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Wedding Traditions Part 1 - Indian Wedding

Published on Monday, May 25, 2015 by Jennifer Henson

Australia has a rich history with the strong multi cultural society having played an important role in shaping the nation. As a result tying the knot in different cultural weddings comes with a long list of unique traditions and rituals that go well beyond the traditional white dress and veil.

Indian Wedding Traditions

“Almost a quarter (24.6%) of Australia’s population were born overseas and a staggering 43.1% of Australian’s have at least one overseas parent.” – according to a recent census study

To reflect the multi cultural society here in Australia the team at Nilla decided it would be a good idea to publish a series of articles on wedding traditions featuring some of the most popular cultural weddings. With this series reflecting on the predominant cultural weddings that occur daily throughout Australia and give valuable insights into what makes each so special, different and unique.

Indian Wedding (Hindu Weddings)

India, the world’s second most densely populated nation is one of the most unique countries from around the globe. The country is the definition of diversity, with over 1 billion people, speaking more than 1600 different languages, with 28 culturally different states and 9 recognised religions - all packaged into one country. This diversity rubs off in every aspect of Indian life, from food & clothing to traditions & customs, with an Indian marriage a perfect example of this culmination of influences.

Indian Wedding

In the Indian culture, the sacred vow of marriage symbolises more than just the union of two individuals, with a great deal of attention towards the coming together of two families. As a result it’s typical for a profound level of involvement from the family, with their decision very important in the selection of a bride/groom. This trend has changed however over time, particularly in urban areas were the individuals have more say in choosing their life partner.

'Only a few decades ago it was common place that the bride & groom saw each other for the very first time on their wedding day'

When you mention Indian weddings it’s likely the thought of ‘arranged’ marriages will spring to mind, with this process based on the compatibility of the couple. This organised union may be assessed on a number of levels including horoscopes and if accepted an alliance is sought for. This tradition is still common practice in most Indian families, but many now allow the couples to take it a step further and interact and see if their interests & natures are aligned before proceeding with their engagement. Despite this notion of arranged weddings being considered the norm, the numbers of ‘love’ marriages as they’re known, are becoming a common occurrence, especially in urban populated areas.

Engagement Ceremony

Tumeric Ceremony

Months before the wedding begins its common for an engagement ceremony to be held, known as Mangni (North India) or Nischitartham (South India). During this extravagant affair, which is a sort of prequel to the main wedding, the two families come together to perform traditional rituals that make the engagement official, along with setting a muhurat (date & time) for the wedding. During the ceremony the couple will be blessed by elders from both families, will receive gifts such as jewelry & clothing and certain customs dictate that the engagement is marked by an exchange of rings between the bride and groom to be.

Pre Wedding Traditions

The period leading up to the wedding is held in high regard in Indian culture, with great excitement, anticipation for both the bride and groom. It is marked with countless joyful & vibrant activities including:

Haldi – A ritual holy bath where turmeric (Haldi), oil and water is applied to both the bride and groom by married women

Mehendi – The ceremony where the bride’s hands and feet are intricately decorated with patterns by the application of Henna.

‘It is believed the darker the colour of the Mehendi (Henna) the stronger the grooms love for the bride’

Henna

Sangeet – An important North Indian pre-wedding Sangeet (music) is an evening of joy and musical entertainment, hosted by the bride’s family, to introduce the bride to all the members of her new family.

Tilak – The Tilak ceremony involves placing vermillion or kumkum (red pigment used to make a round mark) on the grooms’ forehead by male members of the bride’s family. This is done as a sign of good fortune & luck, with additional presents also given to the groom and his family, as a request to take care of the bride.

Janavasam – A predominately South Indian tradition, Janavasam is where the groom is paraded around the local town or area on a chariot (which nowadays is a car) the evening before the wedding.

‘This tradition showcases the groom to the people, so that if they knew anything negative about the groom which should be brought to the attention of the bride’s family, they could do so. Similar to the Christian tradition of the priest asking those present, if they have any objection regarding the marriage.’

Wedding Attire

The wedding attire for an Indian wedding ceremony is very important, with the traditional dress, colours and patterns all holding important symbolic meaning. Traditionally the bride to be would wear a sari (garment consisting of cotton or silk elaborately draped around the body) or a lehenga (full ankle-length skirt worn by Indian women, predominantly on formal or ceremonial occasions). The colour of the brides’ attire is very significant and varies depending on the community. Some of the more popular colours include red, yellow, green and white, with each colour holding its own symbolism. To complete the exquisite wedding attire the bride will don an elaborate array of ornaments & jewelry, primarily made of gold and precious stones.

Indian Wedding Attire

It is traditional for the groom to wear a dhoti (garment worn by male Hindus) or sherwani (knee-length coat) on his wedding day, which features delicate embroidery and subtle intricacies, with the outfit normally white, off-white or beige. North Indian traditions dictate the groom wear a turban with white flowers tied in suspended strings called the Sehra.

‘Some traditions consider sporting a sword part of the wedding attire’

Despite the bride and groom’s outfits likely stealing the show, an Indian wedding is a grand affair and as such family, friends and wedding guests tend to be very elegantly dressed with extravagant colours and designs.

Wedding Ceremony

If you thought all the pre-wedding traditions were a lot, wait until the actual wedding day where its typical for the ceremony to run for up to 3 hours, not including any other smaller rituals beforehand.

The first focus is on the arrival of the groom, which is an important and electrifying affair. The groom donning his wedding attire makes his way to the wedding venue on horseback (or for the more extravagant an elephant) along with his ‘best man’. Accompanied by a large crowd of family & friends, the grooms’ procession features loud music, dancing and even fireworks.

Indian Wedding Entrance Elephant

‘Today the horses have been traded in for horsepower, with many modern day grooms preferring to travel in luxury cars’

At the wedding venue the bride wearing a decorated garland and her family await the chance to welcome the groom and his guests. Upon the arrival and welcoming of the two families’ the main wedding ritual will begin, with the giving away of the bride. This like many other cultures involves the father of the bride, giving his daughters hand in marriage to the groom, requesting he accept her as an equal partner.

'Unlike in Christian weddings, the bride and groom marry each other and the priest acts only as a facilitator of the marriage by reciting holy hymns.'

To make their union official it’s common for the groom to tie a sacred thread symbolising his promise to always care for the bride as long as he lives. All of these actions will take place in front of a sacred fire, representing the fire god (Agni) who is considered to be the main witness to the marriage. They will then circle the fire seven times, in a clockwise direction, called Saat Phere to signify seven goals of married life. The bride leads first and then the groom leads, to signify equality and their will to stand beside one another through happiness and distress.

Symbolising the marriage

The wedding concludes with the groom applying vermillion or kumkum to the bride’s forehead, to signal the welcoming of her as his partner for life. This now signals the end of the wedding ceremony meaning the bride is bid farewell, as she leaves for her now husbands house.

The celebrations don’t end there with the Indian style festival full of vibrant colours, food, people and music continuing at the reception. Held by the bride & the groom’s family and friends, the reception is a non-ritualistic affair, with more of an emphasis on celebrating and greeting the newly wedded couple.

Example of Indian Wedding by Nilla

Nilla has been fortunate enough to have hosted a wide range of weddings including the stunning union of Deepti Kanti & Raynal Prasad. To ensure the wedding day was perfect and to meet their traditional requirements the Nilla Reception Lounge underwent a theming transformation, adorning a stunning Mundup, intricate table theming and an elaborately detailed entrance, the venue was almost unrecognisable!

As a result Deepti and Raynal were able to have a traditional Hindu ceremony and memories they'll cherish for a lifetime, with images of the special occasion featured below.

Written by Jennifer Henson

Jennifer Henson works at both Forte Catering and Nilla and has a strong passion for great food and wine. She is the best contact for both businesses and you can keep up to date with her on Google+.

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