Steeped in unique cultural traditions, Hindu weddings provide a one-of-a-kind experience for both guests and photographers. While western weddings typically run their course in a single day, Hindu weddings usually unfold over several days and include many significant events designed to celebrate the union of the bride and groom, as well as Hindu culture. At the center of it all, we find the wedding ceremony. Hindu wedding ceremonies feature several cultural and religious elements, including everything from the site itself to the activities performed during the ceremony. Interestingly, no two ceremonies are identical. As such, photographers must familiarize themselves with a number Hindu wedding ceremony traditions in order to anticipate important moments and capture them as they occur. To assist you on your journey in this regard, we’ve put together this Indian wedding photography guide, designed specifically to cover Hindu wedding ceremonies.
Indian Wedding Photography Guide for Hindu Wedding Ceremony
- Standard Processional & Ganesha Pooja
- Kanya Aagaman
- Vivaah Homa
- Laaja Homam
- Mangal Fera
- Ring Exchange
For those who practice the art of Indian wedding photography, it’s worth noting that various aspects of Hindu traditions have blended into Indian culture. As a result, even those not practicing Hinduism still borrow traditions during important events like wedding ceremonies. In that sense, what was once rooted in Hindu tradition has become part of the wedding tradition observed by Indians of other faiths.
That said, let’s jump into the guide!
1. Hindu Wedding Ceremony Milni
Immediately following the Baraat and just before the start of the Hindu wedding ceremony, the two families (bride and groom) will come together and the bride’s mother will greet the groom. The peculiarities of the exchange will vary, but you’ll need to be in the action to capture it. You may even need to politely ask people to move if they’re blocking your shots.
Next, as part of the Milni, male family members will exchange garlands. Also, they often physically lift each other up as a fun challenge to see who can lift the other first.
2. Standard Processional & Ganesha Pooja
After the milni, the groom will then join both sets of parents on stage (mandap) to begin the ceremonial blessing, or Ganesha Pooja. The bride will likely not enter the area for several minutes while the blessing is under way. When photographing this part of a Hindu wedding ceremony, try to capture different angles (wide, medium, and tight) and perspectives to showcase each of the family members, as well as the details of the action on the mandap.
3. Kanya Aagaman
The bride’s procession is typically one of the most anticipated moments in any wedding ceremony. The same is true for a Hindu wedding ceremony. Brides may either walk under a chaadar or be carried in on a palki. Like the groom’s Baraat, the bride’s entrance will vary based on the bride’s preferences. Regardless, positioning for shooters during the bride’s entrance does not vary much from traditional western weddings.
4. Hindu Wedding Ceremony Muhurtham
The Muhurtham, also known as the reveal, marks the first time the bride and groom will see each other during a Hindu wedding ceremony. The first look uses an antarpat, or auspicious cloth, to separate the bride and groom. This part of the ceremony correlates to planets/stars aligning for the bride and groom’s marriage.
Photographers should capture the complete story of when the antarpat is lowered, revealing the bride and groom to one another. Whether you’re capturing Indian wedding photography or other genres, we recommend following this storytelling formula. It can literally pay off when designing and selling wall art clusters or photo albums.
The giving away of the bride, or Kanyadaan, involves the joining of hands over a ceremonial coconut. Often, the coconut will have been used in pre-wedding ceremonies and is a symbolic part of the marriage. Again, shooter positions and movement will not vary much from other ceremonies.
6. Vivaah Homa
The holy fire plays an important role during a Hindu wedding ceremony. You’ll need to capture images of the fire as it is used throughout. Remember to tell the full story and capture wide, medium, and tight shots. Again, this will come in handy when preparing album spreads or wall art.
7. Hindu Wedding Ceremony Laaja Homam
The rice offering allows family members to show their support as they offer rice to holy fire to bless the marriage. Connectedness is important as the family members join hands to offer the rice and hug one another before moving on. When capturing this part of a Hindu wedding ceremony, position yourself close to the action with an unobstructed view of the couple. It’s important to be mindful not to block the view of other guests. Plan your shots, take them, and either crouch down low or step out of view.
8. Mangal Phera
During the Mangal Phera, the bride and groom will circle the holy fire four times. The groom will lead for three of the circles, and the bride will lead the fourth. The couple will also be connected with a dupatta, or a scarf. Usually, the bride’s dupatta, which she wears over her head, will be tied to the groom’s dupatta, which he wears over his shoulder. Here, the couple literally ties the not.
It’s important to position each shooter ahead of time as the action moves fast and ends quickly. The focal lengths used should allow shooters to capture close-up details of the action as well as the medium and wide shots in order to tell a complete story.
Similar to a ring in a ring exchange, the mangalsutra is a necklace that the groom will tie around the bride’s neck to symbolize that she is a married woman. Another quickly moving part of the Hindu wedding ceremony, it’s important to position each shooter ahead of time. You will need to capture the groom tying the necklace as well as the reaction shots of family on the mandap.
For this part of the ceremony, the bride and groom will recite vows based in Hindu tradition, and between each vow, they will kick a small stone (or betel nut) off a pile of rice. Rather than kicking the stone/nut, they might just briefly place their big toe on top of it. Flex your Indian wedding photography skills and use a wide angle zoom lens to capture multiple perspectives as the action unfolds.
11. Hindu Wedding Ceremony Kansar Bhakshan
During the Kansar, or exchange of sweets, the groom will feed his bride sweets, a symbolic gesture to represent the couple sharing their first meal. This moment typically leads to a candid display of laughter and affection. Anticipate the action based on where the couple is seated, and position yourself to capture those candid moments.
12. Ring Exchange
Whether shooting a Hindu wedding ceremony or any wedding ceremony in general, we recommend covering the ring exchange with two shooters. The lead and second shooters should stand in a stacked position, one with a wide angle (24-70mm) and the other with a tighter angle (70-200mm).
There will be plenty to capture during the blessings as the bride and groom touch their parents’ feet or embrace in a hug to show respect before receiving blessings and concluding the Hindu wedding ceremony.
14. Hindu Wedding Ceremony Recessional
Unlike in other cultural ceremonies, there’s a good chance the groom’s shoes will have been stolen by members of the bride’s family. The groom will have removed his shoes earlier in the ceremony, during the milni, because shoes are not allowed on the mandap. The bride’s family members steal the shoes to earn a reward for returning them. It’s tradition!
The negotiation to return the shoes will usually precede the recessional, which is then covered in a traditional manner, regardless of culture.
Friends and family, specifically the bride’s parents, will gather with the couple to wish them farewell as they depart the ceremony site. This moment symbolizes the bride starting a new life and leaving her family to go live with her new husband. Vidaais tend to be quite emotional and offer photographers a great opportunity to capture emotional moments as the couple and guests part ways.
Hindu Wedding Ceremony | Conclusion
We hope you found this Indian wedding photography guide for Hindu wedding ceremonies helpful. Studying the tips above and making general preparations should allow you to succeed in this unique and fantastic genre.