Cultural Case Studies: Hindu/Indian Weddings ‐ Baraat

While people in India practice a myriad of religions, including Buddhism, Islam, and Catholicism, among others, the vast majority of Indian people practice Hinduism. As such, Hindu/Indian weddings are quite common around the world. It is also interesting to note that various aspects of Hindu traditions have blended into Indian culture so that 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.

Here’s a basic foundation to help you move forward with covering Hindu/Indian weddings:

Typical Structure

  1. Baraat – Groom Arrives
  2. Milni – Welcoming of Groom’s Family
  3. Ganesha Pooja – Ceremonial Blessing
  4. Kanya Aagaman – Bride Arrives
  5. Muhurtham – Auspicious Time
  6. Varmala – Garlands
  7. Kanyadaan – Giving Away the Bride
  8. Vivaah Homa – Holy Fire
  9. Laaja Homam – Rice Offering
  10. Mangal Fera – Circle Holy Fire (4x)
  11. Saptapadi – Rice/Seven Stones/Vows
  12. Mangalsutra – Necklace
  13. Kansar – Exchange of Sweets
  14. Ashirwad – Blessings
  15. Ceremony Recessional
  16. Vidaai – Couple’s Departure

Notes

Before the Day

  • Ask about specific ceremonies/poojas. Remember each Indian Wedding varies depending on region.
  • Ask if female photographer is needed (Muslim)

On the Day

  • Ask before photographing jewelry and clothing – do not place rings on shoes without asking.
  • Remove shoes before stepping on Mandap stage.
  • Long ceremony with many details – get multiple angles of same scene.
  • Family formals prior to ceremony with individual families.
  • Family/wedding party portraits on Mandap.

Pre-Wedding Events

Hindu/Indian weddings also usually include one or more pre-wedding events, including a Mehndi, wherein the bride’s and/or groom’s family has henna applied to their hands, arms, and feet, as well as a Sangeet, at which families come together to perform for one another and celebrate the forthcoming wedding. It is common to photograph these events in a photojournalistic style with a mix of close-up action shots and wider full scene shots.

Baraat

The Baraat is the groom’s processional. Rather than simply walking down the aisle, however, the groom will be accompanied by family and friends and can cover a range of distances, say from the hotel parking lot down to the wedding ceremony site. During the Baraat, the groom will usually travel to the site on a horse, or camel, or even in a car. Music and dancing play a big part of this processional, which transpires to announce the groom’s arrival to the ceremony. Brides are not present for the Baraat, but they often watch from a discreet location. At some point, the groom will dismount from his transportation, and dance alongside his friends and family. The dancing is not usually choreographed. Consider using a wide angle zoom lens, like a 24-70mm f/2.8, if possible, to get a range of perspectives with minimal time and effort. Baraats are usually very crowded, so maneuverability is minimal when getting into the action and covering this event.