This entry is from our Expert Guest series where wedding and honeymoon professionals share their best tips on creating memories that last a lifetime….
Indian weddings are fun, large, colorful, multi-day events. As the product of an ancient culture with rich traditions, each wedding event has a significance and meaning. Most Indian weddings are a week full of celebrations culminating with the biggest events – the wedding ceremony and the reception.
Understanding Indian Wedding Traditions
We collaborated with Samta Varia, the Founder & CEO of ShaadiShop, an innovative website for couples to find Indian-friendly wedding venues, to tell us more about Indian weddings and the art of gift giving.
While the average Indian wedding has 350 guests, not everyone attends every event. The smaller events usually take place at the couple’s parents’ homes – each with their own separate celebrations with their respective family and friends.
Beautiful Inking For The Bride
It’s during this week that the bride gets her mehndi, aka henna done, usually 2 days before the wedding. Throughout the week, there’s an atmosphere of joy with special decor in their homes, food galore, ladies gathering around and singing and, of course, finishing preparations for the wedding.
The Night Before: The Sangeet
The night before the wedding is the first major event, the sangeet, where guests have flown in from around the world to start the celebrations with a night of music and dance. At ShaadiShop, we help couples find venues for their sangeet as well as their wedding and reception. Hotels and resorts are particularly popular venues for Indian weddings with their large capacities and convenience for all of the out-of-town guests to stay on-property.
The Wedding Day – The Baraat Procession
The wedding day is the main event with a full day of celebrations starting with the baraat, or the groom’s procession.
The groom, along with his family and friends, dance to music outside the venue, basically partying their way to the ceremony site. Traditionally Indian weddings took place at the bride’s home so the baraat procession was literally the groom and his ‘entourage’ celebrating on their way to get his bride.
Where it gets even more exciting is the groom typically rides on a white horse or an elephant while his family and friends dance around him! Alternatively, exotic cars are also popular amongst grooms as well!
The Wedding Ceremony
After the baraat, the groom and his family/friends are received by the bride’s family and the ceremony begins.
In many Indian weddings, the altar is called a mandap – a 4-pillar decorated structure where the bride, groom, their parents, and the officiant participate in a series of rituals. The ceremony lasts between 1-2 hours followed by a lunch or cocktail hour.
The final event for the weekend is the reception which mixes elegance, fun, and a mix of Eastern and Western cultures.
Gifts at Indian Weddings
If you’ve ever been to an Indian wedding you might have been noticed that there was no wedding registry. Instead at Indian weddings guests give money – cash or check inside an ornate envelope.
Where This Gift Giving Tradition Came From
Having and giving money is a symbol of good fortune in Indian culture. At weddings, giving money as a gift often coincides with showering the couple with blessings. It’s an ancient tradition that has remained strong as South Asian people have moved across the globe.
While India has developed into a major world economy with bustling cities, centuries ago many Indians lived in villages where access to markets or visiting the market was not an everyday occurrence. This is not much different than what it was like to live in the Western frontier in the United States.
Thus, giving cash was simply a more practical way to give wedding gifts rather than running to a store to buy something.
The amount of the cash gift varies and is personal to each guest. Whereas you might think of nice round numbers like $50, $70, or $100, in Indian culture we never give a gift ending in 0. The amounts usually end with a “1” such as $51 or $101. There’s a finality with 0s, whereas by giving $51 or $101 we are starting the couple off to accumulate their next $50 or $100.
That $1 is in its own way a blessing that wishes the couple good fortune and prosperity.
Using The Honeyfund For Indian Weddings
The Honeyfund honeymoon registry is a great option for Indian weddings. It’s still a cash gift, easy to give and convenient for the couple to receive as the funds are all electronically setup in their account on the website vs. depositing all of those checks individually after the wedding. For anyone whose been to an Indian wedding, there’s a lot of checks as the average wedding has 350 guests! (Note: gifts are given 1 per family; not per guest).
If you get a chance to go, there’s nothing like attending an Indian wedding. Fun and food for days! Not to mention the stunning clothes and jewelry! The art of gift giving in Indian culture is unique and full of meaning and the Honeyfund might just be the next best thing to incorporate into Indian weddings!
Bio: ShaadiShop was created to make planning a South Asian wedding easier. ShaadiShop’s core product is the #1 online place to discover South Asian-friendly wedding venues. South Asian couples will find the info they need and get quotes, from the comfort of their home.
In addition the ShaadiShop blog is a haven for planning a South Asian wedding, with everything from checklists to pro tips and photos, videos and more!