There is a great deal of importance attached to weddings in South Asian cultures. Not only does a wedding symbolize the bonding and uniting of two families but the wedding is also a rite of passage for the bride and groom into adulthood. Weddings in Indian cultures are celebrated with large-scale ornamentation, stunning outfits, music, dance and everything in between. It is our duty to be there and capture all of that. The rituals and traditions, however, take the greatest priority for us. And below are some of the most common ceremonies of South Asian weddings.
The Baraat is one of the first of many exciting and joyous wedding day tradition. It is a grand procession of the groom who is escorted by his groomsmen, family and close friends. Custom usually has the groom riding on a horse towards the venue but in today’s standards, the groom has a lot of creative freedom. The groom can choose anything from a fancy car to a decorated motorcycle to even a carriage. The Baraat also calls for lots of dancing and music as well. Family and close friends celebrate to classic Indian music accompanied but the Dhol which is an Indian drum. At the end of the Baraat, the bride’s family welcomes the groom and his family by offering a flower garland which signifies union and respect.
Giving Away of the Bride
The ritual of giving the bride away to the groom is both religious and dignified. The father of the bride places his daughter’s right hand onto the groom’s right hand, symbolizing the father giving his daughter’s hand in marriage. The mother of the bride sprinkles water onto the bride and groom’s hands indicating her permission for the marriage to occur. There are a few, varied traditions that follow the water sprinkling that the bride and groom’s families can select to perform. Some decide to wrap a hand-woven cotton cord around the bride and groom’s necks while others decide to tie the groom’s scarf and the bride’s sari together. Both traditions symbolize unity and bondage in the marriage.
Circling of the Holy Fire
The Circling of the Holy Fire is a ritual heavy in important life principles which the bride and groom promise to come behind. A holy fire kindles in the center of the Mandap, which is a beautifully decorated structure with pillars that most of the wedding ceremony is carried out on.When fed offerings such as flowers and rice, the couple can be lead to eternal light and knowledge. Depending on the religion or culture’s traditions, the bride and groom circle the fire three or four times. During the first circling, the bride and groom take seven steps together, each one representing a different life principle.
Prayer for Food and Nourishment
Physical and Intellectual Strength
Health and Well-Being
Children and Longevity
Eternal Friendship and Love
The Offering of the Sacred Necklace
One of the final rituals in the wedding ceremony is the offering of the sacred necklace. The necklace can be made up of any type of material or element including black cotton thread, a gold chain, diamond accents and anywhere in between. The groom offers the holy necklace to his bride as an emblem of love, friendship, and lifelong protection. Just after, the groom places red vermilion powder on the crown of the bride’s head. The two offerings mark the woman as married and symbolize the husband’s fondness, honesty and loyalty towards his, now, wife.
The Vidai is probably the most emotional stage of the wedding for the bride and her family, being that this ritual is the final sendoff for the daughter. Family and friends accompany the bride to the exit of the venue. The bride’s parents lead the pack of family members and friends, all while experiencing an intimate moment with their daughter. In some religions, the bride is given a handful of rice and coins and before she crosses the exit’s doorstep, she throws both over her head as a form of repayment to her parents for all they have provided throughout her childhood. The car in which the newlywed couple steps into is decorated for the occasion in flowers and bright accents. The family of the bride “push” the car to indicate their acceptance of the wed couple and occasionally the bride’s female relatives playfully stand in front of the car to prevent the couple from leaving. But once the family members step aside, they joyfully watch the couple drive away from the venue.
The wedding of two people, across all cultures, marks the end of one chapter and the start of another. As emotional as the day could be for families and friends, the day is also very celebratory and happy. Families and friends coming together from all parts of the world to see the spectacular site that is the bonding of two fateful people in love.
As the photographer and videographer, our main goal for South Asian weddings is to be there and capture all of the unique moments. The day demands a lot of attention and focus from our team and so we must be observant and always on our toes. All of the traditions, rituals, customary clothing, family, details, and everything in between create the most exceptional day for the bride and groom and thus why we, as the R.E.M. crew, must capture as much as we can. Then sometimes the action and special instances are actually behind us; the emotions and reactions of the loved ones of the bride and groom. Those are the split seconds that create such depth in our work and replicate the wedding day’s sentiments that we always should be conscious of the wedding guests as well.