As the world becomes more multicultural, people get the opportunity to explore wedding traditions they may not have encountered before. While most weddings in the United States are based on European and Christian traditions, most Indian weddings follow Hindu practices. The vast differences between Indian and American culture make wedding traditions extremely dissimilar. The ceremony length, number of guests, and wedding rituals all are drastic differences between Indian and American weddings. However, both Indian and American weddings focus on uniting two families and hoping for a wonderful life for the newly married couple.
Indian vs. American Wedding
Indian vs. American Wedding: Guest List
The amount of people attending the wedding is the most noticeable difference between an Indian and an American wedding. In India, a wedding is a chance to show off the wealth and hospitality of the bride’s family. The father of the bride will often invite as many people as he possibly can afford. Americans usually only reserve wedding invitations for close family and friends, while Indians usually invite anyone who is remotely related to them. While many American weddings are small events with around 75 guests, Indian weddings usually have at least 200 and can have up to 1,000 guests attending. The large amount of guests at an Indian wedding means that they are more likely to be held in vast banquet halls instead of small churches.
Indian vs. American Wedding: Duration
The typical Hindu wedding can last about a week, since there are so many different events that different guests attend. There can be many different pre-wedding dinners and receptions, such as Sangeet, where family members get together to meet and socialize with each other, and the Mehndi party, where the bride is decorated with henna. Some of the wedding events are more religious, while others are more social. Since the same sets of guests are not invited to all events, Indian wedding invitations will clearly state which events a particular guest is invited to. The actual wedding lasts all day, and it can include processions leading from the bride’s home to the wedding location and lengthy receptions. In contrast, even the lengthiest of American weddings only last a day. An American wedding ceremony can be as short as 15 minutes, while most wedding receptions are four to seven hours long.
Indian vs. American Wedding: Rituals
Most American weddings are based on the Christian traditions. The actual wedding is officiated by a pastor, priest, or government official who leads the couple through a set of vows, during which the couple promise to love and support each other and exchange wedding rings. After the wedding ceremony, American couples go directly to a reception, where other wedding traditions such as cutting cake together and signing a marriage certificate occur. A typical Hindu wedding includes elaborate rituals for welcoming the groom, praying to Ganesha, and committing to each other. The Saptapadi is the most important of the Hindu rituals; the couple walks in seven circles around the Holy Fire while saying a vow after each circuit. Afterwards, the groom ties a necklace around the bride’s neck and puts red powder on her forehead to symbolize their marriage.
Indian vs. American Wedding: Clothing
In the United States, it is traditional for the bride to wear a white dress and the groom to wear a tuxedo or suit. Traditional clothing for a bride in India is a red sari in a luxurious fabric such as silk, because the color red is supposed to signify beauty and fertility. Bridal saris are usually covered in elaborate embroidery and beading, and they can cost just as much as American wedding dresses. The actual wedding is usually the only time in which the bride must wear red. The groom usually traditional formal Indian clothing, such as a sherwani, that is embroidered and decorated. The bride, groom, and the rest of their guests all wear elaborate gold jewelry throughout the wedding events, and beautiful mehndi designs are painted on the bride. Since Indian weddings last several days, everyone changes their clothes between each event. At Indian weddings, guests wear bright colors and formal saris or European clothes in order to celebrate the auspicious occasion.
Indian vs. American Wedding: Romance
Unlike United States, the most common form of wedding in India is still an arranged marriage. This does not mean that an unhappy bride and groom are forced to marry each other in order to improve their families’ social or business standing. Instead, parents are trusted to find a suitable partner that their child will like, and they often have several meetings before the wedding to see if they like each other. Since many brides and grooms may not know each other that well before the wedding, Indian weddings often include fun little games for the bride and groom to play, so that they can learn more about each other. For example, a common ritual includes the newlyweds sitting back to back while answering yes or no to questions. This allows them to get to know each other in a lighthearted and pressure-free situation. As love marriages become more common, these games still occur because it is now a fun tradition.
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