When it comes to weddings, the East and the West both have very different customs and ceremonies, and as the world becomes a more multicultural place people are having more opportunities to explore traditions they may not have come across before.
There are a few different aspects that contribute to the differences between Indian and Western wedding ceremonies, such as religious views, values, behavioural standards, and thought patterns. In this article we wanted to explore these differences further, to discover what really makes both Indian and Western wedding ceremonies special.
One of the biggest differences between a Western wedding and an Indian wedding is the number of people who attend each ceremony. In the UK or America, typically the guest list will be kept somewhat intimate, with only close friends and family attending to keep costs manageable and it isn’t even uncommon for relatives to not be invited if they haven’t been close in recent years. However, in India, the bride’s family will want to take the opportunity to show off their wealth and hospitality, and will typically invite as many people as possible.
Indian weddings usually have between 200 to 1000 guests in attendance, whereas a Western wedding will generally be much smaller, and it isn’t at all uncommon to only invite around 50-75 guests, up to a few hundred.
Duration and rituals
A Western wedding takes place over one day, and the ceremony itself can be as short as 15 minutes long. The wedding reception is usually the biggest part of the day, with most being around four to seven hours long, and some guests only attending the reception and not the ceremony itself.
In contrast, the typical Hindu wedding can last for around a week, with a number of different events that different guests will attend. There are a few different pre-wedding dinners and get-togethers, such as Sangeet which is an event where family members get together to socialise, and of course the Mehndi party, in which the bride gets decorated with henna for her special day.
Some of the wedding events are more religious and some are more social, and not all guests will be invited to all of the events. The day of the wedding lasts all day long and includes lengthy receptions and even processions from the bride’s home to the wedding venue.
A Hindu wedding also involves a great deal more rituals, such as welcoming the groom, praying to Ganesha, and the most important of all, the Saptapadi, in which the couple walks in seven circles around the Holy Fire and says a vow after each circle. The groom then ties a necklace around the bride’s neck and applies red powder to her forehead, which symbolises their marriage. You can read more about Hindu wedding traditions in this article from the Knot.
In the west, the weddings are based on Christian traditions and the marriage is officiated by a priest or government official. The ceremony involves vows and the exchanging of rings, and at the reception the couple will traditionally cut the cake together.
We spoke to Sonas Couture who specialise in Indian and Asian bridal wear, who told us “in the western world, it is typically tradition for the bride to wear a white dress which symbolises purity, and the groom will wear a suit or a tux.
For an Indian wedding, the bride will traditionally wear a red sari, which signifies beauty and fertility. The sari will be made from a luxurious fabric such as silk and covered in embroidery and beading to make them even more beautiful.
The bride only needs to wear red during the wedding itself, but there will be many wedding events, and the bride, groom, and guests will change their clothes between events as they take place over several days. The groom will wear traditional Indian formal wear, such as a sherwani which will also be decorated and embroidered. The bride and groom will also both wear elaborate jewellery, as will their guests.”