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Hindu Wedding

Mark Newcombe , Nov 20, 2001; 07:06 p.m.

Hi guys,

Has anyone every shot a hindu wedding? I have just been hired to do this next year and would like to know any does or don'ts as I'm not familiar with the culture. This is an Indian wedding in Sydney if that helps, with about 800 guests which sound pretty scary may need to take an assistant.

Thanks in advance for any help.




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Diptabhas Sarkar , Nov 20, 2001; 07:41 p.m.

Hi Mark, I have never specifically shot a Hindu wedding as a professional , but being a Hindu myself, would like to assure you that there are no really serious don'ts. Normally Hindus would go bare footed to their place of worship, as a mark of respect. That is one precaution that you might want to take. There might be very specific don'ts in a particular family and it would be perfect for you to ask the family beforehand as to what you are not supposed to do. You can snap at will -- no hassles at all. Also you might not want to chew on a hamburger at the holy area. Beef is the single most sacrilegious item in a hindu dictionary. In a Hindu wedding the problem for you would be to find a clear spot from where you will get a clear view of the ceremony itself. People would throng the place at the opportune moment where the wedding ceremony is held, to bless the newly wedded couple and as it turns out, that is the moment that every family would like to get framed. One more thing, in a Hindu wedding you will see more gold than you will see anywhere else. A woman will be decked in gold, her ornaments, the gold threads in her sari, the sari itself will be extremely bright (mostly red) with very intricate thread work. The colors that are normally seen in a Christian wedding - white and black are conpicuous by their absence. The back reflection from the metal and the shiny sarees, might be a problem when you use a flash. So you might want to do some research on that. Hope that helps. Have fun.


Douglas Stemke , Nov 20, 2001; 09:37 p.m.

Be prepared for a lot of activity and a VERY long day. When I went to my first Hindu wedding (my mother's friend). We were told the wedding would start at 2:00. So my mother and her co-workers (all of European descent) were sitting in a little ball around 2:00 wondering where everyone was. People BEGAN to filter in around 2:00. The women in their beautiful colored dresses (sori? No idea how to spell it) began to take their seats during the wedding. Children were running around everywhere-the men were staying as far away from the wedding as they could-they all hung aroung the food. The wedding had both northern and southern (Tamil) traditions. Most of the wedding activity takes place at a central alter after the bride was carried into the room. It was very long by Western standards so you might want to keep that in mind when you are thinking about film. Nobody seemed very shy about photographs either. I have to say it was the most enjoyable wedding that I've ever been to!

Robert Kennedy , Nov 20, 2001; 11:28 p.m.

If there is a Hindu center or temple in Sydney (and I can't imagine there isn't), you might want to call up and ask them for some advice on protocol.

And be prepared for COLOR! Hindu weddings that I have seen are FULL of color! Use this to your advantage!

Also, I do know that Hindus use incense. I'm not sure about weddings though. You may want to find out before hand. It could make the area a bit hazy.

Milind Tare , Nov 21, 2001; 01:03 a.m.

I have shot many Hindu Weddings and it is a difficult thing mind you! There are too many events involved than a Christian wedding and it will be better if you consult with head of the family about the events. Also, try to keep somebody from the family who can guide you through the events. Try to capture all the vibrant coloured sarees and dresses in your images. Use film like Fuji Superia Reala to caputre those colours and also good skin tones. The most important thing is get to know all the events that the couple will want to have images of. Good Luck..!!

Mahesh Srinivas , Nov 21, 2001; 01:07 a.m.


You definitely want to find out from the party who has hired you about the sequence of events (including a rough timeline), as customs vary hugely depending on whether it is a South Indian wedding, or a North Indian wedding, or an East Indian wedding, or a "mixed" wedding (like mine was, with myself - a South Indian - marrying a North Indian girl). A *very* rough guide is as follows: Bridegroom's party makes it's appearance after the appointed time. Bridegroom and family seat themselves near the wedding altar. Bride's family (usually brother, uncle, Dad) make various gifts etc. to groom. Bride makes an appearance (accompanied by lots of women), and sits next to groom. Ceremony begins (very religious in nature - may also involve going around the fire a few times). An hour or so later, groom ties the knot (literally). Then a meal follows, followed by a reception. Believe, me, the sequence of events could be quite, quite different from what I have described here, so you are advised to ask family members (on the bride's side, preferably) "in the know" for a possible sequence of events. Indian weddings are not rehearsed (like they are in the Western world), so they go along in a far more "unstructured" manner than weddings you may be used to. But there is color, oh! wonderful color everywhere. In the clothes of the women, in the decorations on the floor, in the many flowers all around the venue, in the sweets and other eats of various kinds you will see served all the time. So even a color neutral film will do wonderfully, since there is no way to escape the color. Expect lots of people hovering about, getting in your way, tripping over you, and tripping you over. But also expect them to be very amenable to being told to move a little so you may get a clear picture. Indians at weddings will gladly accomodate the needs of the photographer. Tell someone important in the family to ensure that they cue you well in advance to the really important parts of the ceremony like the "mangalsutra" (tying the knot), and other milestones, so you may get into position early. If you are considering studio type lighting, a fixture near the altar and one near the place where the couple receive guests at the reception would be good spots. You may also be asked to photograph jewelery, and gifts that are set on a table, so bringing along a macro lens may not be a bad idea too. The other points of advise given by other folks is excellent - bare feet at the altar, no beef anywhere. On the whole, we Indians are a friendly, cooperative lot, although sometimes we may seem a little too eager to help, and hinder instead. :) Yes, expect kids tearing all over the place, getting in everybody's way, and ruining some of your careful compositions. I know this is quite a mouthful, but I hope it helps! :) Writing this makes me want to go to an Indian wedding soon and experience all this first-hand after a long time! :)

MILES FEIGENBAUM - DALLAS TEXAS , Nov 21, 2001; 02:27 a.m.

Howdy Mark! I'm tempted to look for my 'where's the beef' ballcap to loan you... Sounds like you would be smart to take at least one assistant and possible 2.

MAGNIFICENCE OF HINDU MARRIAGE A Hindu wedding ceremony is a solemn and religious occasion just as in other cultures. The large crowds which attend these lavish events in the 'marriage season' may be a bit talkative and restless, but always scintillate with so much feminine glamour and radiance all around.

Besides the rituals performed by the bride, bridegroom and their respective parents and close relatives, the priest most importantly reads mantras ( verses ) from the holy scripture, Vedas, which were originally written in Sanskrit (cf the Latin sometimes still used in Catholic churches ).

The priest uses the following substances in the ceremonies:

Fresh flowers - to signify beauty; Coconut - to signify fertility; Rice, jaggery and other grains - to signify the food necessary for sustenance of human life; Ghee (purified butter) - to feed the sacred fire; Kumkum (vermilion) - red powder used for marking the forehead to signify good luck and to say that your soul (husband) is with you. The arrival of the bridegroom's party at the venue is heralded by special musical tunes played on the shehnai (flute).

The groom's party is formally welcomed outside by the bride's family and relatives before being led into the suite. The groom himself is treated to a ritual welcome at the entrance by the bride's mother. He is then escorted to the mandap ( the fourpole canopy where the actual wedding ceremony takes place) while the rest of the party takes seats among the audience.

The groom is accompanied to the mandap by the best man and also a young girl, usually his sister, cousin or niece. Her job is to keep on shaking a small, metal pot, covered with a white cloth, containing coins and betelnut. The jingle is supposed to keep the groom awake during the ceremony. In olden days, weddings used to take place at night, lasting several hours, and the bride and groom were very young!

The bride, normally dressed in a white and red sari with embroidery in gold thread, is led to the canopy by her maternal uncle who blesses the couple and gives them a cash gift. Often the bride has another sari on top of her head which has been presented by the groom's parents usually accompanied by some jewellery. White is for purity and red signifies abundance and fertility. Garlands are then exchanged between the couple.

The whole wedding ceremony essentially consists of three parts as described below.


The bride's parents perform rituals of the giving away of their daughter. This includes washing the couple's feet with milk and water to purify them for a new life.


In this ceremony -which literally means joining of hands -the bride's right hand is placed on that of the groom whilst the priest chants holy verses. At this point a loop of white raw cotton, wound round 24 times symbolising different characteristics and virtues of human life, is put round the shoulders of the bride and groom.

This means that these threads of white cotton bind the two together from now onwards as partners to fulfil their respective roles fully and sincerely. Although a single thread of raw cotton is easily broken, many of them form a very strong bond and so will abilities and virtues bind them together more securely in a stronger bond.

The marriage vows

After this a small open fire is lit in the centre and the fire God is invited to witness the marriage. Fire, a purifying agent, is also a source of energy. Only fire can separate this bond of unity between bride and groom. The bride and the groom are joined by a piece of white cloth, one end of which is tied to the bride's sari and the other thrown over the groom's shoulder.

The bride's brothers are called in to participate in the next ceremony called 'mangal fera' when the groom and bride walk around the fire four times. All the rounds are initiated by the bride's brothers and male cousins, signifying their consent to the marriage. This solidifies their marriage and makes them husband and wife. The bride's brother/cousin fills the palms of the couple with grains of rice, oats and leaves, which signify the four blessings: wealth, good health, prosperity and happiness. These they offer to the fire signifying that "all these worldly possessions we sacrifice to you because there isn't anything greater and more rewarding than your blessings upon us".

They walk around the fire four times paying homage to all saints and prophets and to God Almighty who dwells in all four directions. The circumambulation also signifies the four stages of life, namely childhood, youth, middle age and old age.

During the first three rounds the groom is followed by his bride. This signifies "I shall follow you wherever you go-in happiness or hard times". In the final round the bride goes in front and the groom follows, which signifies that during old age when the time for departing comes, the bride wishes to die first and not be left as widow.

During the ceremony when the bride and bridegroom are in the canopy, they represent Lord Vishnu and Laxmi-Vishnu being the creator - and thus, after this ceremony they have the right to carry on the family tree.

The wedding ceremony is now over and they are declared man and wife.

The bride's mother brings some Indian sweets for the newlyweds. The bride feeds five mouthfuls of sweets signifying "I am your wife and it will be my duty to cook for you and your family". The groom does the same signifying his duty to provide for her and their family. A prearranged number of relatives also come into the mandap and put a red mark on the forehead of both the bride and groom, and sprinkle rice grains. The red dot signifies 'saubhagya', meaning may your husband live a long and happy life, the rice signifies 'may the heavens shower upon you all happiness and wealth, progress and peace and may you have sons'.

Laughter and tears

At this stage some of the ladies may try and pull the groom's nose, and if one of them succeeds the groom will try to get hold of her sari. If he does then he can demand some form of compensation. Whether he gets it is a different matter but this is done just for fun to bring laughter in the ceremony.

It is now time for jubilation and exchange of greetings in the middle of the mandap. Relatives and friends come to bless the couple and all guests are welcome to do this beneath the canopy

After this follows a session of family photographs and in the meanwhile the rest of the guests are invited to dinner.

When the dinner is over, the departure of the marriage party commences, which is known as 'viday'. Farewell to the bride by her parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends is indeed a very emotional part of the whole event. The bride is leaving her parental home to build an entirely new life with her husband and members of his immediate family in a different environment altogether. She leaves with tears of joy and sorrow, but carries the very best wishes of all who witnessed her matrimonial ceremony.

TK Foong , Nov 21, 2001; 04:17 a.m.


Looks like flash is out. Smoke+Flash=Blur. Use high speed film.

Nigel Nagarajan , Nov 21, 2001; 05:49 a.m.

Mark Newcombe , Nov 21, 2001; 08:00 a.m.

Thankyou very much

I would like to thank everyone who has helped me out here, there is a mountain of research to be done now. It never ceases to amaze me how photoneters respond to all of my questions. Again thankyou all very much.



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