance to the groom.

Not all Hindu wedding ceremonies will involve a sehrabandi. This practice is most common in Punjabi weddings.