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.

Sangeet

Typically held in the days or weeks before the wedding ceremony, the sangeet (sometimes called a “ladies’ sangeet”) is a night of singing, dancing, and merriment. This event was traditionally meant for women only, and was hosted by a bride’s family and friends to send her off to her wedding. The sangeet is the traditional Hindu wedding equivalent of a bridal shower, though gifts for the bride and groom are not mandatory.

In modern times, the sangeet is a co-ed pre-wedding event usually held the night before the wedding ceremony. This event will typically involve performances by guests for the bride and groom; in some cases the bride and groom will even perform themselves! Do you have a special talent, like guitar playing, singing, or dancing? If so, don’t be surprised if the couple being honored asks you to put together a brief performance for their sangeet.

Sometimes the sangeet is combined with the mehndi party (two birds, one stone), but it is also common to see these as two standalone events. If the sangeet and mehndi are combined, don’t be surprised to see women playing the dhol and singing folk songs which poke fun at the bride’s future in-laws and give her advice for how to be a successful wife and daughter-in-law.

Choora

The choora ceremony (also called chuda, chura, or chooda) describes the gift of wedding bangles to the bride by her maternal uncles before her wedding ceremony. This may occur the night before the wedding, or the morning of the festivities. The bride’s family sits on the floor, and everyone present covers their heads, including the bride and her uncles.

The choora are immersed in a mixture of milk and water, while the bride sits with her eyes closed, as she is not to see the choora before they are on her hands. Milk is used in many Hindu rituals, likely because of its link to the sacred cow, and because it is considered pure and cleansing. While the bride’s eyes are closed, her maternal uncles will place the choora on her wrists, and her female family members will gift her jewelry, clothing, or money to wish her well on her wedding day.

The bride’s family will also tie a red thread around her wrist, called a moli (or mauli). In addition, the bride’s unwed sisters and female cousins will tie kalire to her first choora on each hand.

Choora are special occasion bangles, not to be worn again. They are wider than most bangles, and because they are to be worn as a set they increase in size so the bangles farthest up the bride’s arm do not pinch her skin. Many modern brides will ask that their uncles match their chooras to their wedding outfits.

Traditionally, brides wore chooras for a long time — usually one year, or until their mother-in-law granted them permission to remove the bangles. This practice was a way of noting that the young woman was a newlywed even after her mehndi wore off, though it is less common in this age of engagement rings and wedding bands.

Kanyadaan

Kanyadaan is the literal “giving away” of the bride. This is an important part of any Hindu ceremony, as it captures the moment that the bride’s parents have consented to her marriage to her partner. Many ceremonies will commemorate the kanyadaan by asking the bride’s parents to literally place his daughter’s hands into her future spouse’s hands, or by asking the bride’s parents to pour water through the hands of both the bride and her future spouse. This is a beautiful but brief portion of the ceremony; you will likely see some Indian aunties wiping away tears when this ritual occurs.