The thin line between private and public can be almost invisible in India as compared to other places in the world. In Europe, for instance, you may witness a newlywed couple come out of the church, but don’t expect to be invited for the reception that follows. In India, on the contrary, the foreign traveller that you are will be immediately escorted to the ‘marriage hall’ to take part in the festivities. Besides the number of guests that honour the ceremony, which often exceeds a thousand, a couple of extra plates are easily provided. To be precise, in Tamil Nadu, you will be served several spicy dishes on banana leaves You would be encouraged to eat with your right hand after you have properly washed them. Make sure you fold the banana leaf towards the end of your meal or it would signify your dislike for the food.
Though very handsomely dressed, wearing the most exquisite silks and the most precious jewels, the married couple, you might find, looks a bit grave. A stern expression is impressed on the couple's faces. In India, marriage is a very serious occasion, often decided by the elders and by the planets, where romance has only a small place. Everyone knows that it will take a lot of effort and a lot of luck to make this life-lasting relationship a happy one. Everyone is there to shower the young couple with their blessings, and so are you, who feels thrilled to be taking part in such a huge, colourful wedding.
You keep thinking you should have dressed slightly better today, even though nobody seems to mind.
At some Indian weddings, guests are served in two separate sections depending on their gender. This row of women is witnessing rituals that the bride performs before she marries the groom.
Indian weddings are a community affair, filled with many small activities that all the guests participate in. The community rituals help break the ice between the family members.
Wedding rituals differ from region to region, community to community and even family to family. Some are performed by the bride and groom individually and some as a couple.
Song and dance accompany most Indian weddings.
Oil lamps are lit during various wedding rituals.
A priest presides over most wedding ceremonies.