When Should We Get Married?

Many Hindu wedding dates are set not by the couple’s preferences and after consultation with their college football team’s fall schedule, but by a Hindu priest. Traditionally, wedding dates were recommended by a Hindu priest based upon the couple’s zodiac signs, specific birth dates, and potentially even their families’ respective castes.

Today, some couples still adhere to this tradition, while sticking to weekend dates for maximum guest attendance. Religious holidays are always particularly popular dates, as it seems that most couples’ stars align on those days.

Vidai

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

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 Wedding Traditions: Bride

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!

Mandap

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.

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.

Creative Approaches to the Joota Chori

Looking for a fun twist on the Indian shoe-stealing ceremony (joota chori or joota chupai) between the groom and his new sisters-in-law? Here are some creative approaches we’ve seen in practice:

  1. Steal the bride’s shoes, too! Barter — shoes for shoes — instead of demanding money.
  2. Give the groom Monopoly money to use as he barters.
  3. Ask the audience if they can chip in to help the cause.
  4. Donate proceeds from the ceremony to the couple’s honeymoon fund, or to their favorite charity.
  5. Groom: go barefoot! (Pay the sisters a token ransom anyway.)
  6. Offer up jewelry or thoughtful gifts to the sisters in lieu of cash.
  7. Host the negotiation as the groom enters the wedding reception . . . barefoot.
  8. Choreograph a dance for your bridal party to the classic song, Joote De De, Paise Le Lo, with the groom as part of the grand finale.
  9. Same-sex wedding? Everyone can get in on the shoe-stealing fun. Both brides, or both grooms, can wind up shoeless and engaged in a footwear negotiation.
  10. Why does the groom get to have all the fun? Steal the groomsmen’s shoes, too!
  11. When the groom makes his first pass at the return of his shoes, offer him child-sized shoes in exchange. As the dollar amount of his offer increases, so does the size of the shoes he can buy, until he offers a dollar amount satisfactory to the sisters, who will then give back his actual shoes.
  12. Like #11, but with women’s shoes instead of the groom’s shoes. Stilettos, anyone?

Have you seen other fun options for how to make the shoe stealing an event that all guests will enjoy?

What Kind of Mehndi Design Should I Choose?

Mehndi is a fun treat for special occasions, like Indian weddings and big Hindu holidays. Because we don’t get to wear it often, it can feel like a feast-or-famine situation, where you decide you want full-on henna on both hands, front and back, anytime you get the chance.

And you know what? We’re totally fine with that.

But because our opportunities to apply mehndi to our hands are limited, sometimes we want to explore our options. What, you didn’t know there were options? There are different types of mehndi patterns, sometimes called “Arabic,” “Moroccan,” or “traditional,” but the safest bet for finding inspiration for what kind of henna design you want for your hands is to hit the Google machine and find examples of cool designs you like. Most mehndi artists can work from inspiration to create something just for you, or try to copy a design exactly, if that’s what you want.

And, as we hinted to above, you can choose to get henna applied on only one hand or both, on only the front or only the back of your hand (or both), or even on another body part entirely. Usually only the bride has mehndi on her feet, so we’d suggest that you not upstage the bride on her big day by copying her. But we’ve seen people get mehendi on their bicep or their back, and that’s fine, too. Just remember to leave time for drying!

And if you get henna on both hands, front and back, remember that it’s going to be super hard to use your cell phone or eat or go to the bathroom for a few hours. Beauty is pain, y’all.