Hindu weddings are full or tradition and family rituals.  The beauty of a Hindu wedding is that families have a set of traditions which have been followed through the generations.  This article will focus on the main aspects of a Hindu Wedding and the wedding photographer’s focus.

A Hindu wedding usually takes place over 3 days and certain ceremonies may take place at certain auspicious times which are provided by the priest.

The main ceremony takes place on the third day but this is preceded by other ceremonies leading up to the wedding such as the Sangeet.

The Sangeet is where the families come together to celebrate the upcoming nuptials.  Families may sing folk songs and may even compete in a good natured fashion as to which family provides the best entertainment.


Mehndi (henna) is another ceremony where the bride’s hands and feet and sometimes, part of her arms and legs are covered in intricate henna designs.  Henna has quite a distinctive smell when being applied but once dried and washed off, it is fine.  The groom’s name is traditionally incorporated in the design with the intention of hiding it well enough among the design, to be found later.

Mehndi designs vary greatly but are generally floral or symmetrical in nature.  Once the paste has been applied, the bride keeps it on for some hours so that the design is visible and the colour strong.  Once the bride is ready to remove the paste (which generally dries during the process), she just washes it off and is left with intricate and beautiful patterns on her hands and feet, ready for the wedding ceremony (which is usually the following day).

The Haldi Ceremony

Another pre-wedding ceremony is the Haldi ceremony.  Haldi (turmeric) is mixed to a paste with oil and is then applied to the bride/groom’s hands, face, feet for example by family members.  The purpose of haldi is to cleanse the body, bring out the bride/groom’s colour and protect them from bad omens.

Family members take it in turn to apply the haldi and this is usually done a day before the wedding.  It can turn in to a playful event where the bride/groom may apply haldi to family members in jest.

Once this ceremony is complete, the bride/groom should stay at home to avoid “buri nazar” or the evil eye.

The rest of the day/evening will be spent with family and close friends, enjoying their time together.

The Wedding Day

The day itself, starts with the bride/groom bathing in their respective homes.  The family of the bride/groom traditionally used to help with the bathing process but nowadays, the bride/groom will shower and then any rituals performed.

Traditionally, the bride wears red which symbolises new beginnings, prosperity and fertility.  It is expected that when the bride and groom marry, they will eventually start a family together.  Red is an auspicious colour in Indian culture and tradition.  It’s a bold and powerful colour and garners attention (just think of a woman wearing red lipstick and the impact that has on those around her – she is more noticeable).

More recently, brides choose to wear other colours and may have less red in an outfit if at all.  Some brides will also change out of the outfit worn for the ceremony in to another one, for the reception.  If they wear red for the ceremony, they may opt for a completely different colour for the reception.

While the bride wears a lengha or sari for example, the groom will wear traditional Indian dress know as a shirvani/sherwani.

A shirvani is a long sleeved tailored coat which comes down to the knees and worn with churidar pyjamas, which are a tight fitting trousers.

The wedding is ready to get underway.  This starts with the groom heading up the bharaat.  Traditionally, the groom would arrive on a horse leading his family to where ceremony is to be held, with a band playing and friends and family dancing as part of the procession.  Nowadays, the groom is more likely to arrive in a fancy car.  The band will still play and this tends to be dhol players in western countries, although in India, a small brass band is hired.

The bride’s family greets the groom’s family and a milni is performed.  A milni signifies the coming together of the two families.  After the milni, the groom will make his way to the Mandap (constructed specifically for the ceremony) for the religious ceremony.

The priest will start with a prayer to Ganesh, the elephant God, asking for blessings.  The rituals performed are known as puja and are performed by the bride’s parents.

The bride is then brought to the Mandap by her maternal uncle, brothers and family members.  Verses are recited and the bride and groom will exchange garlands.

The groom’s scarf is then tied to the bride’s chuni to signify their union and the bride is given away to the groom by her parents by placing her left hand on the groom’s right hand.

A small sacred fire is lit which is a key part of the ceremony.  Agni (Fire God) bears witness to the union and dispels ignorance, leading to knowledge and wisdom.

The couple will circle (phera) the agni 4 times in total with the bride leading the groom for 3 of the pheras.  This part of the ceremony is known as “Mangal Phera”.  There is also the Saptapadi which involves circling agni 7 times with bride and groom taking turns to lead.  I will cover these in more detail in another post.

The ceremony is then complete.  The bride will then accompany her husband to her new abode.  This will happen usually after a reception, where food is served and guests can bless the bride and groom.

PLEASE NOTE: There are a number of rituals that haven’t been covered in this post – my aim is to focus on specific rituals in separate posts as Hindu weddings are intricate in nature.