Marriage in India

I wrote an article about what the traditional Indian concept of marriage is, and what it is really like attending a wedding in India for The News Hub. Check it out!

Weddings in India are unique compared to the rest of the world.

Weddings are a collision of colour, excitement, a chaos of friends, family and strangers, of sights and smells. A wedding in India is similar to the pulse and rhythm of India, manic, vibrant and filled with beaming smiles, amazing smells and jubilant noise. If you are humble or lucky enough to be invited to an Indian wedding or a wedding in India- jump at the chance.

Similar to any other wedding in the world, Indian weddings focus on and celebrate the joining of two families, two communities into one. Unlike other weddings in the world, in a large majority of the weddings, the bride and groom have never met each other. Arranged marriages are still a traditional concept of marriage in India’s culture, meaning there is little freedom for either spouse to choose their eternal partner. However, the main force behind arranged marriages is that relatives plan and organise their next of kins’ future with ease, finding someone who is “suitable” for their loved one. Although a debatable subject, this does mean that a wedding in India is filled with connections from either side of the family, whom even the bride and the groom may not know themselves. The result is: weddings in India are overflowing with people, bringing more joy and excitement with them than you could ever imagine.

Weddings in England are either one of two things, traditional or not at all. Weddings are held in churches at local registers or even on beaches. Some weddings have no religious connotations at all within the ceremony and events. Although one thing is for sure, weddings in the UK are always an excuse for a massive celebration. Here, it is normal for guests to sip champagne all throughout the day, and even the bride and groom to have a few drinks themselves.

However in India, alcohol is prohibited, which provides an entirely different experience. Although sober and entirely memorable, the celebrations last even longer than in the UK, on average lasting three days. On some days, there are private religious ceremonies, on others the wedding celebration is open for all invited at a chosen venue.

When I was travelling around India, my friend and I were fortunate enough to be invited to one. Rummaging in our backpacks for something that smelt remotely clean and vibrant enough to pass as a western version of a sari, we arrived and tried to blend ourselves into the crowd. Hiding at the back of the baraat, otherwise known as the groom’s procession, butterflies began to flutter in our stomach as the night began. The groom donning a luxurious turban and wearing a classy suit rode on a white horse into the venue, as if a knight from a fairy-tale amidst buzzing fireworks and the rhythm of a traditional drum. Soon the bridal procession followed, led by the bride’s brother dancing in the traditional brash Punjabi style. The bride’s relatives flocked around the bride, holding on to her sari that floated behind whilst her nervous eyes darted around the venue glinting with excitement, her glittering gold jewellery shone in the light. Camera operators and photographers were forever engaged with focus and undivided attention on the couple, enticing them to smile and perform.

Although we were only there for a short time period of the long extravaganza, we did see the Jaimala, which is the giving of the flower garlands. In this ceremony, couples exchange flower garlands as a pledge to each other, to show respect for one another. This was all done on a podium, for all guests to see in full glory their promise for one another. We also found the time to sample a number of incredible dishes, as food in India always emphasises variety.  Food at an Indian wedding is a vital necessity to a successful event. With hours of scheduled ceremonies and entertainment for the large proportion of guests, food is a way to keep guests satisfied. Unlike the UK with strict guidelines of table plans and scheduled meal times, India carries a relaxed attitude to the catering at weddings. Guests can help themselves whenever and how often they like, meaning an incredible amount of food is prepared for weddings in India, with no expense. Even ice cream parlours can be expected at some weddings. Similar to the eating culture in India, one is always hungry- and at weddings, this is even more appropriate.

Leaving the extravagant ceremony behind with full stomachs and banging headaches (from the music not from anything else) we left the ceremony glowing with pleasure. Although brief, the invite we received had given us a small taste of the incredible marriage ceremonies in India that really are like no other. Even though the event was filled with hundreds of people, it still felt personal, private and beautiful.