48 The pandit, bride, groom, and bride’s parents are seated under the mandap with a ceremonial fire pit placed in the center. Fire is an important aspect in the Indian wedding because Agni – the god of fire – is said to give life. By lighting a fire, you are asking Agni to provide your marriage with a long life. The bride and groom then proceed with the Mangalphera, which is a cer- emonious walk around the fire. They must circle the fire pit four times, each representing a major goal in their marriage – dharma (morality), artha (prosperity), kama (personal grati- fication), and moksha (spirituality). They may be joined together by string or tied scarves as they walk, though this custom is optional. The pandit chants verses as they proceed that of- ficially ties them together in the eyes of the gods. After their fourth cycle, they are officially married and must race to their seats. It’s said that who- ever sits first is the most dominant in the marriage! Next, the groom places red kumkum powder on the bride’s forehead and adorns her with a man- galsutra. The mangalsutra was tradi- tionally a black string with two gold pendants that was tied in three knots to symbolize the bonding of souls for 100 years. Nowadays, it’s more often a necklace made of black and gold beads that shows that this woman is now married. If the couple decides that they want to incorporate western traditions, this is where they would ex- change wedding bands. Reception After their marriage is declared offi- cial, it’s time to celebrate! The guests and families of the bride and groom move on to the reception, where they dance the bhangra – a traditional folk dance. Other aspects of the reception are very similar to western wedding receptions with videographers, DJs, a seated dinner, desserts, and dancing. After the Wedding The following day, both sides of the families meet for Bou Bhat. It is at this lunch that the groom’s family official- ly invites and accepts the bride into their family. The groom then pledges himself to his bride, and promises to support her and provide her with food and clothing. To prove this, he pre- sents her with a new sari and a meal. Finally, a few days or weeks after the wedding, more extended family – like aunts and uncles – give their bless- ing over the marriage with the Aas- hirwad. The bride’s family will go to the groom’s house, present them with gifts, and give their blessings. Then the groom’s family will, in turn, do the same for the bride’s family. An Indian wedding ceremony may seem complex and a bit overwhelming if you’re not familiar with the customs and timeline. However, it’s all focused on love and the tying together of two families. Many customs have been adapted to resemble or incorporate western traditions, but following tra- dition is an important aspect to hav- ing a meaningful and symbolic Indian wedding. ❤ 1. Artistic Photography, Inc. 2. LMAC Photography 3-6. Orchard Photography 7. Artistic Photogra- phy, Inc. 8. LMAC Photography 9. Artistic Photog- raphy, Inc. 10-11. LMAC Photography 12. Orchard Photography 8 9 10 11 12 Indian brides typically have two wedding lehengas! After the ceremony, she will change into another sari for the reception festivities. 48 | T READ MORE AT TODAYSBRIDE.COM