Wondering how long does an Indian Wedding last?
This is something bothering the first time attendees to any Hindu marriage ceremony. You may be curious to know about what happens at the ceremony, the line of events at the wedding, what to wear… to name only a few.
Those who are about to attend a big fat wedding in India may see a series lasting even a month. But this is not the case for Indian wedding traditions in America or western world. All thanks to the event planners and specialists. They are excellent at keeping everything short yet in the full-swing fiesta.
Don’t know what to expect at an Indian wedding?
Take a tour of the series of incredible events and rituals herein for an overview of the Hindu wedding timeline.
Indian Pre-Wedding Rituals
The traditional Hindu families even today bestow a lot of importance on the timeless wedding rituals. Following are some of the most important Indian pre-wedding traditions:
Engagement/Mangni (3-5 Hours)
Also called Nishchitartham (in Tamil Nadu) and Sagai (in Northern India), it marks the beginning of the pre-wedding ceremonies. It is quite similar to the ring exchange ceremony in Western countries but involves a series of events.
- Roka: This is the first ritual held mainly at the bride’s home where both the families and some close relatives are present. Roka marks the occasion where both the families ask for the consent of the ‘would be’ bride and the groom to the marriage.
Once both of them agree, they are declared engaged. Thereafter, the two families vow that they won’t seek a marital alliance for the concerned boy and girl anywhere else.
- Wagdaan: This is a small event wherein the boy’s father officially seeks the hands of the girl from her father for marriage to his son.
- Sagai/Ring Exchange: The girl and boy exchange the engagement rings as a token of exchanging the promise to get married in the future. It also symbolizes the union of the two families in an auspicious relationship.
The Sagai is often held on a different date after the Roka. Generally, the date of marriage is declared in an official announcement on this day.
- Lagna Patrika: It is also called the ‘wedding letter’, which contains the vows of both the families taken before the nuptial ceremony. It has the details about the couple such as the names of the bride, groom, and their respective family members, proposed date and time of the main matrimonial event (known as the Muhurat), etc.
According to the tradition, the bride’s and groom’s family exchange the handwritten Lagna Patrika by a Pandit (Brahmin priest) or custom-printed one during the event. The proposed date is later printed on the invitation cards.
Mehndi (5-7 Hours)
Ever heard of henna tattoos?
Well, if you like tattoos and want to skip the pain, this is the ideal thing to do.
Mehndi is a special ceremony for the bride, her family, and friends. The bride gets a dashing henna makeover for her newly manicured hands and pedicured feet. Watch the new glamorous queen of the event getting henna designs on her hands and feet during the ceremony. There is a lot of fun, dance, music and so much more.
In many communities, Mehndi is also applied to the Groom’s hands.
Sangeet (5-7 Hours)
This is one of the most exciting and extravagant Indian pre-wedding traditions where both the families and all other attendees dance, sing, and enjoy the entire evening. In ancient times, some sangeet functions even lasted for over 10 days.
Tilak (2-3 Hours)
This is an important ritual for the groom and his family. There is a custom for the bride’s father to offer a tilak of kumkum (vermillion) and haldi (turmeric) on the groom’s forehead. It symbolizes the acceptance of the boy as the husband of the bride by her family members.
Pre-wedding Poojas (2-4 Hours)
In many parts of the country, there is a tradition to perform prayers for the well-being, happiness, and prosperity of the would-be bride and groom. These poojas are part of the pre-wedding rituals that often take place a day before the marriage ceremony.
- Ganesha Pooja (2 Hours): Lord Ganesha is called Vighnaharta (destroyer of obstacles) and Prathampujya (the first God to be worshiped at any pooja or event). In many communities, there is a custom to offer the first invitation card to the deity at the Ganesha temple. In many traditional families, there is a custom to do the Ganesha Pooja so that everything goes well during and after the wedding ceremony.
- Graha Shanti (2 Hours): The Graha Shanti Pooja is done after the Ganesha Pooja when the two families offer prayers to Navagraha (9 Planets) in the Hindu Vedic Astrology.
- Gauri Pooja (30 Minutes): This is particularly an event for the bride’s participation only. Devi Sita worshipped Goddess Parvati to seek her blessings ahead of marriage to lead a successful spousal relationship and life with Lord Rama.
Since Goddess Parvati had the most successful married life with Lord Shiva, it has become a tradition for the Hindu girls to do the Gauri Pujan before the marriage.
Traditional Indian Wedding Ceremony (4-5 Hours)
Though there may be differences in the sequence of events due to the local customs, community, and other factors, mainly, the Indian wedding schedule of events are arranged in the following order:
The wedding day begins with the Haldi (turmeric) rituals in both the houses. According to traditional beliefs, the bride and the groom can’t see each other before the Jaimala. Hence, it is a custom to perform this ceremony with the respective family members and attendees.
The raw turmeric is ground by a group of 5 or more women. The whole turmeric is grounded into a fine paste to prepare a face pack with rosewater, sandalwood powder, essential oils, milk, etc. The anti-inflammatory ingredient is applied to the groom at first and the leftover haldi in the bowl is sent to the bride for the ritual.
This is a kind of an herbal spa session full of fun and enthusiasm. Later, both of them are thoroughly rinsed with the sacred haldi water. It purifies and rejuvenates the skin bestowing a glowing complexion.
The pious haldi uptan (face pack) is also applied to unmarried girls and boys present in the ceremony so that they find a prospective match soon.
Baraat- Procession of the Groom
Those who are invited from the groom’s side should never miss this spectacular event. The Baraat (the groom with family and friends) proceeds towards the wedding venue once the groom rides the horse or elephant (mostly in Royal families).
Watch the drummers and musicians playing the Bollywood hits and regional tunes. Watch the Baraatis (people accompanying the groom) dancing in full energy throughout the journey.
Upon reaching the wedding venue, the groom receives a warm welcome from the bride’s family and all other invitees. Sometimes, there is a special musical band playing dhols and other instruments to shower heartwarming greetings.
Milni is a short event, especially at Punjabi weddings. It involves a formal introduction of the bride’s family members to the groom’s family and relatives. The relatives of the bride sprinkle rosewater on the groom and give presents, which is called Shagun.
The parents of the bride perform the Varpooja ritual by washing the feet of the groom (signifying Lord Vishnu) with milk, honey, curd, and water (together called Madhuparka).
Kanya Agaman- Bride’s Arrival
This is a scenic event when the bride is brought to the vivaah mandap (wedding altar) by her brothers, uncles, and other relatives. At this time, the groom is veiled with a piece of cloth to prevent him from seeing the girl.
Step-by-Step Hindu Wedding Rituals (4-5 Hours)
Don’t know who puts varmala first?
When Lord Rama won the Swayamvar, Devi Sita greeted him with a floral garland for the victory. This is why the term ‘Jaimala’ (Jai means victory and mala is the garland) is used for this ritual.
The varmala event marks the beginning of the main marriage ceremony. Always the bride is the first to put the garland on her fiancé as a token of acceptance of the person as her husband.
This is the second ritual when the bride’s father offers her to the groom by giving her hand to the boy’s hand. In some communities, the custom is fulfilled by the maternal or paternal uncle of the bride.
During the ritual, the groom has to promise that he will abide by the laws of dharma (law and morality), artha (wealth), and kama (love) in the marital relationship all his life.
The next step to Kanyadaan is the Panigrahana (pani- hand; grahana-accept) or the Hastamelap (Gujarathi matrimonial ritual: hasta-hand; milap-union). Once the bride’s father unites the hands of the couple on the Mandap (wedding altar), it is the turn of the groom to take over the hand of his life partner with several vows. It represents the union of the two people in the marital relationship.
4. Granthi Bandhan/Gathbandan
Once the Panigrahana commences, the couple takes part in all the rituals together. The pious knot keeps them together till the end of the proceedings.
The duo takes connubial oaths in front of the holy fire (Lord Agni) and walks around the fire for Mangal Phera, after the Granthi bandhan (granthi-knot, bandhan- tie). It symbolizes the eternal nuptial bond of love between the two people. In many parts of the country, the groom’s sister ties the sacred knot by binding the chunari (a piece of cloth worn to cover the head) of the bride to the groom’s drape.
5. Vivaah Homa/Pradhaan Homa/Yagna
The next step is to invite Lord Vishnu (the Protector God in Hindu Mythology) in the marriage ceremony. The couple sits in front of the Havankund (Copper container for homa) where Aegle Marmelos (beal tree) wood is lit with clarified butter (ghee- fuel made from pure cow milk) to perform the homa. The couple chants several mantras (hymns) in front of the fire, which is witnessed by God Agni (Lord of Fire).
Very similar to the meaning of the term Ahmarohanam or Shilarohan (Ashma/shila-stone; arohan-the rising), the ritual involves the couple who have to ‘step on the stone’ together. The process may differ depending on the community.
In Bengali weddings, the bride stands ahead of the groom with their right feet touching each other. The bride will step on the grinding stone (shil) when the hubby’s right foot is just behind. They will later move the smaller grinding stone (nora) together. It implies that both of them will equally share the responsibilities of the married life.
7. Saptapadi/Mangal Phera/Saat Phera
According to Hindu beliefs, the liaison of a husband and wife lasts for 7 births. Saptapadi (sapta-seven; padi-step) or the Mangal Phera (mangal-pious; phera-rounds) is common to all Hindu weddings and one of the most eminent rituals to strengthen the conjugal bond.
According to the age-old tradition, the duo getting married must complete 7 rounds of walking clockwise around the fire. Both the bride and the groom need to take a specific vow for each round. Hence the terms Saat phere (7 rounds) are used with Saat Janam (7 births), and Saat Vachan (7 oaths) to describe the eminence of the Hindu marriage relationship.
8. Laaja Homam
This is yet another custom for many Hindu communities. The brother of the bride joins the duo to offer puffed rice to the homa (God Agni). The bride and her family attempt to bring prosperity and happiness to the life of her husband.
9. Sindurdaan and Mangal Sutra
This ritual is all about bestowing the signs of marriage to a Hindu woman. The husband places a bit of sindur (vermillion) on the hairline just above the forehead. Now it is the turn to tie the Mangalsutra (mangal-sacred; sutra-thread) around the bride’s neck. Every married woman wears Mangalsutra till the end of life as the token of a holy eternal bond.
10. Kansar Bhakshan
The customs are over. The couple is now lawfully wedded. It’s time for some fun and fiesta. Everyone is tired of the long queue of rituals. The duo can now end their day-long fasting. Mostly, the mother of the bride serves sweets to the couple who feed each other. The perfect snapshot moment!
Vidaai is the most emotional moment of the entire ceremony. The bride leaves back her family and friends forever to move ahead with her soul mate on a new journey.
She is full of tears while throwing a handful of rice back thrice, a ritual called Kanakanjali (kanak-rice, anjali-divine offering). Her parents must grab all the stuff with a piece of cloth as a token of repayment for everything they have done for years for their daughter.
Indian Wedding Timeline (India vs. Western Countries)
India is a country of diversity where people of various communities and ethnic groups reside together in peace and harmony. Naturally, the traditions and customs are never the same for two communities. For instance, a traditional Bengali wedding is quite different from a Punjabi marriage ceremony.
There are different types of Hindu marriage ceremonies and rituals in various regions of the country. Generally, traditional Indian wedding celebrations can take anywhere from 3 to 7 days. However, the pre-wedding customs may start even 15 days before the date of the marriage.
Due to the differences in customs and varying timespan, there is much confusion about the ritual timings. Some event organizers do a great job by printing an additional info sheet for the wedding timeline.
Don’t know what an Indian wedding timeline looks like?
You may get some inspiration from the plethora of Indian wedding timeline template samples online.
So the next time you are invited to an Indian wedding, be there at the earliest so that you do not miss any of the rituals. It’s full of fun, food, and enthusiasm.