Do’s and Don’ts for an Indian Wedding
We have attended and conducted several Indian weddings over past 17 years. We have also planned and executed our own son's and daughter's weddings to American spouses. Following do’s and don’ts are based on our experience as well as feedback from folks who have arranged the ceremonies for their sons and daughters. Because of so many things to take care of, organizing this event can be stressful. We hope that following do’s and don’ts will help you organize a successful and enjoyable wedding.
1. Decide whether you want traditional or pragmatic wedding ceremony.
The wedding is a social, moral, religious and legal event. The ceremony can be long, very conservative, Indian style or it can be more practical, relatively short, adjusted to upbringing of current brides and grooms and customized to the specific family traditions. Do choose your priest consistent with how you want the ceremony to be conducted.
2. Focus more on the meaning of the rituals and less on the specific method as to how it is done.
The basic steps of the Vedic ceremony are same across India. The sequence, traditions, customs and timing may vary from state to state, region to region and even among different families from the same background. Do understand the rational behind the rituals and we will customize it to your way of doing it.
3. If possible, give personal invitations to local family and friends.
If possible, personally deliver the invitations to your local friends and family members. Go to their home and request their blessings for the upcoming wedding. You will enjoy the experience.
4. Plan the events jointly with family members on both sides and resolve all issues internally.
Because of different backgrounds (Religion, state of origin, age, financial capability, upbringing, faiths and beliefs, customs etc) there are bound to be differences among the involved parties on how to conduct any wedding ceremony. You can consult us on all aspects but we all need to be on the same page prior to planning the actual ceremony.
5. Plan the event well ahead of the actual marriage date.
Do contact us 6 to 9 months in advance of the proposed date. We not only do the actual pre wedding and wedding rituals but can help you in planning items like stage, Mandap, guest sitting, proper direction, Muhurtam, appropriate musical interludes, Venue logistics, time lines etc.
6. Adhere to the appointments and schedules.
Every body is busy! Plan the events well and stick to the schedules. If you are going to be late, inform.
7. Delegate and delegate locally.
Do get your local friends and families involved in the planning and assign them specific responsibilities. Do assign somebody who understands the marriage program and the time line to help the Priest. Make sure that they take the total responsibility-time line, items required, intention etc. Do assign greeters to welcome the guests.
Make sure that the hosts have absolutely minimum tasks assigned on the wedding day.
8. Use e-mail / Skype / Facetime.
I can send much more information via email. It is much easier to discuss the program, the logistics and the timelines with actual documents in front of you. Also, have all your guests’ email addresses for any last minute changes, reminders, latest weather forecast etc. Use Skype or Facetime to meet your Pandit, if not possible in person.
9. Plan a wedding website.
Include most up to date information on wedding program, time line, venue information etc. Keep it live with most frequently asked questions from your invited guests.
10. Consider having your entire wedding at one location, preferably at a full service hotel.
Ideally, the ceremony, reception, catering and guest lodging should be all at a full service hotel. This makes an enjoyable and stress free wedding with more social interactions and the least amount of potential problems like bad weather, travel from location to location, inability to change costumes, lack of adequate facilities, unavailability of the venue etc.
11. Design the Mandap so the rituals are visible to all.
Your guest will enjoy the ceremony if they can see all the rituals. We recommend an “open” Mandap on a stage.
12. Inform all guests that this will be a solemn occasion. Do respect the sanctity of this important Sanskar.
Traditional Indian weddings can be noisy with guests paying little attention to the rituals except at the Muhurtam. Ours is a solemn and religious ceremony. Do ask them to come on time. Do remind guests to turn off their cell phone. Do ask guests to remain quiet and respectful. Do ask guests with children to sit towards the back so that they do not disturb the proceedings.
13. Plan for the logistics review of the actual wedding steps.
Hindu weddings involve lots of specific steps and many people. A full review, preferably at the actual wedding location, a day before, with all the people listed in the ceremony, will make your actual marriage ceremony a great success. Make this request to your venue coordinator way ahead of time.
14. Bring all items per the lists provided by the Pandit.
Do understand the reason for each item requested and when it will be used in the ceremony. Assign a single coordinator and have all items at the mandap at least two hours before the ceremony.
15. Create a serene atmosphere for pooja and wedding ceremony.
Rituals are meaningful only if they are done with the belief in the Supreme Being and devotion to your deities. Prayers require a calm mind, serene atmosphere, clean set up and no disturbance or noise.
16. Work with the venue coordinator on Fire rules and regulations.
Homa is an integral part of authentic Hindu wedding. We light a small fire with appropriate precautions; nonetheless, get permission and see if they can turn off alarms for the ceremony duration (~1hr).
17. Use discrete photography and video recording.
Guests love to take pictures and videos during the ceremony. However, in their enthusiasm to get good pictures, they disturb the solemnity and flow of the various rituals. So, please tell them to take pictures discretely. The photographer and the cameraman should not interfere with the proceedings and by no means enter the Mandap for close-ups!
18. Understand the limitations of outdoor venues and plan accordingly.
Outdoor venues are romantic but may not be practical. There may be weather problems, limited facilities, unexpected interruptions and do not lend to a serene atmosphere for the wedding itself. There are many logistics issues as well. Do understand these exposures and have contingency plans.
19. Do hire a DJ who understands Hindu weddings.
DJ should work with the Pandit and the bride and the groom for appropriate music during various steps. He must give a clip on ( Lapel) wireless microphone to the Pandit; hand held or on the ear wireless microphones do not work as they interfere with many rituals that Pandit needs to do.
20. Two Different Religious Ceremonies : Please allocate sufficient time between two different religious ceremonies.
Light refreshments are fine in between the ceremonies but please do not serve liquor before the second wedding.
21. Do plan travel and accommodations for the Pandit well in advance. Communicate well!
Choose the Pandit right after you decide on the date and the marriage venue ! He/She will spend considerable amount in guiding you thru the process and may spend up to three days if the wedding is away from his/her home. So, make sure that his lodging, boarding arrangements are well planned.
22. Be considerate about your guests.
Yes, it is your wedding and the bride and groom should have maximum say in the planning. However, look at all your plans from the point of view of the guests. Do pay attention to their schedules and conveniences as well.
23. Have all guests attend the Ceremony!
It is very common among Indians to skip the ceremony due to one or other reason and attend only the reception!
The reason you invite guests is for them to bless the couple and witness the marriage ceremony.
1. Don’t think you have to spend a fortune on a wedding!
You can have a beautiful wedding in less than eight hours, with a nice Hindu ceremony followed by a reception in a nice community hall with your close family and friends. No need to stress out over extended and expensive weddings!
2. Don’t Procrastinate!
Putting things off until last minute will create a disorganized and chaotic wedding. Do not leave major items for the last week. Have a well defined schedule for each event to bring things together.
3. Don’t make last minute requests to the Pundit!
Many guests and family members will ask the Pandit to insert unplanned items during the ceremony ( e.g. singing songs, exchanging gifts, adding specific ritual etc). Bring your unique request no later than a day before the wedding at the logistics review to see if these can be accommodated.
4. Do not expect everything will go smoothly!
There will be some disappointments such as people may not RSVP on time and may not show up at the last minute. There may be last minute delays and expected help may not be delivered. Some programs may take unexpected turns even after thorough preparations! At the same time, these events will be compensated by many unexpected wonderful events – so, take things in stride and enjoy the function.
5. Do not underestimate actual logistics of the overall event!
There are several considerations of organizing a marriage that requires rational thinking of when, where, what and how to organize the event. Pay attention to space requirements, efficient people flow for reception or dinner, schedule and timings etc. Do not overcrowd!
6. Do not serve food during Grahashanti Pooja or the Wedding ceremony!
We love to treat our guests with all kinds of goodies when they come to our home and especially to attend the wedding festivities! However, please do not serve food during the pooja or the marriage ceremony out of respect to our deities and to preserve the sanctity of the ceremony. Yes, it is ok to serve snacks, water or soft drinks, tea/coffee before the pooja or before the ceremony but please make sure that they do not bring these items in the pooja or wedding hall. Further, please do not serve alcohol before the ceremony and any beef during the reception.
7. Do not arrange various functions at far away and / or multiple locations.
As stated earlier, ideally, if possible, arrange ALL the major functions, at the same Hotel where guests are staying! It will make all your logistics so much simpler! I have had many experiences where people have arrived late due to traffic issues, getting lost or other headaches just because of the far away locations within the same town. Further, do not underestimate how many times you will visit these venues ! Have them closer to your own home!
8. Avoid Outdoor or Public Venues !
Obviously, weather is the major issue; too cold, too windy, too hot, Sun directly into your eyes, rain etc. In addition, many outdoor venues do not have good facilities: toilets, electricity, stage, parking, rooms to change clothes, lack of last minute required items, etc. Also, some outdoor venues are public; so you may have uninvited guests watching the ceremony ! Public venues may be unavailable for rehearsal the ceremony until public times are over..such as after 5 pm!
9. Do not keep guests waiting at the ceremony or at the reception!
We have had many ceremonies and receptions delayed by considerable time because the bride was not ready - because of make up or hairdo! Please plan your time and do not keep hundreds of guests waiting!
If you have any further questions or comments, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.