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Have you been invited to a Shaadi--South Asian Wedding--but don't know what to expect? Don’t worry, we’ll get you up to speed, and have you ready to bhangra with the bride and groom!
The typical Shaadi lasts 3 to 5 days filled with beautiful traditions aimed at introducing the families of the bride and groom, celebrating their union, and a whole lot of fun. Of course, not all South Asian weddings are the same. We have to identify where the family is from. Are they from South India? Are they Punjabi? Are they from another country or region? This is important because each region has subtle cultural differences for weddings. At times the bride and groom are from the same region and share customs. However, it could be that they are from different areas, and could be combining traditions. Needles to say, for the purpose of this article, we will cover common Hindu customs.
To begin with, what should you wear?
If you’re used to wearing white or black to weddings, think again. South Asian weddings are filled with color. However, avoid wearing red, because it is the most prominent color of the wedding party. So, you should think about either renting or buying some traditional South Asian attire. Men should wear long sleeves, and pants. And, bring a head covering for the ceremony. Everyone is expected to have their head covered during the Shaadi formalities.
Do you bring a gift?
The invitation you receive tends to have instructions concerning gifts. However, if it doesn’t and you’re unsure, it’s usually customary to give money. However make sure you end the amount with a 1. Don’t give $100, make it $101.
What’s the timeline?
As we said above, the Shaadi usually last 3 to 5 days. Most Hindu celebrations tend to last 3 days, with the wedding ceremony taking place on the third day. The dates are picked carefully to bring good fortune to the couple.
So, what goes on the other days?
There are many intricate traditions that the immediate family and wedding party partake in prior to the wedding ceremony. Of course, they vary according to regional customs, and you might want to refer to your invitation’s program to see exactly what you will need to attend. We’ll outline a few of the most common traditions:
Haldi/Pithi -- a ceremony of purification. Typically the family of the couple spread haldi--a turmeric paste--on the bride and groom. The paste is supposed to beautify, purify, and bring good luck to the couple!
Sangeet -- where the festivities kick off! This ceremony is a little reception before the official wedding reception. Traditionally, only women would attend this event, but now men usually attend this ceremony as well. It’s where many of the inlaws will meet for the first time. Typically, the elder women of the family sing songs together with the bride, and family members perform dances. The translation for Sangeet is “sung together”--a tradition to celebrate the union to come.
Mehndi/Mehendi -- the renown Henna party that usually takes place the night before the wedding. Who hasn’t admired the beauty of Henna in one of your favorite Bollywood films? The bride and all the women she holds the dearest bond while having their hands and feet painted by a professional Henna artist. The custom is said to bring the bride excellent health and success. If the Henna dries dark, then it is said to be an auspicious omen.
Barrat -- this is when the groom makes an extravagant entrance celebrated by friends, family, and music! The groom could make his entry on a horse, an elephant, or a fancy car!
The Wedding Ceremony -- usually takes place on the third day. Hindu couples usually go for an outdoor ceremony because there will be an open-flame tradition during the service. However, if the weather does not permit or a building can incorporate the fire-custom, then the service can be held indoors. The nuptial ceremony usually lasts 1 ½ to 2 ½ hours.
The Reception! -- Have you ever seen a wedding in a Bollywood film? If you haven’t, you should. And if you have, you know you are in for a great party full of music, dance, and love.
Like we said above, these are just a few of the most common traditions celebrated by South Asians Hindu couples. The Shaadi is far too beautiful, diverse, and rich in tradition for us to cover in its entirety. But, we hope this little overview helps you understand the wonderful journey you are about to embark on with the bride and groom.