Brides from South India, living in the United States, may be quite confused on how to go about integrating South Indian wedding decorations into their wedding theme. Often far away from family and friends who could help them, they struggle with ways to decorate their wedding, giving it that authentic South Indian feel that relatives will expect when traveling thousands of miles to attend the wedding.
After you've discussed the many types of wedding to have, consider this is a checklist of ways you can decorate when your wedding to give it that home feel:
Build Excitement with a Palanquin
In a great many South Indian weddings, the bride enters the venue on a palanquin, a hand-carried vehicle, covered in Jasmine. A jasmine-scented palanquin carried by brothers and uncles of the family is sure to delight every one of traditional Indian heritage, and it showcases the bride as few wedding decorations can.
While it is tempting to Americanize things and decorate with a few orchids or other flowers, Indian weddings are lavish experiences but at the same time, often have that rustic, down-home feel to them. Consider earthy tones, contrasting with bright flowers and scents such as jasmine.
Decorate with Flower Rangolis
A rangoli is a traditional art form of decoration, most often resembling a mandala. While rangolis are sometimes made of colored sand or flour, a rangolis made of flowers is called a pookalam.
Rangolis have a spiritual significance, and it is said the bright colors draw the favor of the deities on special occasions. Rangolis are also said to manifest an atmosphere of calmness among the guests at a ceremony. You may need to look around to find a specialists or decorators to create your flower rangolis, but it's well worth the effort.
Have a Spectacular Mandap
For those, not in the know, wedding mandaps are what serve as the altar for the ceremony. Mandaps have a spiritual significance to Indians, as it is believed that most major events such as a wedding should take place within the four walls of the home. Wedding mandaps replaces the home and serves as the center place for the ceremony.
It must be large enough to accommodate the bride and the groom and have enough seating and space to accommodate important members of the family and the wedding party. Although wedding madaps are often made of a variety of materials, for your wedding stage decoration think about using jasmine flowers and marigolds to maintain that rustic, traditional feel.
Don't Forget the Saris
South Asian weddings would not be complete without saris. Chances are, most of the female wedding guests will be wearing them, and the bride's sari should be as elegant as possible. And even if you need to borrow ornaments from your family, consider decorating the bride in gold around her, wrists, ankles, neck and hair.
Incorporate a Golden Statue
A gold statue of a Hindu deity, general Lord Ganesha, is considered standard Indian wedding decorations. Lord Ganesha's blessings are considered to fall on the couple, particularly if they decorate the statue with flowers and garlands.
Be Prepared for Pre-Ceremony Events
Indian weddings often have pre-ceremony events, such as the Tarik ceremony where the groom officially makes open his intention to marry the bride, and Barni Bandwbana, where there is an auspicious tying of a Mauli around the brides and grooms wrist while prayers are held.
In India, wedding ceremonies often last three days. Nobody expects to take three days to get married in America, but both bride, groom and family members in attendance should come prepared for an ordinately long reception. Be prepared to meet every single family member and their distant cousins at the wedding reception.
No Indian wedding event would be complete without the warm flavor of Indian food wafting through the air. Try to serve light, but traditional Southeastern Food, if you want your wedding to be a big hit. And don't forget Indian sweets for desserts!
Try and make every effort to go large within a limited scale because Indian weddings that take place in America tend to be shortened versions of the real thing in India. You want to try and incorporate some of the grandeur of a traditional Indian wedding especially in the wedding stage decoration.
You won't, for example, have a huge procession of the brides family carrying the bride, and there won't be a horseback entrance by the groom and his mates, but you can splurge a few dollars by making the palanquin, using wedding mandates and the meal particularly inviting. Focus on Indian decor to make your wedding special. You can even ask some of your family memories to act as decorators.
Don't forget the Indian music! You can make your Indian themed music by hiring traditional Indian musicians to play before and after the ceremony. In larger cities, it's very often possible to find the same type of musicians as found in India, but even if you have to hire a dj, there will be some that can feature traditional and Indian pop music. Add music and you enhance your wedding manyfold.
Hire an Astrologer to Set the Date
Unlike in America, where just about any date that strikes a couples fancy will do, traditional Indian weddings are usually predicted using the services of an astrologer. When the brides and groom have indicated they are ready to get married, chances are one or both of the families will consult with an astrologer to pick the best date for the wedding. If not, find a consulting astrologer locally.
Keep in mind though, that many members of the family may be traveling thousands of miles from India to attend, so do your best to give them plenty of time to make arrangements. Consider flying in one or two guests early. It may be the bride and grooms wedding, but it's the families showcase, so consider flying in your mother and maybe another trusted family member early to ensure that everything goes smoothly.
Consider hiring an Indian wedding planner, or consulting decorators, when beginning to plan your event. In larger cities such as San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles to name a few, there are bridal specialists who consult and help you plan a complete Indian wedding. If you can find one, they are often worth their weight in gold, as they know every possible resource you could imagine, from catering, all the way to palanquin, wedding stage decoration, mandap design, and any wedding favors. Often they can save you money as well, as they can steer you into finding the right supplier for the job.
What do you think?
Was our list complete? Did we miss any essentials, or do you have any ideas on how to improve a traditional Indian wedding in America? We'd love to have your feedback and input. What other South Asian Weddings tradition should we cover? Leave a comment below!
Kara has been with Wedding Favors Unlimited for 2 years. She’s been giving wedding and style advice for the past 5 years from bridal magazines to bridal boutiques. Feel free to ask Kara a question below!