The Essential Guide to Hindu Weddings: Pre-Wedding Traditions

2014 Jan 17 - by dulhan
After the couple meets and gets engaged, it's time to set the date and start the week-long preparations!  There are so so many different things that need to happen before the actual ceremony.  Again these vary between families as some prefer certain poojas to others (I've even been to a few where they do EVERY SINGLE pooja - covering all their bases, I guess), but there are a few staples like the Haldi Ceremony, the Mehndi Night, and the Ladies' Sangeet.

Hindu Wedding: Introduction

Hindu Wedding Engagement

Hindu Pre-Wedding Traditions - You're here!

Hindu Wedding Traditions

Hindu Post-Wedding Traditions

Hindu Bridal Attire and Jewelry

Hindu Groom’s Attire

Hindu Wedding Food and Desserts

Hindu Wedding Shopping List

First there's the Haldi Ceremony.  Here the married women of both the bride and the groom's sides of the family take turns rubbing a mixture of turmeric, oil, and water into the skin and clothes of the bride and groom.  This usually devolves into a bit of a food fight as others are allowed to take part - the kids, if they're allowed to participate, seem to really like squishing it all over the bride and groom's faces.

It used to be that only the bride underwent the Haldi Ceremony and it acted as a sort of spa day before she got ready for the wedding ceremony.  Nowadays, grooms are also invited to take part.

The special concoction that is used in the Haldi Ceremony is supposed to simultaneously bless the couple and moisturize their skin.  I'm not sure exactly how this works, but my mother swears by it.

{via The Haldi Ceremony}

After the Haldi Ceremony, the women gather together for the Mehndi Night which is sometimes combined with the ladies' Sangeet.  During the Mehndi Night the bride has to sit still for hours while she gets her bridal mehndi (also known as henna) applied to her arms and feet.  It's very easy to smudge so she has to stay in her seat for ages while it dries.

It is said that the darker the color of the dried mehndi, the deeper the groom's love for his bride.

{photo by Mathy Shoots People via Anokhee and Mital's Mehndi and Garba Celebration}

Meanwhile the women of the bride's family form the entertainment as they sing traditional (and Bollywood) wedding songs, accompanied by tablas and makeshift instruments.  The men often join in and dance.  It's like a Bachelorette Party the whole family is invited to.  The groom will often have his own set of celebrations happening at his own house with his family.

{photo by Erin Leppo via Mohini's Mehndi Ceremony}

In addition to these events, families may also conduct their own poojas.  Ganesh Poojas are especially popular amongst many Hindu families and are held a few days or a day before the wedding to bless the proceedings.  Other poojas include the Kalash Pooja, the Navagraha Pooja, and Mandap Devata Pooja.  Each invokes different deities that may preside over the marriage.

The bride and her family will also do the Gouri Har Pooja in which the bride prays to Gouri and Shankar for a happy and strong marriage.

{R&L Photography via Diana and Andrew's Wedding}

The groom will go through his Samarvatan in which he is formally recognized as passing into a new phase in his life, complete with new responsibilities and duties.  In some communities, primarily in South India, there is a tradition called Kashi Yatra where the groom has to pretend he doesn't actually want to get married and must declare that he is going to become a Hindu ascetic (basically hanging himself with a celibate rope).   As per the ceremony, he is brought back to the bride's family and reminded of his responsibilities and his spiritual devotion to his betrothed.

Both ceremonies are meant to delineate the bride and the groom from their former lives and prepare them for their new one together.

Sources: Hindu WeddingWedding Details, and Rice University