East Indian weddings are festive events that are laden with important rituals and customs. While there is diversity in India’s culture, language, lifestyle and food, the wedding ceremonies vary only very little. A typical ceremony may span 3 days, but it can also be in a condensed version that takes only a few hours.
This aspect of East Indian wedding is arranged methodically, for the purpose of making both the couple’s families feel that they are truly a part of the event. The approvals of the elders are sought also in this stage, which are usually given after determining that the partners are compatible to marry. An astrologer is also consulted to match the bride and groom’s horoscopes. The date and venue of the wedding will then be discussed and decided. In most weddings, the ceremonies are held at house of the bride or at a hall.
The Wedding Outfit
In East India, both the bride and the groom look their best. The bride wears a saree or lehenga, mostly in red, as it is the most auspicious color. The groom wears the traditional costume called the Dhoti, (sometimes Lungi or Mundu). He may also wear a shirt or just something to cover his chest (Angavastram).
If the wedding lasts for several days, there will be a change of clothes each day. The dresses and colors worn all signify the meaning of marriage, and the couple’s life that follows. If the ceremony is just a short one, say for hours only, the groom will buy the bride a saree that she will wear for the ceremony. The dress she wears when she arrives is bought typically by her parents. This meaningful change of clothes by the bride will symbolize the change of responsibility to the husband from the parents.
If it is a Christian wedding, western wedding ceremonies are adapted also. The bride takes a silk saree for her wedding outfit while the groom wears the tuxedo or any formal western suit.
The East Indian wedding ceremony begins with the groom’s procession (baraat) wherein which he arrives riding a white horse. To the beat of an Indian drum (dhol), the guests will dance around him. Then the bride, accompanied by her family, will meet and greet him. The couple will have garlands of flowers worn around each other’s neck. This is to show that they accept each other as husband and wife.
The officiating priest, groom, bride, and her parents will sit under a canopy called a mandap, before the ceremony. When the bride is given away to the groom, this is called kanya daan. After this, the couple will circle around a fire (agni) while holding hands. This is a ritual called the mangal phera.
During the ceremony, foods are offered and there are alternate entertainments to make the guests occupied. Eating, drinking and talking are allowed, as these are accepted practices in East Indian weddings.
The saptapadi follows, where the couple will take seven steps together while vowing to live together happily and supporting each other. In the final part of the ceremony, the bride’s forehead will be applied with red powder to show that she has just become a married woman.
The Food And Reception.
The reception is really a feast; there are dancing and music for all the guests. With regards to food, there are 2 common misconceptions – (1) it’s all spicy, and (2) it’s all vegetarian. The truth is, it depends on the region, and usually, the food for reception may include flat bread (naan), different curries, savory pasties with spiced meats or vegetables (samosas), and fritters (paboras). There will also be a display of desserts consisting of cakes, Indian ice cream (kulfi), and some sweet nuts. Chefs are available in up to 4 stations to prepare foods for the wedding guests.
Usually, the groom and the bride advise the guests against bringing boxed gifts to the reception. The gifts are delivered directly to the home of the newlyweds. Some guests just give cash enclosed in an envelope, and this can be given at the reception.
Not all East Indian weddings are large. It is difficult to find an event venue which can cater and host a small East Indian Wedding, The Boulevard Room is a single event venue which has hosted many small East Indian Weddings of up to 100 guests. Ceremony and reception can be held in the same space.