Indian Christian Wedding 101: Why They Offer You the Best of Both Worlds
Want to know about how each Indian Christian wedding tradition is unique in different parts of the country? Read for some interesting facts and customs followed in Christian weddings across India.
It is only at an Indian Christian wedding that you can witness the fusion of western as well as regional traditions. You will see a Saree-clad bride walking down the aisle at a Kerala Christian wedding and the Goan Christian weddings will reflect Portuguese culture in their proceedings. Let us walk you through all that and more of what goes on at an Indian Christian wedding.
Just like any other Indian wedding, there is a series of pre-wedding rituals in an Indian Christian wedding too.
1. Matchmaking and Badalchan
In an arranged Indian wedding, matchmaking is an essential ritual. If it’s an Indian Christian wedding, the families look for a suitable match on the basis of their specific religious beliefs. Like, a Catholic Christian would prefer not to make the match with a Protestant. Once the matchmaking is finalised, there is a formal proposal from the groom’s side. In South Indian Christian weddings, this proposal is then sealed by Badalchan, where both the families exchange betel leaves and betel nuts with each other. However, in matrilineal societies of Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram, the girl and the boy usually pick their own partners and it’s the girl who proposes.
Being quite an important event in an Indian Christian Wedding, the couple can choose to have an intimate small family event or a huge bash at the Engagement. Once the date and engagement venue is fixed, the couple exchanges the rings. In a Catholic wedding, the rings are blessed with the parish priest. The groom gifts his fiancée with clothes, perfume and her favourite things. Both the families get to know each other during a grand dinner. The couple spends some significant period of time to observe their compatibility.
3. Bridal Shower
A bridal shower literally means showering the bride with gifts! It’s exclusively her day and she gets to do all her favourite things. In almost every Indian Christian wedding, the sisters and girlfriends of the bride-to-be arrange this party including food, gifts, music, games and a cake. As per a fun custom, there is a hidden thimble inside the cake and whoever gets that, is believed to get married next. You can also blend a bridal shower with Sangeet to have a gala celebration.
4. Bachelor’s Party
Because, why should girls have all the fun? The groomsmen take the groom-to-be on a last fun ride of bachelorhood. Sometimes the groom and his guys go on an adventure sports trip. Or in some cases, they might just chill at a beach with endless beer! The purpose is to take the groom’s mind off that entire wedding hullabaloo for a while and simply relax. Originally a western wedding culture, this fun ceremony has very smoothly fused in Indian weddings in almost all parts of India.
However unusual it may sound, Mehndi too has become quite a common ritual in an Indian Christian Wedding. Especially in western and Northern parts of India. Brides flaunt beautiful Mehndi art by hiring talented Mehndi artists.
6. Roce Ceremony
Commonly known as Haldaat, a Roce ceremony is performed almost in the same way everywhere with minute variations. At an Indian Christian wedding in Kerala or other parts of South India, the bride and the groom are blessed by applying oil, turmeric and sandalwood paste on them. While in Goan or Konkan regions, coconut paste is used instead of Haldi. At the end of the Roce ceremony, the bride and the groom is given a holy bath. This event usually happens a day before the wedding.
In a Christian wedding, the couple needs to talk to the Rector before starting with the arrangements. After a pre-marital counselling, the families must fix a church schedule consulting with the priest well in advance. Let’s see how the wedding rituals look like in an Indian Christian Wedding:
1. “Here comes the Bride”
On the morning of the wedding day, the groom’s relatives visit the bride’s home with gifts, wedding dress, sweets, fruits etc. As per Catholic rituals, the wedding dress of the bride is first blessed by the priest. The groom awaits the bride at the church along with all the other guests. When the bride enters the church escorted by her father, everyone stands and welcomes the bride. At a Catholic wedding, the bride is welcomed by playing music or making an announcement. At Protestant Christian weddings most of the wedding services are hymnal. The church priests or a choir sings and sometimes the guests too.
2. The Wedding Mass
Usually, at Catholic weddings, the family parish priest pronounces the testaments from the Bible and sermons to everyone describing the rituals and religious significance of marriage. After that, either the church choir or the guests sing the prayers blessing the couple. In a Protestant wedding, the marriage is officiated by either a priest or a bishop.
3. The Wedding Vows
Traditionally in most cases, the bride and the groom say their wedding vows that are written by the church priest. But sometimes under the Protestant beliefs, the couple can write their own vows. Both the bride and the groom have to hold the right hands of each other while reading their vows. The vows depict promises made by the bride and the groom to love, respect and take care of each other throughout their life.
4. The ‘I do’s
Once the vows are exchanged, the priest asks both the bride and the groom for their consent for the marriage in front of the witnesses. That’s when the couple says “I do” as a commitment to the holy matrimony.
5. Solemnising the Wedding
There is a special Indian twist to Christian weddings. Apart from the wedding rings that solemnise the wedding, the groom ties a Thali or Mangalsutra with a gold pendant around the bride’s neck. In a Kerala wedding, the groom gifts then the bride Matrakodi or a wedding Saree that she wears over her head. The couple then seeks everyone’s blessings.
6. Throwing off the bouquet
The bride has a ritual of throwing the bouquet she’s been holding towards the crowd without facing it. The person who catches the bouquet is believed to get married next.
After the Indian Christian wedding, comes the grand reception celebration. The whole crowd cheers the couple and throws flowers and confetti on them. There are many fun games which the bridesmaids play with the groom. If you’re planning to have a Christian wedding reception party, you must book your banquet hall in advance to avoid any disappointments. A wedding cake is an absolute must. At a Goan wedding, Konkani, coastal or European cuisines are relished. Whereas pork curries are special delicacies in Meghalaya or Mizoram. There are speeches, cake cutting, drinking and dancing at the wedding reception parties.
Groom: A Christian groom usually dons a dark or white formal suit with a white shirt. A boutonniere is attached to his jacket lapel.
Bride: A bride, however, has a lot of variety of wedding dresses to choose from. In Kerala, apart from a white wedding gown a Christian bride also sports a silk Saree in varied colours and patterns. From Kanjeevaram silk Saree paired with an embroidered blouse to elegant Bridal Lehengas with heavy Zari work- a bride at an Indian Christian wedding explores all the dimensions of bridal couture. Brides at North India and Meghalaya flaunt stunning wedding gowns at church weddings. In Mizoram, some Christian brides choose to wear their beautiful traditional dress, Puanchei.
Wear a snow white gown with a transparent veil over the head and a tiara-rock that princess looks on your Indian Christian wedding. Mix and match different customs and rituals after consulting with your priest if you’re looking for a fusion wedding. Celebrate your wedding by taking a little piece of every tradition to make the most of your special day. Talk to your wedding florist and use lots of flowers for your decorations in the church. Dream weddings need not remain just a dream anymore. Let’s make it really happen!
Looking forward to an Indian Christian wedding of your own? Get in touch with the best wedding planners around you for more ideas to make your dream wedding a reality.