Step 1 is for the married couple. They take this step together to promise that they will care for one another, including providing for one another and supporting one another. In a Hindu wedding, it is important to remember that this means caring for one another’s families, as well – whether that means taking in parents as they age or letting your spouse’s little sibling crash on the couch for the weekend.
Step 2 is a prayer for strength. The couple takes this step together to wish for mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual strength. Marriage is a long journey, and it requires commitment and hard work. This step is recognition of that fact and a promise to each other that the couple will work together to get through the hard times.
Step 3 is a promise that the couple will share their lives together, including by sharing their home and wealth with one another.
Step 4 signifies the couple’s plan to grow together in their knowledge, their hope for happiness in marriage and life, and their desire for a peaceful life together.
Step 5 is every parent’s dream: the couple takes this step together to promise their friends and family that they will care for children. This traditionally meant that the couple would birth and raise children of their own, but more modern interpretations expand the definition: this could mean that the couple plans to adopt or foster children, or simply promises to support children in their community through volunteer efforts.
Step 6 celebrates the happiness that will be in the couples’ lives together. With this step, they promise to spend time enjoying one another’s company.
Step 7 is the couple’s final step together. This step represents the couple’s friendship and love for one another; the couple promises to love one another for eternity, to remain friends through the good and the bad times, and to appreciate one another.
“Mind your nadda,” you might hear an Indian aunty say as you dress for your first Indian wedding. Or perhaps “does your outfit have a nadda?” Or even “did you lose your nadda?” Meanwhile, you’re wondering what the heck a nadda is, trying not to answer any questions directed at you until you figure it out, and looking around nervously as other people respond to the question without a moment’s hesitation.
Here’s the answer: a “nadda” is a drawstring. Indian clothes almost always include some adjustable waist garment that is tied using a drawstring. Yes, even saris have naddas. Because the waist of these garments can be very large, naddas often get lost inside them. You’ll be able to find it after some work, but try not to lose it in the first place because it’s an extra annoyance on an otherwise action-packed day. Some outfits omit the nadda, expecting you to provide your own. Pro tip: check your outfit in advance to make sure it has a drawstring if necessary. If it doesn’t, you can buy drawstring lengths online, or fashion your own out of scrap fabric.
The vidai is the bridal farewell. At the end of the ceremony, the bride and groom walk down the aisle and out of the room, with the bride’s parents and female relatives trailing behind them. The bride throws a puffed rice mixture behind her, over her head, while her mother and other female relatives try to catch the rice in their shawls.
This is a solemn event which signifies the bride leaving her familial home and joining that of her new in-laws. Don’t be surprised if you see tears flowing freely during this ceremony, even from the new bride. While a wedding is a joyous occasion, it also marks the end of a chapter in the bride’s life, and it is natural for her to be sad as she bids goodbye. Beware: you might cry, too.
Mangalsutra literally means “holy thread,” and describes the marital necklace that a groom will fasten around his new wife’s neck as part of their wedding ceremony. This necklace is made with black beads and is worn only by married women. Mangalsutras may also include gold accents and/or red beads — customs differ by family and geographic region.
Married women traditionally wore their mangalsutra daily after their wedding to bring good luck and long life to their husbands. In modern times, it is less common for married women to wear these necklaces on a daily basis, but many Indian women will break out their special necklace for religious ceremonies and weddings. Because this is typically a very simple necklace, many women will wear the mangalsutra in addition to other jewelry, including additional necklace(s).
Indian weddings are a beautiful hodgepodge of traditions that vary according to geography, religious preference, and generation. Some Indian weddings will include many traditions, all carried out in Sanskrit, while others will be much more modern and delivered in English. There’s no “right” way to get married. Below are some traditions that are common for the bride to participate in during her Hindu wedding.
Most Common . . .
- Mehndi – The bride and several female friends and family members gather to decorate their hands (and usually also the bride’s feet) with henna paste in floral and paisley designs. This occurs a day or two before the wedding ceremony.
- Chuda – The bride’s maternal uncles place wedding bangles on her arms the morning of her wedding ceremony. Her family members shower her with gifts.
- Haldi – The bride’s family applies turmeric paste to the bride’s skin a day or two before her wedding so her skin glows on her wedding day.
- Kalire – Just after the chuda ceremony, the bride’s sisters or female cousins will tie bells to her chudas to complete her wedding outfit.
- Red Lehenga or Sari – The bride will usually wear a red lehenga or sari on her wedding day, though many modern brides choose pink or maroon instead of traditional fire engine red.
- Mangalsutra – During the ceremony, the groom will fasten a marital necklace, or mangalsutra, around his new wife’s neck. This is made with black beads and is worn only by married women.
- Vidaii – At the end of the ceremony, the bride and groom leave the room while the bride’s parents walk behind them. The bride throws puffed rice behind her, over her head, while her mother and other female relatives try to catch the rice in their shawls. This is a solemn event which signifies the bride leaving her familial home and joining that of her new in-laws.
Less Common . . .
- Secrets and Wishes from Married Women – Some priests will allow special time at the conclusion of the wedding ceremony for the bride’s married female relatives to join her on the mandap and whisper secrets and well wishes into her ears. These are meant to be tips and tricks for how to have a long and happy marriage, but sometimes people throw some fun into the mix!
- Toe Rings – In some South Indian weddings, we’ve seen a break in the ceremony for the bride’s brothers or male cousins to place toe rings on her toes. We’re not sure of the significance but think it’s such a lovely tradition that we had to include it here!
Did we miss any of your favorite bridal traditions during a Hindu wedding? Share your thoughts with us by visiting our contact page!
A “dhol” or “dholak” is an Indian drum. This drum is played with your hands or using two drumsticks. The dhol is central to the baraat, or groom’s processional, and therefore is usually worn by the dhol player around the neck during that ceremony.
Here’s a fun video that shows some dhol players living their best lives at an Indian wedding:
The dhol playing starts around 1:25. Fair warning: Dhol music, like a lot of Indian bhangra music, has a strong beat. You’re going to want to dance.
The mandap refers to the actual physical location where the happy couple in an Indian wedding gets married. Similar to a chuppah in a Jewish wedding, or an arbor, or a pretty gazebo where you choose to center your wedding ceremony, the mandap is a decorative archway and seating area that makes for pretty pictures and creates a natural focal point for the guests at the ceremony.
More practically speaking, because a Hindu wedding involves a religious ceremony, or puja, the mandap creates an environment conducive to a puja. There are usually seats for the couple getting married and their parents, and there may be seats for other family members involved in the ceremony as well. There will also be a small table to hold the holy fire, or agni, which is required for the ceremony.
Because it’s a wedding, though, the mandap is going to be de-co-ra-ted. You’ll probably see some columns decorated with flowing fabric or lots of flowers, or both. Every couple has different preferences for their mandap, but we can assure you that, no matter their preference, it will be spectacular.
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.
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.
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!