The Essential Guide to Hindu Weddings: Food and Desserts

2014 Jan 17 - by dulhan
Alright, readers, are you ready for the glory that is the reception dinner at a Hindu wedding? No seriously, it's glorious.  Like, no wedding is complete without a chaat table (in my opinion, not backed up by historical fact unless the fact that it's always historically been delicious counts).  That's a table specifically dedicated to holding up mountains of pani puri and bhel.  Completely optional but definitely recommended.

{photo by IQ Photography via Alok and Venu's Wedding}

Hindu Wedding: Introduction

Hindu Wedding Engagement

Hindu Pre-Wedding Traditions

Hindu Wedding Traditions

Hindu Post-Wedding Traditions

Hindu Bridal Attire and Jewelry

Hindu Groom’s Attire

Hindu Wedding Food and Desserts - You're here!

Hindu Wedding Shopping List

There is no specific menu for a Hindu wedding, instead there are lot of things that sorta just show up out of habit.  Indians, in my experience, like to show their love through fried food, butter, and sugar, so you can expect a lot of that if you're going to a Hindu wedding.  Yeah, don't wear a belt to this real-life feast.

North Indian Hindu weddings will usually have a heavily Mughlai spread, which means lots of paneer, creamy curries, tandoori meat, and buttery naans.  It's as decadent as you can get.  My mother says that Indian weddings are definitely a time to show off, so what better what to show off than having the most expensive dishes (and lots of them)?

{photo by Jihan Abedella via Caitlin and Vikrant's Wedding}

North Indian Hindu wedding will also feature meat dishes like butter chicken and lamb curry.  Coastal Hindu Weddings, like Goan weddings or Fijian weddings will also include crab and fish curries.

South Indian Hindu weddings, by contrast, are usually completely vegetarian and will sport something like 100+ different dishes.  The plate of choice is a banana leaf and utensils are nonexistent - it's all hands and appetite.  That's like a bunch of different rice dishes, like lemon rice and curd rice, in addition to daal, sabzi, dosa, idlis, and the rest of it.  You're guaranteed to leave a little pudgier from a South Indian do.

{via Maps of India}

Vegetarianism is a generally new phenomena among Hindus nowadays as it is not explicitly stated in the Vedic scripture.  When the caste system was at its strongest, the higher castes like the Brahmins and the Kshatriya's were able to enfore vegetarianism among the lower castes, reserving meat for themselves.  It was a sign of wealth.  Nowadays you see in the communities that are dominated still by higher castes, like the Maharashtrian CPKs, meat-eating is common, while it remains rarer in the communities descended from lower castes, like the Bunniyas of Haryana and Punjab.

As well, different religions cemented ideas of vegetarianism.  Sikhs, as soldiers, have always eaten meat while Buddhists and Jains, who practice Ahimsa, or non-harm, are always vegetarian.  So the areas mostly populated by these groups tend to also be influenced by their dietary habits - meat-eating is generally a lax subject in Punjab.  South Indians are generally vegetarian because all of the South Indian food, which was around before the Aryans invaded North India, is plant-based.  As well, South India is rife with Hinduism and prasads given to Lord Vishnu or Lord Krishna can only be vegetarian.  South Indian vegetarianism might be more of a chick-and-egg question.

Regardless of where you're from, halva is a definite must.  Moong daal halva is a universal favorite because it tends to be the most expensive, but you'll see carrot and almond halva as well.  Halva is a constant for any auspicious event, so it should be flowing as freely as the champagne (unless it's a South Indian, Jain, or otherwise dry wedding in which case it'll flow like something non-alcoholic).

{photo by This Modern L<3VE via Naureen and Ghazaly's Mehndi Ceremony}

Barfi is also pretty common since it comes in like a billion flavors and is never missing from an Indian house.  It's an easy way to knock off like 20 of your required 100 dishes.  Generally the mithai are where it's at - any Hindu wedding worth its marigolds better have an assortment of ladoos, kheer, gulabjamun, rasmalai, and jalebi.

{photo by Jihan Abdella via Caitlin and Vikrant's Wedding}

Many modern Hindu weddings will also have a giant, tiered cake at the reception that the couple cut and do that whole cake-face-smear thing.  This is an obvious Western influence, but you can keep it in the right cricket-field at least by doing something like a mehndi or chai-infused cake.  Just a suggestion.

{photo by This Modern L<3VE via Naureen and Ghazaly's Wedding Reception}

The general rule of planning the catering for any Hindu wedding is sumptuous dishes.  If you eat meat, definitely include chicken dishes like butter chicken.  Paneer dishes like saag paneer and muttar paneer, along with kofta curries like aloo kofta, will make the rest of your North Indian spread extra decadent.

For South Indian weddings, expect to have many different rice dishes on hand along with a variety of sabzis and maybe even dosa.  Mithai like halva and barfi should not be missing from any feast.  Western wedding cakes, along with Western pastries like macarons, are becoming more and more common at weddings and will amp up your dessert table.

There have to be a lot of dishes for any sort of Hindu wedding and they all have to be fattening.  That's it.  Go crazy and don't forget the halva.