What to Expect at an Indian Wedding

While no two Indian weddings are alike — there are more than 30 distinct cultures within the South Asian region — Indian weddings are vibrant, colorful celebrations rich in tradition. If you’re planning an Indian wedding or attending one for the first time, here are a few things you can expect.

A long celebration

An Indian bride wearing a heavily beaded red lehenga choli stands and a groom wearing an ivory anarkali sherwani with red embroidery stand in front of an elegant ivy covered building
Phot Courtesy of Arising Images

Indian weddings generally take place over three days but can last up to a full week. There are multiple pre-wedding rituals leading up to the marriage ceremony and reception, which are held on the last day. These more intimate events, often attended only by close friends and family members, include the tilak ceremony, the haldi (or pithi) ceremony, the mehndi party, and the sangeet.

Tip: When planning an Indian wedding, make sure your invitations are clear on which events each guest is invited to attend. Some guests are invited to every event while others may only be invited to the marriage ceremony and reception.


Bold, bright colors

An Indian groom in an ivory embroidered anarkali sherwani gazes down at a blond bride in a bright pink floral embroidered lahenga choli on the steps of an elegant building
Photo Courtesy of Rosy and Shaun Photography

From the clothing to the décor, expect to see a rainbow of vibrant colors at an Indian wedding. Red is often the most prominent shade because it’s considered auspicious, but orange, pink, and yellow are also common.

Tip: Guests should avoid wearing black and white looks. Black is considered bad luck and white is a mourning color, so best to avoid them and wear something bright instead. If you want your guests to wear traditional Indian attire and they don’t have their own, they can rent outfits through companies such as Saris and Things.


A huge guest list

An overhead view of an Indian wedding in an atrium garden with a couple under a mandap on a stage draped in yellow fabric and rows of brightly dressed wedding guests sitting in white chairs
Photo Courtesy of ME+HIM Photography

Indian weddings typically include lots of people — it’s not uncommon for 400 or more people to be invited. To accommodate those large numbers, Indian weddings are often held in large ballrooms or outdoors.

Tip: Despite the large guest counts, if you’re invited to an Indian wedding, it’s important to read the invitation carefully to see if you are invited alone or with a plus-one.


Money is the best gift

An indian bride and groom sit under a mandap framed by lush white floral arrangements
Photo Courtesy of Meadow Brook Hall

It’s common for many couples to request no boxed gifts at their reception — which makes sense when you consider the typical guest count. Instead, it’s traditional to give the couple money, which is considered the most thoughtful gift because it helps them start their new life together.

Tip: Always give money in an amount that ends in one. This is considered a blessing that will bring the couple prosperity and good fortune.


Meaningful ceremonies and traditions

An Indian bride in a red lehenga choli with gold embroidery places a floral wreath around the neck of a groom wearing a red, orange and ivory turban and ivory anarkali sherwani
Photo Courtesy of Lotus Eyes Photography

A typical Indian marriage ceremony contains many elements. The groom makes a grand entrance, known as the baraat, often riding in a fancy car or astride a horse or elephant. He then joins the bride’s family for the milni ceremony, where gifts, candy, and flower garlands may be exchanged. The bride makes her entrance, called the kanya aagaman, during which she is often escorted by her uncle or oldest male relative before being given away during the kanya daan. One of the most important parts of the marriage ceremony is the saptapadi, or the seven steps. The couple walks seven full circles clockwise around a fire pit to represent the seven sacred vows and promises that they are making to one another.

Tip: To help guests who aren’t familiar with Indian wedding traditions understand what is taking place under the mandap, work with your stationery vendor to create a gorgeous, informative ceremony program. For help choosing a stationery vendor, click here.


If you’re planning an Indian wedding, we want to hear all about it! Post your photos on Instagram and tag us!



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