India Wedding – Pre Wedding Ceremonies

If you did not know already, here it is- Indian weddings used to be a week long celebrations which only ended after seeing off of the groom’s party with the bride. While, bidaai (seeing off) is the only thing left out after the wedding it is the pre-wedding ceremonies that really are spell binding to everyone.

Much of the traditional pre wedding practices remain only as ceremonial customs today, however, three prominent of them are still in full practice in Indian and Pakistani weddings. Since pre-wedding ceremonies mark the beginning, they are held by both the parties at their respective places.

Sangeet, an event that heralds the beginning of wedding, is actually a fun filled music session. The family members assemble and sing and dance to the tunes of rather amateurish musician members of the family. Often sangeet (Indian for music) ceremony breaks out into undeclared competitions within the family members and the loosing side is often made to pay the wishes of the winning side. Naturally, the competing groups are male and female groups.

The next important pre wedding ceremony is Haldi (turmeric paste). The term may sound odd to new ears but definitely not after watching the ceremony unfold. Bride and groom are completely washed with turmeric paste following a rather ceremonial rubbing off of turmeric by their respective family members and relatives on their hands (palms in some families.) But what does it signify, after all, is the total cleansing of bodies as turmeric is said to have antiseptic qualities in addition to leaving a brightly glowing skin after a bath. So, what better way to begin your romantic journey than having a confident, glowing skin?

Mehndi (henna paste), also called as mehendi, is used to decorate the bride however, it is not uncommon for grooms to have mehndi. Mehndi artists or trained relatives draw intricate designs or floral patterns over their arms with palms receiving the maximum attention. If designs are on one side, the brides may want to have their grooms’ name pasted but hidden cleverly within the patterns on the other. Mehndi takes almost a full day to completely dry out so as to render its full resplendent color which only means they need their maids of honor and best men for everything round the clock by their sides.

In a way, you can say these aren’t just pre wedding ceremonies but beginnings of weddings. Baraat, (march of grooms’ party to the wedding venue) may be said to be the last pre wedding ceremony or the beginning of actual wedding in India.