7 Things Every Foreign Bride Must Know Before Her Indian Wedding

If you are a foreign bride preparing for your Indian wedding, this is a must read! Not only do I have my experience to draw from, I have spoken to so many other non-Indian women who have had Indian weddings and nine times out of ten, they mention these seven things.

So, I hear you ask, what do you need to know to prepare yourself for your big fat Indian wedding?

1. You Must Forget All Your Assumptions Based on Western Style Weddings…

I wish I had attended several Indian weddings before I plunged head first into my own. In hindsight, I thought it would be similar to a Western wedding, but with more rituals and colours. Every minute of a stereotypical Western wedding is meticulously planned by the bride. ever since she was about five years old. An Indian wedding is generally a combined effort, lasting several days and tends to keep to a vague schedule (so be prepared if you are a little pedantic).

Tip: Attend several Indian weddings before you have your own, so you have an idea of what to expect

2. You Must Wear As Much Jewellery As You Can…

It’s considered auspicious for a bride to wear as much jewellery as possible. I wish I knew how much people would judge the fact I didn’t wear much on our wedding day. Simply forget the Western fashion concept of ‘less is more’ when it comes to jewellery. For an Indian bride, more is considerably more. Whilst watching the guests critique my lack of excess, I felt extremely uncomfortable. My friend here in India was asked the weight of her bridal gold by several guests during her wedding.

Tip: You can get some really beautiful and convincing costume jewellery for a fraction of the price of gold, and no one has to know it’s costume

3. You Won’t Know Many of the Guests (And Your Husband-to-Be May Not Know Many of Them Either)…

My sister is currently planning her wedding in England and she is being brutal with the guest list. Only close family and friends are attending, about fifty people in all and this is the norm. Since living in India, I have attending many wedding of people I have never met, and probably will never meet again.

I was really shocked by the amount of guests we had at our wedding, and surprised how obligated my Indian family felt to invite every person they’ve ever met in their lives. This may make the fact that only some, if any, of your close friends and relatives will be able make it over to India, that little bit harder.

I later understood that Indian weddings generally have hundreds (sometimes thousands) of guests because a wedding is an event to show the entire community two people have started married life, and to receive as many blessings as possible (no, it’s not just about showing off!). If you have a lot of people coming to your wedding, your face will hurt from smiling at them all.

Tip: If you are uncomfortable with a lot of people attending your wedding, discuss this with your husband and his family beforehand.

4. Every Woman Who Attends Your Wedding Will Dress like a Bride…

There is a huge taboo in the West, you simply can’t wear white, or even a long gown, at someone else’s wedding. Furthermore, the bridesmaids make their best efforts not to outshine the bride. No one would dare to wear something similar to the bride.

At an Indian wedding. every lady dresses to impress! The bride may wear a bit more jewellery, but it’s an opportunity for everyone to celebrate. I spotted three women wearing very verrry similar purple paithani saree as me during my wedding day, for example.

Don’t worry, you soon get used to this, and start to enjoy it. I feel embarrassed to admit, I have since worn my bridal saree to one of my cousin-sister’s weddings! Eak!

Tip: Wear a bridal gown from your country at some point during the wedding (perhaps the reception) if wearing white has been something you have dreamt about. Everyone loves a fusion wedding!

5. You Will Need a Make-Up Artist Who Understands Your Ethnicity…

My sister did my make-up and it seems it may have been a wise move. I’ve heard from several foreign wives who married in India that they hated their bridal make-up. The simple truth is, not every style of make up is suitable for everyone. Some colours suit some complexions more than others, etc. If you want to hire a make up artist, make sure you have a trail run before the big day!

Tip: Alternatively, simply practice doing your make up yourself (there are thousands of amazing bridal make up tutorials one YouTube). No one knows your face like you, and practice makes perfect!

6. You Must Remember It’s Not Just About The Happy Couple…

It took me such a long time to get my head around this, but I now realise that an Indian wedding isn’t just about the union of two people, it’s the union of two families. Parents dream about their child’s wedding, just as little girls and their scrap books do. You should be involved in the preparations because your wedding should be a special day for you. But, remember to keep in mind that your in-laws may also have a strong vision about how they want it to be. If you want to avoid upset, you may have to compromise on a couple of things.

Tip: The only way to make sure that something is the way you want it is to arrange/pay for it yourself.

7. You May Not Understand Your Vows…

There are so many rituals involved in an Indian wedding, it’s heavy work binding two souls together for several lifetimes. The mantras and vows will be Sanskrit (if you are having an Hindu ceremony, that is) and several of my Hindu friends have admitted to me that even they don’t really understand it all. This may leave you feeling a bit odd during your marriage ceremony.

Tip: Try to find a priest who can speak English and translate some of the mantras and explain some of the rituals. It will bring more value to your ceremony.

And Finally…

Congratulations!

Indian weddings can be overwhelming because of their sheer size and complexity, but they are spectacular. Try to forget about things that don’t go to plan and concentrate on the fact that this is the first day of your married life together! And hey, if you don’t like your make up, dress, jewellery, or photographs; you can dress up again in all your splendor at the next wedding or festival you attend!

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24 thoughts on “7 Things Every Foreign Bride Must Know Before Her Indian Wedding

  1. REALLY wish I heard all of these tips prior to our wedding in August, but nonetheless, these are spectacular tips, Lauren, thanks for sharing!

    On the makeup artist issue, I am the whitest person I know and they really tried to make me get skin bleaching 🙄 They even ‘forgot’ and prepared the lotion anyway and were about to apply it before I asked what it was.. they certainly can be stuck in their ways with beauty rituals! Taking charge of the situation can really help ensure you get what you want as the bride, the artist even said she wanted to make sure I looked as Indian as possible and I said no, I want to look like myself, and constantly reminded her of what I wanted throughout. I ended up with being happy with my makeup but it did take patience!

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    • Thank you, Julie! I hope it can help another woman prepare in the future! It’s so hard to dissociate expectations based on our past experiences of weddings.

      Haha, well, my sister and I unknowingly got our calves bleached after a pedicure, we only realised AFTER when it cost double the amount we expected!
      Congrats on your marriage, I bet you looked gorgeous ❤ xx

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  2. It is a lovely post Lauren. Yes, Indian weddings are a bit hectic, and ladies just need a good reason to get dressed or overdressed. I have every intention to repeat my benarasi saree at any extravagant occasion 😀

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  3. The wedding preparations (or there lack of) really stressed me out before the wedding. I talked to many people but nobody could tell us EXACTLY what’s gonna happen. Now for a person with history of panic attacks it was not the best scenario. Also everything and everybody was late ALL THE TIME… Let alone I had no clue what we were supposed to be doing in the temple, my fiancé was following constant verbal directions from family members and the priest in Malayalam, and I was just trying to go with the flow… somehow we got married but I did not feel the elevated happiness and emotions that I was expecting cause I was very focused on survival. Big cultural shocker was the lack of first kiss, I knew it was not gonna happen yet I was not prepared for how much I would miss it. I want a rerun cause now I have better understanding how the wedding happens! 😂

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  4. Another important aspect of hindu marriages is the lengh of the ceremony. Among benglis, the groom and the bride are fed at 4.00 AM in the morning and the they have to keep fast or not eat grain till the time marriage ceremony is finished. My own marriage got over at 3.00 AM in the morning and I have not seen any bengali marriage getting over before that. Imagine the plight of the groom and the bride.

    I guess we need to short cut our rituals. We have already done for our funeral rituals and I don’t see why it cannot be done for the marriage to suit the modern times.

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  5. I’m getting married (small hindu wedding) in Feb and I’m going crazy over the planning here. Nothing is really going my way and I feel outshined by everyone. As you said; everyone is taking the opportunity to dress up but I thought that shopping for wedding sarees for me would be about…me. I was quite surprised when everyone was buying their sarees a the same time and it felt like they all stole my thunder.
    But hey, I’m getting the most warm and loving husband and a wedding that’s gonna be something totaly different. 😉

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    • The same happened for me too, Hanna, everyone chose their sarees at the same time.
      It’s really important to keep in mind this is totally different and what a lovely hubby your getting 🙂 xx

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  6. The dressing like the bride thing doesn’t really happen in Punjab. The brides usually wear very heavy lenghas that no one wants to wear again. I’ve yet to see anyone wear it again except on their first karva chauth. One less thing to worry about if you’re getting married in Punjab

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  7. For God’s sake don’t wear white at least not in Hindu ceremonies. White is considered as devoid of emotions, passion and life. It is traditionally worn by Widows. You can wear it if you have a western oriented reception or wedding.

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  8. Wedding ceremonies differ dramatically based on your caste, gotra, and the veda followed (rigveda, samveda or yajurveda). for example most north Indian weddings will culminate late night (2am, 3am 4am types), most of the guests would have gone home. Typically South Indian weddings required the sun to be shinning in the sky (usually mornings around 10 and no guests would have gone back). Regarding rituals, even your husband would not understand the significance of each ritual. Internet resources can help you there but it will test your patience. Just go thru the motions.
    Understand the main rituals like – Kanyadaan (equivalent to giving your daughter away in western weddings), tying the sacred thread and the meaning behind the saptapadi (seven rounds around the sacrificial fire). It may amaze you at what you are pledging to do!

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  9. My Indian parents, who have been in the US for 35 years now, still don’t fully understand how Western weddings are about the couple and not the families! It baffles them. My parents also laugh when someone says they had a “huge” wedding of 200 people. 🙂

    I think wedding ceremonies in general are lovely – it’s so interesting to see how different cultures (even within India) do things a little differently. In Gujarati weddings we steal the groom’s shoes and hold them for ransom. I’ve made quite a bit of cash off my male cousins that way!

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  10. Thanks for these tips Lauren, I’m getting married in Kerala in a few months so there are great to read before hand to help me prepare!!

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  11. Thanks for these tips Lauren. I’m getting married in less than 2 months in Kerala so some great advice for me to thin about before hand!!

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    • Jo Hannah
      Congrats and all the best. Be ready to be overwhelmed and understand nothing of the ceremony. Just go with the flow.

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  12. We had a pandit called Mr. SIingh! My FIL got a priest from an organisation which ordains candidates for the Hindu priesthood based on their study of Hindu scriptures, not their caste. The actual ceremony was technically perfect. I couldn’t understand a word of it, though. We also had a ‘court marriage’ and a Christian ceremony.

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