In March, Nico and I had the pleasure and luck of being invited to a friend’s traditional Indian wedding in Delhi. This was my second time in Delhi, but my first time attending an Indian wedding. I also loved the idea of escaping to a warm climate for a few days.
The celebration was a 4 day long event, but I’ve heard of other Indian weddings lasting a week. I have no idea how they do it. I can’t party hard more than two days in a row these days. Both the groom’s and bride’s families were so welcoming, decadently dressed, and put on an amazing party for everyone.
Day 1 – Holi Party
We slept in because we arrived the night before after a roughly 12 hour trip. Nico had gone to grad school with the bride, and most of her squad arrived around the same time we did so we were all jet lagged. Most of the wedding events took place in a city southwest of New Delhi called Gurgaon, and the first one was a casual outdoor lunch the same day as Holi.
Holi, a traditional Hindu festival, celebrates the beginning of spring as well as the triumph of good over evil. It is best known around the world as the “festival of colors” for the colored powder that people throw on each other, leaving everyone coated in color by the end of the day. We had been woken up by drums and music in the morning, and we could see people throwing color at each other all over the place, even on the streets.
Anyone and everyone is fair game, as we got an earful of color immediately upon arrival from people we hadn’t formally met yet. There were also water guns and water balloons that people used to color each other. We were told to wear clothes that we wouldn’t mind throwing out afterwards. What we weren’t told was that the yellow and pink colors are the hardest to wash off. I think Nico had yellow spots in his hair for a week after.
Day 2 – Cocktail / Sangeet
While the bridal party was practicing their dance with the choreographer, a few of us had lunch in a place that offers a different take on local and street food, Cafe Lota in the National Craft Museum. For the evening party, the dress code was salwar kameez/ lehenga/sari for women. I was able to borrow pieces of this outfit from my coworker’s wife (thank you Sindhu!).
The cocktail event allowed everyone to meet one another and was hosted by the groom’s family. The entrance into the garden was beautifully lit with chandeliers and framed with sheer curtains and an ornate red carpet. Inside, there was a stage, a bar, and literally the biggest buffet I’ve ever seen. I think the groom said that there were 300 different menu items! The bride-to-be was drop dead gorgeous in her sparkly dress, and the groom was charming everyone like a pro.
After a few drinks and bites to eat, the entertainment started. The main event was a dance off between the groom’s side and the bride’s side. Afterwards, there was a live band, traditional dancers, and even a fire breather!
Day 3 – Mehendi / Henna
The bride’s family hosted the Mehendi Ceremony poolside at a posh hotel. It was a chill event with a lot of pink, singing & dancing, and, of course, more delicious food. Traditionally a female only event, everyone was welcome to participate in getting mehendi or henna on their hands.
Day 4 – The Wedding
In the morning, the bride’s parents hosted the intimate Haldi/Choora ceremony in their home. The family priest was there to lead prayers, while family members tossed herbs and spices into a fire for good luck while reciting blessings for the bride and groom. The bride then put on the Choora, a set of red and white bangles that she’ll wear for 40 days while exempt from work. Traditionally the mother-in-law would do the housework. Finally, the bride had the Kalire tied to her wrists. Kalire are these delicate gold chandelier bracelets that she then shook (sometimes quite vigorously!) over the heads of her unmarried friends and family. If a piece falls off onto the head of the person, then he or she will get married soon. I likened this to the throwing of the bouquet at western weddings, but you have a better chance with the Kalire 😉 To learn more about this ceremony, this is a helpful page.
For the grand finale, everyone was dressed to the gills in their best. The groom and his entourage arrived first with a huge procession on the street in front of the venue with drums and music. He sat in a horse drawn carriage wearing a gigantic garland made of money around his neck. The male members of the bride’s family greeted each other by exchanging flower garlands, Nico included!
The bride along with her bridal party then walked in under a canopy made of flowers called a Phoolon ki Chadar, that the male members of her family held. The ceremony was led by the same family priest, where almost all the Hindu deities were asked to bless the new couple. This is a pretty long ceremony, so unlike western ceremonies, the guests chatted with each other at banquet tables and milled around having drinks and snacks. The dinner and reception was afterwards, with a dance floor & DJ, amazing food, and a stage set up where guests could go up and take photos with the beautiful couple.
We had about half a day to do some proper tourist things in the city before we flew back to Luxembourg, and I’ve posted about it here: Delhi Photo Essay
Lessons and Tips
- After Holi celebrations, be prepared for some color stains on your hair and skin. For sure wear clothes that you don’t mind throwing away in case the color doesn’t come out, but after a good wash, the clothes I wore were fine.
- Let loose! Don’t be afraid to dance, even if you don’t know how, and even if everyone around you is way more coordinated.
- Try everything in the buffet. I couldn’t always tell what it was, but if you’re not afraid of spices or heat, try everything.
- An Indian wedding is a marathon. Pace yourself, but have fun!
Photos taken with the iPhone 6s or Fujifilm X-E2s