This past summer, we photographed our first Indian Wedding. Remember Anjuli and Cesar? Well they taught us A LOT about what it means to be the photographers of an authentic Hindu Ceremony. We wanted to share some of our favorite photos from their ceremony and share a few facts about Hindu ceremonies in case you’re interested in celebrating in or shooting one. Here are a few things you should know…
Even the preparation for the ceremony is a beautiful transition worthy of photographs. This is an all day event full of intricate details and traditional elements.
In Hindu and Sikh weddings, the Groom is led to the marriage venue in a procession known as the Baraat. He is accompanied by family members, groomsmen, and friends known as baraatis. The use of a Ghodi, or white horse, as transport for the Groom to the wedding venue is a common part of Indian tradition. Family members adorn the Ghodi with embellishments to match the groom as all eyes are on the two as they make their way through the procession. A modern take on the Baraat entrance is for the Groom to enter in an extravagant car, decorated similarly to the traditionally horse. The music during a Baraat sets the mood for the rest of the marriage event, with upbeat and exciting songs blasting as the Groom makes his way through the procession.
The Hindi word ‘Milan’ is derived from a Sanskrit expression meaning “a coming together”, giving the Milni Ceremony its definition as a unification of the two families. This tradition occurs in both Hindu and Sikh weddings before the start of the marriage rituals. After the Groom makes his way through the Baraat procession, the Bride’s closest relatives welcome him by sprinkling rose water and offering Shagun, a token of good luck. The significance of the Milni Ceremony is exemplified during the meeting of the two fathers in each respective family – showcasing the acceptance of the marriage and the bond that the families have created. The marriage rituals only begin once the Bride meets the Groom, which happens during the Varmala, the ceremony following the Milni. Although brief, the Milni is a way for both family and guests to witness the two families uniting into one.
The wedding starts with a prayer invoking Lord Ganesh, whose divine grace dispels all evils, so that no obstacles present themselves and all goes well throughout the day. No other deities will accept any offerings before Lord Ganesh.
Aagmann (welcoming the groom)
Groom approaches the mandap (altar) escorted by brothers. The bride’s mother welcomes the groom with an aarti (prayer) and ceremonial tikka (red dot on his forehead), offering him the blessings of the Lord. She then escorts him to the mandap.
Kanya Aagman (arrival of the bride)
The bride is escorted to the mandap while a curtain is raised to hide the groom’s face.
Hasta Melap (removing the barriers)
At this point the curtain separating the bride and groom is lowered and the bride and groom exchange flower garlands signifying their acceptance of one another as life partners.
Kanyadanam (giving away the bride)
The bride’s father gives her away as he places her right hand in the groom’s right hand as a sign of their union and his blessing. The father then places a varamala (a loop of raw white cotton wound 24 times) around the couple’s shoulders. A single thread can easily be broken, but many threads make the bond stronger, thus enabling them to be bound in virtues more securely throughout their future. The bride’s scarf is then tied to the groom’s scarf to symbolize the sacred union.
Yagya (invoking the sacred fire)
The priest performs yagya, which is a special form of holy invocation in which he offers various obligations to agni, the fire deity, to bear witness to the holy matrimony while chanting sacred verses.
Mangal Feras (walking around the holy fire)
While the priest chants mantras, family and friends fill the palms of the couple with rice and grains which denote a bounty of wealth, good health, prosperity, and happiness. The bride and groom offer these to the holy fire and then walk around it, touching a stone which lies in their path. This stone signifies the obstacles in life that they will overcome together. The couple makes seven rounds, the first three led by the bride, the second three led by the groom, and they make the last round side by side.
These rounds represent the four main goals of life that they hope to achieve:
Dharma - life of righteousness
Artha - life of prosperity
Karma - energy and passion in life
Moksha - life towards the path of liberation
Sindoor Daana (blessing)
The groom takes the sindoor (red powder) with his thumb and applies it above the bride’s forehead to bless his bride.
Mangalsutra (placing of the sacred necklace)
The groom places a sacred necklace around the bride’s neck to express his love. With the sindoor, this symbolizes that she is a married woman.
The first seven steps taken by the couple symbolize their commitment to a lifelong journey together. The bride leads each step as the groom holds her hand. The bride and groom recite their vows for each other at the conclusion of each step.
1. We take this first step to share the responsibilities of our home and life.
2. We take this second step to fill our hearts with strength and courage and to encourage each other.
3. We take this third step to have mutual respect and trust for each other and to live in harmony.
4. We take this fourth step to acquire knowledge and wisdom throughout our lives.
5. We take this fifth step to be blessed with healthy and noble children.
6. We take this sixth step to cherish and support each other in sickness, health, joy and sorrow.
7. We take this seven steps together to remain as lifelong partners.
Kansaar (sweetening of the marriage)
The bride and groom feed each other sweets. This is their first meal together as a married couple and it signifies their duties to each other and their families.
Asir-Vad (blessing from the priest)
The priest gives a final blessing to the newly married couple. The bride and groom then receive blessings from their families.
There’s so many more photos and information from this day that are share-worthy but we didn’t want to make this post too long (Honestly, if you made it down this far we commend you lol) We’re saving the other half of their day for a separate blog, Stay Tuned!
Indian clothing - Nazranaa NJ @nazranaanj
DJ - Planet DJ Productions @planetdjproductions
Decor - Radiant Decor @radiantdecor
Venue - William F. Bolger Center
Hair & Makeup - Shruti's Bridal and Beauty Salon @ShrutiSalonSpa
THANK YOU SO MUCH ANJULI AND CESAR for trusting us with your memories and teaching us so much about this beautiful culture’s tradition. Thank you for providing us with all of the information we needed to create this blog, we hope it helps others :)
Megan + Garrett