By Preeti Moberg, The Big Fat Indian Wedding
Indian weddings are quite a unique experience – never before have you seen such a wide array of colors, food, and music blended together in a large, family celebration. It’s amazing how elegance and class shines through all the chaos of extended family, religious rituals, and sugary sweets.
You’ll be able to tell immediately upon entering an Indian wedding that it is a carefully planned and organized affair that requires you to engage properly to ensure you’re involved in the massive celebration. If you’ve never attended an Indian wedding ceremony before – get excited! It’ll be some of most enthusiastic, colorful, and extravagant days you’ll ever experience.
Here are some useful guidelines on how to be a good wedding guest at an Indian ceremony:
1) Pace Yourself: An Indian wedding lasts at least a few days, and it can go on for up to a week! From the mehndi to the sangeet and finally, the reception, there are a lot of rituals and activity taking place. A good guest will expect this, and try and get enough rest and energy to be engaged and enthusiastic throughout each of the events.
2) Dress Appropriately: Indian wedding guests will be dressed in literally every combination of every shade of the rainbow in existence – the result is a gorgeous fusion of bright and bold colors in all sorts of designs! Have fun with your outfit – if you’re going for an Indian outfit, choose fun colors. If you’re going with a Western design, feel free to be more colorful – but avoid whites and the blacks. White symbolizes mourning for Indian people, and black is traditionally considered to be bad luck.
Most of all, be dressed as if you were going to church or meeting your own family members. Avoid revealing too much cleavage or leg (if you’re a woman) – Indians are a conservative folk, and they prefer to express their personalities with vivid colors instead of tiny outfits.
3) Be Social: You might not know all the extended family that shows up as guests of the bride and groom, but socialize with them anyway! Indian weddings are huge family get-togethers, and everybody enjoys meeting new people and chatting about their lives. Get involved, ask about where everyone came from (people travel near and far to get to an Indian family event), and converse with the guests around you. You never know what interesting stories you may hear!
4) Enjoy the Food: Food is a very valued and personal aspect of an Indian lifestyle, and this is especially true with a wedding. The bride and groom, along with their respective family members, have carefully considered each dish and ingredient that is served to the guests. So enjoy it!
Try new foods (especially if it’s an Indian menu that you may not have eaten before) and compliment the hosts (usually the bride’s family) on their excellent culinary choices. You’ll definitely enjoy the creamy mithai served on the dessert table, and it’s easy to bond with fellow guests or the hosts over how delicious the food is.
5) Respect Your Elders: Indians are very close to their families, even if they don’t really get along. If you’re chatting with an older wedding guest, treat them as you would your parents or your own older relatives. Avoid referring to them by their first names (Aunty and Uncle are the generic Indian terms, but “Mr.” and “Mrs.” would work just fine). If you see an elder in need of assistance for seating or getting something from the buffet table, immediately offer to help – they’ll love you for your good manners.
6) Learn Your Customs: If you’re new to the Indian wedding scene, you might be astonished at how many rituals and customs there are. Each individual ceremony, such as the mehndi or the recitation of vows, has a deeper, religious meaning behind it. If you aren’t familiar with these customs, feel free to ask! Indian weddings require a lot of guest involvement – from chanting certain well wishes to covering the bride in turmeric paste at her haldi. It’s helpful to both you and the bride and groom if you’re open-minded and willing to learn the meanings behind each custom.
7) Get Involved: The most important part of attending an Indian wedding is getting actively involved in the ceremony. This means socializing with the extended family of the bride and groom, participating in the fun rituals, and getting on the dance floor and dancing your heart out during the reception. A good wedding guest, after all, is one who is truly enjoying him/herself!
An Indian wedding is a rare and exciting experience that is best enjoyed with an open mind and a willingness to engage in every part of the ceremony. If you’re equipped with this good attitude and keep your manners and demeanor in mind, you’re sure to make the most of a fabulously fun, big fat Indian wedding!
Preeti Moberg is the founder of The Big Fat Indian Wedding, a South Asian wedding inspiration blogazine. From inspiring brides with her famous Color Palette Monday to covering Indian Fashion Shows, Preeti loves bringing the modern South Asian bride everything she needs to plan a wedding to her fingertips.