HomeArticlesThis Traditional Indian Wedding Is Insanely Beautiful | World Wide Wed | Refinery29
This Traditional Indian Wedding Is Insanely Beautiful | World Wide Wed | Refinery29
August 19, 2019
My culture is very much my family. This is Sonya. I definitely insisted that you ask my parents for permission. And this is Harsh. I just follow the instructions. Out of Hinduism— some are vegetarians and some eat meat. Yeah. Meat-eaters. Yeah. Over the next 72 hours, they’ll dance to Bollywood’s greatest hits, get covered in turmeric, and ride a wild animal. I wanted an elephant. Yeah. And they’re legal in New Jersey, apparently. I think it’s more about what our parents and grandparents want, honestly. I mean I think it’s really important to them that the wedding is done in a way that they think honors certain traditions. We won’t be kissing at the end. Yeah, there’s no kissing. No. Even though both their families are Hindu, Sonya and Harsh come from very different regions and cultures in India. The secret trick is the further south in India they’re from, the more traditional and some might say “nerdy” they are. So I would say… Culturally, South Indians— the ceremony’s the focus of the wedding. The wedding being somewhat of a spiritual event. The surrounding events around it are quite minimal versus… Oh, sure. My family’s Punjabi and Punjabis are known for being loud and boisterous. In North India, it’ll be like the marriage ceremony’s going off to the side, and everbody else is at the bar, eating at the buffet. And no one’s actually watching the couple get married. We’re committed—we’ll see if we can pull it off—to try to merge the two and try to do it, you know, in a timely manner. Today we have the Sangeet. It’s basically a big carnival, party, festival thing. Translated from Sanskrit, Sangeet means “sung together.” Traditionally, this event was female-only but in modern times, both genders participate in what’s become a Bollywood-style talent show. It has lots of dance performances from friends and family. It’s really celebratory and it’s a way to kick off the whole event. It’s definitely a big part of Punjabi culture and North Indian culture. It’s less so in South Indian culture. That being said, the South Indians definitely bring it. The morning of the wedding, the bride and the groom perform the Haldi, or turmeric ceremony, in their separate homes. Family members anoint the bride and groom with turmeric paste. Good job! This ritual purifies the bride and groom, surrounds them in blessings, and wards off the Evil Eye. It has the added benefit of making your skin glow. A lot of these traditions are part beauty, part religious. In addition to the Haldi, the bride is gifted a set of 21 red or maroon bangles for the Choora ceremony. Your mom’s brothers—so your uncle— helps you put the Choora on. And then all of your sisters—I think particularly unmarried sisters, unmarried ladies in the home—come and tie these gold Kalire. Shaped like coconuts, Kalire symbolize prosperity. What I will be wearing is a Sherwani which is a royal coat of sorts. It’s got a decent amount of gold sparkles and so you’ll know I’m the groom. I picked it. What’s happening now is I’m getting some help getting my outfit on. It takes a village, as they say. Red and gold are very traditional auspicious colors for an Indian wedding and so that’s kind of what I’m going with. I’ll be wearing a Lehenga which is basically, if I had to put it in layman’s terms, it’s a big skirt and crop top. Oh I’m about to fall! Sorry. It seems like red goes with my complexion better than gold. Going with red. Oh no! It’s starting to pour again. Let’s go! It’s time for the Baraat or bridal procession. I get to pick an animal of my choosing to go from my village—the house next door— to this village to find my bride, right here. So I’m going traditional. I’m going with the white horse although many people— I wanted an elephant. Yeah. By the way, by the way, do not go till I’m on the horse. That could take me awhile. So you pull up and my cousins and my siblings are sort of like, “Well, you know, you want to come in and take your bride, let’s go. What’s in it for us?” There’s a couple things— Do they take Amazon gift cards? They will take Amazon gift cards. Come on. Let’s work on it. Once he crosses the barrier and my family has decided that they have been paid enough, you can come in. Okay. Now, it’s wedding time. In South Indian tradition, the bride and groom don’t see each other before certain rituals are performed. In American weddings, people come down the aisle and it’s a big moment when the groom watches his bride come down. So we asked Harsh’s parents if it would be fine if they would let us see each other, so we could have that visual. Aren’t you glad we’re going to look at each other? (Music playing) Sonya is escorted into the ceremony by her brothers underneath a Chaadar, or sheet made from her mother’s wedding Sari. So it’s really nice to come in with some of your mom’s blessings and a little bit of history. Bit of a tension in there. You try to kind of angle to get the garland on first and whoever gets their garland on first is supposed to have the power, the upper-hand in the marriage. (Woman speaking in Hindi) Sonya and Harsh are now separated by the Terasalla, a curtain, for the remainder of the ceremony. The Jeelakarra Bellam is the main event at South Indian weddings. The couple takes a paste of bitter and sweet herbs and places their hands on each other’s heads. The different flavors are meant to represent the joys and struggles of life. Now the curtain can be removed. (Crowd cheers) I do pronounce you husband and wife. (Crowd cheers) The wedding is like a new start in life. It’s an amazing thing to be able to open up and be like, “I’m taking on a new set of parents and I’m going to love and respect them just as much as I love and respect my own parents.” Sonya and Harsh pulled off their wedding with a fusion and a twist and the absence of a kiss.