An Indian Wedding Ceremony and Feast in India

We went to India to be with good friends, but we were also lucky to be able to be together for a special reason: our friend’s wedding.

While in India, we also inadvertently crashed another wedding celebration while we there. In my friend’s father’s village in Gujarat, there was another wedding taking place. This time it was the Puja Ganesh ceremony, a ceremony that takes place (sometimes several days) before the wedding. There were several hundred people at this ceremony and the food was also plentiful as seen below. The interesting part about this event, which I couldn’t photograph, were that there were hundreds of women sitting under this tent, at long tables facing each other, with a middle runway path for the servers to come through and give you food. The men had eaten before us, and I sat facing some women probably wondering what was so interesting about the food that I had to take a picture of it.

There were several types of beans and lentils, papadum, sweet potato bhaji, eggplant, and perhaps my favorite – a silver-wrapped cashew (kaju) sweet with fig filling. Yum!

Wedding feast 2 in India

Mehendi or Mendhi ceremony

Two days before the wedding ceremony, we went to the bride’s house where they were having the Mendhi ceremony. Mendhi was applied to members of the bridal party and family’s hands. On the bride, it was applied from fingertips to elbows and all over her feet and up to her calves. It took 5 hours to do the bride’s mendhi and she was very restless at the end, not being able to rest her arms or legs for fear of smudging the intricate designs. Can you blame her? Her husband’s name is “hidden” in the mendhi somewhere and it is his job to find it afterward.

A bride in India and her mendhi hands

I did the mendhi, too, and I loved having mendhi on my hands and the designs that they used. Not only do they apply lemon to it when it’s almost dry to darken the color, but heat plays a factor in how deeply it will stain your hands. My hands took to the mendhi quite well and I could see even a few light remnants of the design until a few days ago.

My Mendhi hands for a wedding in India

The Wedding

I had been to a Hindu wedding ceremony before where they explained all of the steps of the ceremony and blessings. This time around, there were no explanations and it seemed like an intimate affair between the bride, groom, their bridal party and another 500 people watching in the background and eating the food being brought around. The first Hindu wedding I had been to, I was shocked to see people getting up during the ceremony and EATING! But it’s normal and sometimes absolutely necessary since they can be very long.

Here’s a picture of the altar where they would get married later. If you’re going to be a guest at an Indian wedding, I recommend reading about the Hindu wedding traditions in case they are not explaining the rituals. S had some help from some of our friends there and I relaxed and watched.

The altar at a wedding in India

Our friend, who normally is very beautiful, was stunningly beautiful as a bride. Don’t you agree? She answered the door in the hotel room, fully dressed, and I about had a heart attack at her transformation. I love how the massive amounts of details in her dress – from the head covering to her bindi, the numerous bangles to all of the mendhi on her hands and feet, her nose ring, her jewelry. She was gorgeous.

My beautiful friend, the Bride at a wedding in India

After the ceremony, then the real feasting began. In an area near to the sitting area, it seemed like a huge fair of food, with booths set up for each specific type.

My plate at a wedding in India

The Indian Chinese food I mentioned in Desi Chinese, Ice Cream, Dabeli and Other Street Food was present, as well as Italian which is quite trendy (and expensive) in India. I steered clear since I was still ready to gorge myself on Indian food. There was a Jain booth with specially prepared foods, as well as my two favorite booths:

Fresh naan and rotis.

Roti being made at a wedding in India

Fresh dosas being made on the spot. The dosa is perhaps my favorite new discovery and I loved eating them for breakfast.

Making Dosas at a wedding in India

Paan or pan is something eaten to freshen one’s breath and is commonly served at weddings. At the first wedding we went to, I was served a little packet of a fresh green leaf wrapped up and inside was a mixture of coconut, spices and candied/preserved fruit, closed with a toothpick and had a maraschino cherry stuck on top.

I had to spit it out.

See, I told you there might be something I didn’t like in India! It might have been those flavor combinations or that particular one, but I felt myself getting sick. Maybe next time. Aesthetically, I love looking at the pan stands and all the colors. Pan can also be bought dried and sometimes people mix it with tobacco or even coke (and not the soda). Oral cancer is unfortunately a problem in India and I can testify seeing as how much I saw men chewing and spitting it!

But aren’t the colors pretty?

Fresh paan stand in India

Have you been to a Hindu wedding ceremony? Any experiences to share?

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Comments

  1. Giulia says

    Ahhhh, so that’s what that photo of the hand is in the top left corner of your header! I have been meaning to ask you what type of body art that was, since you came back. I figured it was something that you had done on the trip. The bride is absolutely beautiful! The red is so vivid. I love how the husband has to find his name within the Mendhi!

  2. Neha says

    Lovely entry, Sara! I can’t BELIEVE you didn’t enjoy paan. It’s one of the few things I crave when I’m dreaming about my next trip to India! I’ll make a paan-lover out of you yet. Gotta save SOMETHING for the next trip :)

  3. says

    Whata great experience, thank you for sharing it with us. What a wedding it must of been. As for the Mendhi, never seen anything like it. Amazing and the bride looked beautiful.

  4. says

    I have been interested in Indian weddings ever since I saw Bend it like Beckham. hehe I’m sure there are very different kinds but they are so pretty and colorful. The bride looked GORGEOUS. and I love the mendhi tradition of the groom finding his name. WOOHOO. So pretty…

    Thanks for showing the pics. I’m glad your friend didn’t mind. so interesting…

  5. Aggie says

    My husband and I married in a cross cultural Hindu-Catholic-Trinidadian-Dutch ceremony. He’s from Holland and I’m originally from Trinidad and the food at our reception reflected both of our cultures. We had Trini favorites, such as mango talkari , “doubles”, shark and bake, ladoo, barfi, and gulab jamun , along with traditional Dutch dishes such as stampot, rodekool and appeltart.

    We drank mango lassi, chai tea and bruidstranen, “brides tears” – a Dutch cinnamon flavored gin containing bits of gold leaf.

    It took a lot of planning to come up with a menu of dishes that would compliment each other, but with lots of trial and error, we eventually found a winning combination that we and our guests all enjoyed immensely.

  6. onionpolenta says

    Che invidia! First time reading the blog. Loved the pics. I can’t wait to go back to India now. My parents are from Kerala and my mom just brought me the ingredients to make a proper dosa, something you can’t find in the Indian restaurants here in Milan. The lowly piadina pales in comparison.
    Oh, and reading about paan made me laugh. My sweet granny (God rest her soul) was a hardcore paan addict. Well, she never reached Amy Winehouse proportions but I’ll always remember her crimson-stained smile.

  7. says

    GORGEOUS!! I love love love this post – I’ve never been to a Hindu wedding before and I am just in awe over how beautiful and intricate all the little details are!

    Love the part where husband has to find his name. Although I prob have a lot more “surface area” than that bride and it would take DAYS for my husband to find his name.

    ;-)

  8. Janet says

    I just got back from India where I too went to a wedding in Gujarat. My niece married a young man who was originally from India. He now lives in the states. I stumbled onto your site when I was looking for some explanations of the rituals. Not much was explained to us during the four day affair. Any suggestions for a site that could tell me some of this?
    Do you know what the signifigance of the carrying of the jug through the streets was? That is just one of several things I want to find out about.
    Thanks for sharing your experience.

  9. Connie says

    Wow thats really interesting
    I’ve been to a Hindu wedding before but I dont remember it much as I was quite young but it was an odd one, mixture between greek orthodox and hindu

  10. Cass says

    I love your post. I have never been to such an opulent Indian wedding; I have been to a hare Krishna wedding which is in some ways similar to Hindu weddings; the fire sacrifice, the groom and bride tying cloth and walking around the fire, the attire, etc., but minus eating during the wedding and not lasting days and days. Even these small ones I went to were fantastic – beautiful mehndi, very sweet ceremony, everyone so so happy and kind, even strangers.
    Thanks for sharing your Indian wedding experience!

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