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December 8, 2012

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Survival Guide to Indian Weddings

Decorated Indian Wedding VenueWedding season in India means that every year between December and February, in big and small Indian cities, any plot of land or indoor hall is cloaked in colorful cloth banners and decorated with lights and vibrant flowers like marigolds. Indian weddings are big affairs that keep the whole extended family on their toes.
The Big Indian Wedding - Why Indian Weddings Are Costly Affairs

For a typical Indian wedding, anywhere from 300 to 1,000 guests are invited, surely requiring a garden or wedding hall. There are many reasons why big weddings are a must in India:

Weddings are considered the highlight in a person's life and every effort is made to make the day special and memorable.
Weddings are social affairs and Indians go to many weddings in their lifetime. Nobody wants to pay back by skimping or looking like a miser when their turn comes.
Hosting a wedding means showing off and looking like one can afford it.
Indians budget for one wedding in their lives (not two or three) and often take a wedding loan, which Indian banks gladly provide.
Common Indian Wedding Traditions

There are many more wedding traditions in India than the ones listed below, but those are celebrated in many parts of the country.

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The wedding families convey the importance of every guest by hand-delivering the wedding invitations; usually the bride or groom's siblings' responsibility.
Wearing any shade of red from pink to maroon is considered auspicious and therefore red is the color of the Indian bride's wedding dress, usually a saree or lehenga (a long skirt worn with a saree top and shawl).
The darker the bride's mehendi, the more the mother-in-law is believed to love her new daughter. Plus, a bride is not expected to help with the household work until her wedding mehendi has faded.
Before receiving the guests' blessings and gifts on the wedding day, the couple exchanges wedding garlands called varmala or jaimala. The bride and groom compete to be the first one to put the garland on the other while being lifted by their friends as high as possible.
A popular prank played by the youngsters of the bride's family is to hide the groom's shoes while he is sitting for the wedding ceremony. He then has to bargain for a ransom price; maybe to test his patience and negotiation skills?
After the Indian wedding ceremony, it is customary for the bride's family to bid the bride farewell with public crying and weeping to demonstrate their loss as the bride is now considered a member of the groom's family.
Common Indian Wedding Rituals

Indian weddings can be week long affairs and across India, there are many wedding traditions that vary as widely as the communities that celebrate them, starting from when the wedding is held to where and the wedding attire. Here are some of the most common Indian wedding ceremonies:

The Indian Mehendi Ceremony

During the mehndi or mehendi (pronounced mehndee) ceremony, the women of the two families (separately) get together to have henna paste applied on their hands and feet. As a natural application, it is not a henna tattoo and fades away within two weeks. The bride's designs are the most elaborate and take hours to dry, giving her a chance to relax before the wedding and enjoy time with the women in her family who will wait on her hand and foot, literally.

The Sangeet or Indian Ladies' Night

The Sangeet (literally: singing together) takes place two or three days before the wedding and though it is often held at home, does require hiring professional caterers, a DJ and a photographer who has strict instructions to capture the wedding couple's every move.

The Sangeet is a joyous occasion during which the women sing traditional Indian songs accompanied by the dholak (Indian drum), everyone dances and the two families get to know each other in a casual setting. Once a ladies only affair, the men of both families today join at a later point for drinks, dance and dinner, most likely in that order.

The Baraat or Indian Wedding Procession

For this event on the wedding day, a very loud and sometimes off-key band is hired. The garlanded groom in his wedding attire is supposed to ride on a horse from his house to the wedding venue but many a groom has abandoned the horse to join the dancing in the street. Indian baraats are sweaty, deafening but fun affairs for the whole family that should not be missed.

The Indian Wedding Pheras, the Final Wedding Ceremony

The main part of the pheras, the actual wedding ceremony conducted by a pandit (Brahmin priest), is the wedding couple circling the holy fire seven times, after which they are considered married. The bride leads during the first three rounds, the groom during the last four, symbolizing who will take the lead during the first seven years of marriage. This ceremony is not for those in a rush - the pheras can last up to three hours.

Loud and lavish Indian weddings are fun affairs for anyone but the bride and groom who have to endure hours and hours of rituals. It is commonly joked that the divorce rate in India is one the lowest in the world because no bride or groom would willingly subject themselves to the long wedding ceremony again.

Indian Weddings in Numbers

India's wedding industry is growing at 25 percent and, according to latest estimates by industry experts, is worth a whopping 40 billion dollars. No wonder that wedding malls and wedding fairs are mushrooming in India and even professional Indian wedding organizers worldwide (charging 10-15% of the total wedding cost).

As Tarun Sarda in Hindol Sengupta's August 12, 2004 Indiaglitz article "Indian Weddings Are a Billion Dollar Industry" summarizes: "Everyone makes money. ... The artisans make money, the services industry makes money, it's perfect and it's completely recession free."

Here's more information about top Indian wedding songs, what to wear to Indian weddings and the debate of sari versus lehenga in particular.

Rent the cake? Unusual tips to cut your wedding bill

(MoneyWatch) Weddings, in size and cost, are astronomical these days. should you really want even more statistics related to cheap vegas weddings head over to and / or maybe my dream wedding right away.A lot of couples fall into the trap of thinking "anything goes" in pursuit of that "perfect" day and end up spending way more than they can actually afford. The average wedding costs over $28,000. Compare that to the median household income -- less than -- $53,000 -- and you find a lot of couples borrowing money to pay for their weddings and paying it off years later.

A marriage that begins in debt is starting off on the wrong foot: You don't want to be celebrating your 20th wedding anniversary by celebrating that you've finally paid off your debt.

We're becoming what I call a "rental nation," moving from being more of a ownership-based society to a rental one.


We're all familiar with the more traditional rental aspects of a wedding, from the groom's tuxedo to a classic getaway car for a stylish exit, but one new trend we're seeing a lot is renting the bride's dress. The dress is one of the highest ticket items of a wedding, and if you think about it, we've had it backwards: Men should buying their tuxedos and women should be renting their dresses. When it comes to buying off the rack, I encourage the bride on a budget to say "no" to the dress. Renting a fantastic option for women who want to wear their dream dress but don't want to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a garment with a six-hour shelf life. There are many online options: and are just a couple.

In addition, the bride can rent her jewelry, handbag, shoes and even her veil. href=""> has all sorts of bridal accessories for rent. And let's say a bride doesn't want to wear costume jewelry -- she wants to wear real diamonds on her wedding day. She can truly feel like a princess by renting the "Kate Middleton" earrings (modeled on the ones she wore at the royal wedding) from They retail for $10,875 and rent for $160. The savings are staggering.

The same goes for the wedding party: The average bridesmaid spends $1,695. Doubtlessly, the bride will tell you that you can "totally wear that dress again," but the truth is that no one ever wears that dress again. While most bridesmaid dresses are moderately priced, if you add it up, we spend a total of $2.1 billion a year on bridesmaid dresses alone.

The good news is that bridesmaids can rent everything as well.'s weddings section solves the "27 Dresses" problem, and another option is Let your bridesmaids rent their dresses and they can spend more money on your gift.

Here's the kicker: You can even rent a wedding cake. A lot of couples consider their cake to be a work of art and it holds a place of honor by the dance floor, so they rationalize spending way too much on it. You can rent a fantastic looking three tier cake for $125 from or pay $100 extra for a custom design. The cake is foam and inedible, but there's a hidden compartment in the back of the bottom layer where you can put a real piece of cake, so you'll still get your photo op. Also, your guests still get to eat -- but instead of an overpriced floral-bedecked confectionary, it's sheet cake that's sliced behind the scenes.

One final tip: When renting the space for your wedding, you might consider a nearby historical site. If you choose a historical garden, museum or homestead, or even a state or national park, the fee you pay may be deductible as a donation. Check with the site for more details. You can also donate leftover food and flowers to a non-profit for a tax write-off.

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