Welcome to the Hindu Wedding Information website!
It is very likely that you, your son or daughter or a friend is getting married soon ! This is one of the happiest occasions for all ! I have prepared this website for information about the various rituals associated with an Indian wedding, especially in the USA, to make all functions happy, stress free and enjoyable for all! If you need more information, please contact me by email: email@example.com
I have been doing Indian marriage ceremonies over 20 years in the United States. I am an engineer and a project manager by profession but became a Hindu Pandit out of necessity. As a Brahmin, I had some training doing poojas and learnt Sanskrit in high school. This "qualified" me as somebody who can do the Hindu rituals in our small town in Vermont. When my friend’s daughter insisted that I do her marriage ceremony, I had to learn all the details about the Vedic ceremony and the meanings of the various rituals. Since she was marrying an American, I had to interpret them so that I could explain them to an American audience. That was back in 1996. And ever since, I have been doing the Hindu weddings strictly based on word of mouth from the people who appreciated my style of doing the ceremony.
Starting in the nineteen sixties, thousands of Indian families have settled in various parts of the USA. The second-generation young people, born and raised in America, are getting married in increasing numbers. They have strong ties with the Hindu Culture and the Hindu way of life, either through bring up at home, or with their participation in local cultural activities, or through their friends and yes, even through Bollywood movies. Many of them have chosen their soul mates, not only outside their own caste, state, religion and language but also from USA, England, Germany, Mexico and many other countries. All of them feel that they should avail themselves of the rich and noble heritage of Hindu way of marriage ceremony. I have put together this website to introduce them to the basics of the Hindu marriage ceremony and associated logistics.
In general, the Indians and Americans have different outlooks towards the weddings.To the Americans, the wedding ceremony is a formal, religious and a dignified event, typically conducted in a church with a prior rehearsal and in a timely fashion. In India, it is much less formal, more of a social ceremony, typically conducted in a marriage hall. A typical American wedding will have a family rehearsal dinner a day before and the wedding and formal reception the following day, for relatively small guest list. An Indian celebration is at least three days long with a mehendi / pooja day, a sangeet night and the wedding/reception day, each attended by large number of guests ! The Christian marriage ceremony is short, about 20-30 minutes, and is almost exclusively focused on the bride and the groom. A Hindu ceremony can be 3-4 hours long, full of rituals, with many members of the families on each side involved in the ceremony. An American wedding is timely, there is a pin drop silence thru out the ceremony, is well structured and well understood. The Indian ceremony may appear unstructured and chaotic, with few people understanding the actual rituals and their meaning and significance! Since guests are not involved in the Hindu ceremony (other than at the specified Muhurta), it is not unusual to see people talking, eating and kids running around during the ceremony! Some people may show up only for the reception, mainly for food and socialization and not attend the ceremony at all, either because it is boring or too long or they have attended too many!
The second generation Indian brides and grooms want a traditional Hindu ceremony but with formality and structure suited to the American Culture. Our older, first wave generation, parents want to bring their old Indian traditions to the wedding! Even when both parties are Indian, they have different customs and different rituals! These different attitudes plus other practical considerations can create significant challenges. Although the basic Hindu marriage ceremony is same across the breadth and width of India, the details can be different because of specific regional, local and even family traditions, within different parts of India. Many marriages in the USA are between an Indian and a non Indian; which adds one more dimension to the wedding!
Hence, we need to blend the best of eastern traditions and western logistics in such a way that the overall ceremony is custom tailored and meaningful, not only to the bride and the groom but to the families on both sides and the invited guests. I meet all of them way ahead of planned ceremony date and do a logistics review of the actual program a day before the ceremony. It is amazing how many things can go wrong or misunderstood if we do not do this!
All these considerations place a significant responsibility on the Pandit who officiates the ceremony in the USA. The social, religious and legal aspects of the marriage are different in the USA than those observed in India. The Pandit needs to be cognizant of these differences and tailor the celebrations accordingly. He or she needs to have good understanding of Hinduism, sufficient knowledge of Sanskrit and English, thorough understanding of the logic and meaning of all key marriage steps, an ability to engage the audience and be the master of ceremony !
After conducting more than 150 marriage ceremonies, I still learn and experiment with various techniques to bring the best of both cultures in marriage ceremonies, here in the United States. First, I conduct the ceremony as a logical progression from one ritual to other with full explanation in English. Secondly, it is conducted in a formal atmosphere in front of all the invited guests and with their participation as witnesses. Thirdly, I do a full logistics rehearsal with all involved participants a day before, which results in a timely, seamless, relatively short and meaningful ceremony. And finally, I use Sanskrit verses sufficiently but sparingly and use light comments to get some of the key points across to the marrying couple and the invited guests. This approach seems to result in a formal, dignified, serene, meaningful but very enjoyable Hindu marriage ceremony for all.
I consider officiating the Hindu wedding as a civic service to our community which is very rewarding and fulfilling for me. I learn about our own culture in different light every time I do a wedding, with such a vast variety of customs in different parts of India. And finally, after the marriage ceremony is over, we all have good time at the reception, with the parents and the newly married couple finally fully relaxedand are ready for an evening of nice entertainment and a tasty dinner. All the preparations seem to be so worth it!
This website is based on my personal experiences and views. It includes basic information regarding the engagement, grahashanti, wedding ceremony, post wedding rituals, do' and don'ts and FAQs.I have added a separate chapter on the basics of Hinduism which should help all understand the Hindu Way of life. Further, for interfaith marriages, interfaithShaadi.org is a good source of your concerns and issues. I hope this website will help the prospective brides, grooms and their parents on the essential planning and execution of various rituals associated with the Hindu Wedding. I am located in Austin,TX. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions you may have.