One of the most important factors when selecting a wedding photographer is undoubtedly the right amount of experience. Too little experience and you could be left with photos that didn’t quite do your big day justice or photos you aren’t proud of enough to display on your walls.
And for weddings with meaningful traditions, such as an Indian wedding ceremony (or Jewish, Asian, or African weddings too!), it’s even more crucial to find a photographer who knows how to capture them in a beautiful way and how to follow the proper etiquette. After all, this celebration will be about the joining of two families and is a sacred ritual that should be taken seriously and without any faux pas!
If you’re having an Indian wedding, be sure your wedding photographer has experience with the following traditions before you sign the dotted line. It’s important to know that there are many regions within India, each having their own spin and traditions on wedding ceremonies, most of which last several days. Depending on the bride and/or grooms Indian tradition, their ceremony will contain certain rituals that may not be part of other traditions. Be sure you know the region, their religions (usually Hindu or Buddhist), the traditions, the expectations of the parents and grandparents, rituals, customs, and preferences (there is some latitude given to westernized and modernized versions of Indian weddings).
A traditional Indian wedding lasts an average of three days. On the first night, a priest will often perform the ganesh puja, a ceremony that usually happens at home with only the couple, the bridal party and close relatives in attendance. Sometimes performed a few days or the night before the wedding, the Ganesh Puja is one of the first pieces of a traditional Hindu ceremony. Lord Ganesh, or Ganesha, is known as the Hindu elephant god of wisdom and salvation. The Puja takes place in order to remove any obstacles for the main wedding ceremony and bestow good luck onto the soon-to-be married couple. A Sangeet, which is the portion of the celebrations where family comes together to sing, dance and revel in the joy of the upcoming union. Family members even give performances! The bride’s family sings a traditional folk song to the groom’s family to welcome them. The sangeet, which translates to “sung together,” takes place before the mehendi ceremony that kicks off the wedding itself.
The second day begins with a mehndi (henna) ceremony. For this, the bride and her female friends and family members will have intricate henna patterns drawn on their hands and feet. That evening, the sangeet takes place. Every wedding guest is usually invited, and it involves an introduction of the couple’s families, mingling, a meal and dances or other performances. Henna been used for over 5,000 years in Hindu weddings, making it one of the longest-known wedding traditions in the world! These artistic henna designs are typically placed on the Bride’s hands and feet during a mehndi party with other women attending the wedding. Definitely a fun and beautiful tradition that ought to be captured on camera!
On the third day, the main ceremony, cocktail hour and reception take place. You may be invited to the last day of the events, or to any part of the three-day celebration. Your invitation should clearly state what you’re being asked to attend.
Other noteworthy ceremonial traditions your Indian wedding photographer should know about include the Baraat. The Baraat is a crucial part of the Indian wedding experience involving the procession of the Groom. Traditionally, the Groom will ride a white horse (called a “Ghodi”). As a more recent development, some grooms opt for a luxurious car. In some instances, the use of an elephant may also be chosen. During the procession, upbeat songs are played as the baraatis (family, groomsmen, and friends) dance and walk along with the Groom.
Once the procession comes to a close, the Bride’s family will meet and greet the Groom and his family as the apply tilak to his forehead. At this time, a ritual called aarti is typically carried out, traditionally, to ward off evil eye. On the morning of the wedding, the bride and groom apply haldi, a yellow turmeric paste, onto themselves for good luck. The paste is believed to ward off evil spirits and provide powerful healing properties. Then, the Groom is off towards the Milna Ceremony and the greeting of the Bride’s male family.
The significance of the Milni Ceremony is exemplified during the meeting of the two fathers in each respective family – showcasing the acceptance of the marriage and the bond that the families have created. The marriage rituals only begin once the Bride meets the Groom, which happens during the Varmala, the ceremony following the Milni. Although brief, the Milni is a way for both family and guests to witness the two families uniting into one.
More commonly performed during South Indian Hindu weddings, the Jai Mala involves the exchange of floral garlands between the Bride and Groom. This part of the wedding ceremony symbolizes both the meeting of two souls and the joining of their families. It’s also often followed by an exchange of gifts.
One of the most important parts is the Saptapadi, which is when the Bride and Groom tie their garments together under a Mandap. The wedding mandap is a temporary structure constructed for the purpose of the marriage ceremony. It may appear on an elevated platform, and is decorated with anything from flowers and greenery to fabric and crystals. (The Indian Mandap and the Jewish Hoppa resemble each other). Then they take seven steps or make seven circles around a ceremonial fire while they recite vows to each other about their marriage. This is one of the most exciting parts of the wedding, and one your photographer should be ready for!
After the Saptapadi, the couple looks up to the sun and the polar star for the Surya Darshan and Dhruva Darshan. Tranditionally, the sun is there for them to seek blessings for a creative and passionate life, while the north star is symbolic help for the couple to remain steadfast.
Then their parents begin to bless the Bride and Groom with rose water. One of the last parts of the ceremony is when the Groom applies the sindoor (a red powder) to the parting of the Bride’s hair and places a mangalsutra around her neck, both of which are symbols of her marriage.
Let Trans4mation Photography‘s experience with large multi-day ethnic weddings be your photographer!