The practices that have distinguished Indian nuptials throughout history, from wearing the color red to mehndi parties.
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A Hindu wedding comes to life with rich colors, festivities, and customs that have existed for hundreds of years. Here, some of the rituals that are still popular today.
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Forget fussing between a spring wedding in a garden or a summer celebration on the beach. In Hindu culture, couples often let the stars and planets decide the when and where, looking to their zodiac signs to settle on lucky times and dates to ensure a prosperous marriage.
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Indian brides often trade their “something white” for “something red.” That is because Hindu ceremonies call for a sari that is brightly colored and adorned with gold embroidery, symbolizing commitment, spirituality, and fertility. A bride might also apply a dash of red kumkuma powder to her forehead for good luck.
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When life gives you lemons, use them to make henna! Crush the leaves of a Lawsonia Inermis plant into a fine powder and add lemon juice to create this cosmetic paste. With uses both artistic and medicinal, henna (also known as mehndi) has beautified Indian brides for more than 5,000 years. The solution is typically applied to a bride’s hands and feet in fine lines to create paisley and floral patterns. The woman of the hour will arrange a mehndi party with female attendants only days before the wedding, much like a bachelorette party. It is believed that the darker the bride’s henna appears, the stronger her marriage will be. Unlike tattoos, henna is temporary, lasting three to seven days.
Photography: A Couple of Cameras5 of 11
The Haldi Ceremony
On the morning of the wedding, the bride and groom apply haldi, a yellow turmeric paste, onto themselves for good luck. The paste is believed to ward off evil spirits and provide powerful healing properties.
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Photography: A Couple of Cameras6 of 11
Once the bride walks down the aisle, she and the groom sit underneath a pavilion decorated in flowers, drapes, and lights. Symbolizing growth and well-being, the mandap is a sacred structure under which Hindu ceremonies are held. Each pillar is believed to represent the couple’s parents whose love, blessings, and support made the wedding happen.
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Lighting the Holy Fire
An Indian couple pledges their vows around the agni, a holy fire that acts as a witness to the ceremony. The bride and groom take seven steps around the blaze while reciting this sacred Hindu pledge of marriage:
With the first step, we will provide for and support each other.
With the second step, we will develop mental, physical, and spiritual strength.
With the third step, we will share the worldly possessions.
With the fourth step, we will acquire knowledge, happiness, and peace.
With the fifth step, we will raise strong and virtuous children.
With the sixth step, we will enjoy the fruits of all seasons.
With the seventh step, we will always remain friends and cherish each other.
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Donning a Mangalsutra
In Hindu weddings, “tying the knot” takes on a literal meaning. The groom ties a “holy thread,” made with black, red, and white breads and strung through a black or yellow string, around his bride’s neck to distinguish her as a married woman. The bride continues to wear the mangalsutra even after her wedding day to represent her marital status.
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Hiding the Shoes
Instead of tossing your bouquet to a group of single ladies, consider this Indian wedding prank that could leave your bridesmaids all the richer! In the popular Indian wedding game Jutti Chupai, bridesmaids steal and hide the groom’s shoes just before the wedding ceremony begins. Once the ceremony is over, the groom looks for his missing pair while the ’maids, or saalis, look on at his failed attempts. Eventually, they ask the groom for a sum of money—20, 50, even 100 dollars—in exchange for his kicks.
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Not all brides leave the altar with a cheery smile. At Hindu weddings, the newlywed says her goodbyes during the Vidaai ceremony, a tearful event in which the bride officially leaves her home and family to start a life with her new husband. She then takes handfuls of rice to throw over her head to show thanks and pay homage to her parents.
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Honey, I’m Home!
To ward off evil, the couple is sprayed with salt water before entering the groom’s house. The bride then takes one more precaution: she steps in a mixture of milk and vermillion, leaving red footprints on the floor to represent the manifestation of Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of love, beauty, and fortune. Finally, the bride kicks a pot of rice to ensure fertility and posterity, and, at long last, married life can officially begin!