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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Our Secret Marriage in a Temple

I remember so vividly sitting on the London underground on the first night I met my husband. I looked at him and thought ‘this is my husband’. Somehow, I already felt like his wife even though only a couple of hours had passed since we … Continue reading

Not Pregnant after 1 Year of Marriage?

In my experience, once you have celebrated your first marriage anniversary, people start demanding to know when you are having a baby. It must be quite common because it’s not only me who has been constantly questioned and told that they should be pregnant by now. I am certain that couples are quizzed about their plans for a family all over the world, but it was such a huge surprise to me that as soon as our first anniversary rolled past us, it was like a switch went off, people started to asking me when my baby is coming, constantly.

I have been told it is one of the many traditions of India, after one year of marriage you should conceive.

One family friend told me that everyone is asking us because they are all “too excited” to see a “foreigner baby”. I am not exaggerating, shopkeepers and people I have never met before start swinging their arms in a cradle like motion with huge grins on their faces. I just reply with a smile.

Of course, I also have an online presence so I am getting even bolder inquires online. I’ve had a man wanting to know whether or not my husband and I are using “family planning methodology” because we don’t have any children yet. Even last week, another man commented on a post where I was discussing speaking Marathi with simply, “Why no babies yet? Is everything ok?”. How intrusive and insensitive is that?

There has been daily questions and even some tears from the eldest members of my Indian family, desperately hoping for a new family member next festival season. I know it’s not only India where the conception pressure dwells, my Grandmother in England has also been expressing her fears of passing before seeing a great-grandchild in her arms.

Don’t panic everyone, we do want babies, but it’s a personal matter.

I find the constant questions quite frustrating but I cannot imagine how this pressure feels for the couples who are not ready to be parents or simply do not have the desire to have children. Couples not only have to deal with their own distress and grief, but the pressure and demands from family and the society at large. 

People the world over feel it’s okay to ask a couple when they are planning to start a family, but we must remember that having a baby is not a topic everyone wants to discuss openly and people have the right to privacy. We just don’t know who has been struggling to conceive, just been given a devastating diagnosis or recently experienced a heartbreaking loss. I am certain the last thing these couples need are people nagging them to start their family, even when they mean well and are just excited, deciding to have children should be a personal and private decision between two people.

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My Unusual Necklace, My Mangalsutra

During my visit to England, several people admired my very “unusual necklace”. This unusual necklace, which I guess does look pretty unusual compared to jewellery from the West, is my mangalsutra. For those who are not familiar, a mangalsutra is one of the many symbols of marriage a Hindu woman might wear.  

The style of mangalsutra varies across India and mine is in the style usually (definitely not unusual around these parts) seen on a Maharashtrian woman…Marathi Mangalsutra Mehendi Henna Palm

The word mangalsutra is a combination of two Sanskrit words, mangal meaning ‘auspicious’ and sutra meaning ‘thread’. During the marriage ceremony the husband puts this auspicious thread around his bride’s neck, and traditionally she will wear this sacred necklace for the rest of his life. The black beads are thought to protect the couple from the evil eye, and sadly if a woman becomes a widow she will be expected to either removes her mangalsutra completely or remove these black beads so she can continue to wear it.

mangalsutra

It felt a little strange in England, I was married but wasn’t wearing a wedding ring, maybe I will get one someday, but my “unusual necklace” started conversations (but not as many as my sindoor did) so people soon knew it was an Indian marriage symbol.  At first I was a little unsure about how it looked myself and when British people describe something as unusual, they are most likely not totally sure if they like it or not (I am extremely sorry if I have ever described someone’s taste as unusual, that could be awkward).

That is my unusual necklace, which I now, after becoming very fond of it, like to call my beautiful mangalsutra

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Times are changing, not all married women are wearing their mangalsutra for various practical and personal reasons. Do you have a mangalsutra? Do you think it’s unusual or beautiful?  Do you enjoy wearing it?

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