A Peak into Wedding Ceremonies Across India
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A Peak into Wedding Ceremonies Across India

India, a multi-faceted land known for its rich cultural diversity, hosts several wedding ceremonies, each a unique expression of regional customs, outfits, and traditions. In India, a wedding is looked at as a union of two families, not just the couple. Celebrations can last from 1 day to a week. 

There are a lot of customs, and they might look different at first glance, however, there are certain ones that are common in most regions. 

1. Engagement- The engagement ceremony takes place anywhere from a few months to a few days before the wedding. Rings are exchanged in a small ceremony with close family, and wedding preparations begin.
2. Ganesh puja- All auspicious events, including weddings, start with prayer to lord ganesha to ensure a smooth event without any obstacles. 
3.Haldi- A paste made of turmeric and sandalwood is applied to the bride and groom. In the past when there were no salons, this was a way of giving a facial to ensure the bride and groom are glowing on their wedding day.
4. Sangeet- This is more of a North Indian wedding ritual, though it is adopted by most couples in North America. What used to be women of the family getting together in an impromptu singing with dholak has evolved into a fun and colorful event, with choreographed dance performances and singing.
5. Wedding- The actual wedding takes place under a mandap, a covered stage, with rituals like Baarat (groom arriving with lot of pomp), Varmala or Jaimala (exchange of garlands), 7 Pheras (7 vows taken around the holy fire), Mangalsutra (groom puts a black beaded necklace around the brides’ neck, a symbol of marriage), Kanyadaan (bride is given away by her parents to the groom), and Vidaai (Bride leaves her parents house and goes to her husband’s home.
6. Reception- It’s a big party, celebrating the union and blessing the newly wedded couple. 

A lot of couples find some of the rituals antiquated, and so they opt for their own hand picked set of rituals. For example, a lot of couples will skip Kanyadaan, as they don’t agree with the concept of bride being given away. The ceremonies that used to last for hours now usually take less than an hour. There are lot of fun games interwoven either during the wedding or in post-wedding ceremonies such as stealing groom's shoes, finding ring or coin in rice or milk to decide who is going to rule in the marriage, or blocking the path of the couple during vidaai until bridesmaids are paid to give way. 

North India: Splendor in the Festivities

In the northern expanse of India, weddings are a grand affair, reflecting the colorful and splendor of the region. The bride is often adorned in a rich colorful Lehenga, intricately embroidered, and embellished. The groom complements this with a regal Sherwani, often paired with a contrasting dupatta. North Indian weddings are flamboyant and the actual ceremony happens between 2-4 am, so be prepared to be up all night, though a lot of couples in US opt for a daytime wedding. Food varies from vegetarian to tandoori dishes of chicken and lamb.

South India: Traditional Drapes and Rituals

In the south, weddings are a distinct charm, characterized by traditional attire and elaborate rituals. The bride is dressed in a Kanjeevaram or Banarasi silk saree, traditionally with intricate zari work. The groom opts for a dhoti or a silk veshti paired with a silk shirt. The 'Maangalyam' or tying of the sacred thread is a pivotal moment in the ceremony, symbolizing marital union. The events are usually more somber and reflective. Vegetarian dishes such as rice, idli, sambar, dosa, bisi bele bhat, aviyal, vada, pachadi, and payasam are served.

East India: Cultural Extravaganza

Weddings in East India are a cultural extravaganza, reflecting the region's love for art, music, and vibrant celebrations. The Bengali bride often adorns a red saree and mukut, a crown made of Sholapith or Indian cork, while the groom opts for a dhoti or kurta with an ornate silk shawl and topor, a crown similar to bride. Post wedding meals often include fish and rice. 

West India: From Colorful to Coastal Elegance

The western part of India boasts diverse wedding traditions, from the colorful extravagance of Gujarati and Rajasthani weddings to the coastal elegance of Goa. Brides dazzle in vibrant Bandhani or Gharchola sarees, while grooms embrace the royal charm of the Sherwani. 

In Goa, the bride may opt for a white saree with a colorful border, reflecting the region's Portuguese influence. Cuisine in Gujarat and Rajasthan is vegetarian, but will include fish in goanise weddings.

Seasons: Nature's Influence on Celebrations

The choice of wedding season plays a significant role in Indian ceremonies. Winter weddings are popular in India, allowing for elaborate celebrations without the scorching heat. Though weddings happen year round, they are less frequent in monsoon, usually from June to August. 

The Warmth of Hospitality

Indian weddings are full of warmth and hospitality. Guests are considered a blessing, and hosts go out of their way to ensure everyone feels welcomed. The aroma of Indian cuisine fills the air as guests indulge in a gastronomic journey of flavors.

Being a guest at an Indian wedding is not just attending an event; it's involving oneself in a cultural blend of love, tradition, and joy. The vivid colors, sacred rituals, and heartfelt hospitality create an experience that lingers in the heart, becoming a cherished chapter in the book of memories. So, choose your best traditional attire, embrace the cultural kaleidoscope, and get ready to dance to the rhythm of love at an Indian wedding.