Indian weddings are a gorgeous assimilation of age‐old beliefs with a rich cultural and spiritual heritage. Incorporate some of these elements to make your wedding unique, colourful and deeply meaningful…
Music & spa night (Sangeet & Vatna)
- Tradition: This is a time for the bride’s friends and women relatives to get together and spend the evening immersed in beauty rituals and wedding songs, accompanied with delicious savoury and sweet snacks. The mood is informal and full of fun.
- Use it: In place of or in addition to a hen night, either a few days or a week before the wedding. Arrange for special spa hampers with a variety of natural beauty treatments for all the girls to try out. Create a lovely ambience with large bowls with flowers and floating candles, and loads of large cushions. Banish the television, hire a Karaoke machine and get the girls really involved. Provide tasty snacks and low alcohol fruit punches or cocktails. No hangovers and you end up looking radiant at the end of the evening!
Planting a tree (Mandav Saro)
- Tradition: An ancient Zoroastrian custom that the Parsi bride and groom observe four days before the wedding. Each of the families plants a young sapling, usually of a mango tree, in a pot; the soil of which has been enriched with betel, turmeric and rice. Amidst recitation of prayers by the priest the pot is placed at the entrance of their homes. The plant is watered every morning till the eighth day after the wedding and then transplanted elsewhere.
- Use it: The couple could plant a sapling of a tree (choose something symbolic like Oak for strength) either before or after the wedding ceremony.
Exchange of garlands (Jaimala)
- Tradition: This is a Hindu ritual before the wedding ceremony where the bride and groom see each other in all their finery for the first time on their wedding day. Each has an identical garland of fresh flowers that they simultaneously put around the other’s neck, symbolizing mutual respect and friendship.
- Use it: You could incorporate this before the exchange of wedding rings. The choice of flowers for the garland could be coordinated with the colour theme of the wedding. This ritual would also be perfect for an outdoor or a beach wedding.
Body art (Mehndi)
- Tradition: The occasion involves the application of mehndi or henna on the girl’s hands and feet by a relative, a friend or professional artists. Highly intricate, beautiful and exotic patterns are worked out in the traditional designs of paisleys and flowers, and often the groom’s name is written amidst the pattern for that romantic touch.
- Use it: If you don’t like the idea of the real henna pattern lasting for several weeks, you could have beautiful delicate patterns in metallic or pearl body paint, or glitter gels and stick‐on Swarovski crystals. These could be done on the upper arm, hands or feet and could have a design to match a pattern or embroidery on the dress.
Salt Ceremony (Datar)
- Tradition: Weddings in the Sindhi community include a salt ceremony, where the bride passes a handful of salt to her groom without spilling any. He then passes it back to her and the exchange is repeated three times. The new bride then performs the same ritual with every member of her new husband’s family. The symbolic meaning being: just as salt blends in and adds taste to any dish, the new bride too will blend in with her new family, contributing to its well‐being.
- Use it: It could be used as it is, or the salt can be replaced with flower petals. The idea behind it is to make the bride feel welcomed by each member of her husband’s family.
Petal mosaic (Rangoli)
- Tradition: This is an art form used for auspicious ceremonies in many parts of India. Usually a pattern is drawn on the floor at the entrance of the building, using a non‐permanent marker such as chalk. The pattern is then filled in using different colours to create a rich mosaic‐like appearance. The materials used can be as varied as coloured powder, natural grains and spices, or flower petals. The patterns are usually inspired by nature or cultural symbols but could even be the names of the couple. Patterns that are detailed, some with 3D effects, require several hours to complete.
- Use it: Create a mosaic with real or artificial flower petals, using any symbol or pattern you want. This could simply be your names or a message of welcome or something that is special to you both. You could add personal touches like placing tea‐lights amidst the petals or have a floating Rangoli in a wide shallow bowl filled with water ‐ make sure the petals cover the entire surface so that the pattern doesn’t move out of place. It could even be pre‐arranged on a board and brought to the wedding or reception location, in order to save time or to overcome venue restrictions.
Seven Steps (Sapta padi)
- Tradition: At the very heart of the Hindu ceremony are the seven steps the bride and groom have to take together. Facing north, each step calls upon God to bless the couple for strength, nourishment, progeny, prosperity, health, happiness and a life‐long friendship.
- Use it: Include in your alternative or humanist ceremony or as you enter your new home together. You could customize the seven vows to represent beliefs or principles that both of you share or that have special meaning to you.