Being first generation Indian-American, I found it hard to understand all of the Indian wedding traditions that were a part of the wedding process. I’m referring to the rituals that started from the moment I got engaged.
Many of these rituals were really important to my family – even important to my extended family. It’s what makes our culture meaningful to our family in the United States. It’s what their parents did, and their grandparents did.
You’ll notice that family members might not know the reasoning behind a ritual (in which case it might be hard to understand why you have to continue with that ritual). In any case, more likely than not, your family will have some kind of customs that they might want to follow through with after your engagement, before the wedding, during the wedding and even after your wedding. With Indian wedding traditions mattering more today than ever before, it’s so important that we, the 1st generation born Americans, are the ones to embrace these traditions and rituals.
For your parents and family (and your fiance’s parents and family), the traditions might make the wedding. Be mindful of this and considerate about what they think is important. Hear them out. Let them make a laundry list of what they want – this doesn’t necessarily mean that everything needs be included.
Since wedding planning can get busy, make sure to sit down with both sets of parents and your fiancée to find out what is a necessity for them. You don’t want to find out until a week before the wedding weekend that there is a certain ritual that your fiancée’s grandmother wants you both to do during the wedding (especially after you’ve timed everything out)!
Be Open Minded
It’s true that you can likely negotiate the most meaningful traditions that both of your families want to carry out, but there might be that one tradition that you might not want to do (because of timing, or whatever other reason). Try to be open minded about what to include and what to omit.
During my own wedding planning, I had assumed that both the groom and myself should fast (only fruits, nuts, etc) on the day of the wedding based on traditions I’ve seen carried out with my older cousins. Since we had agreed to it, we were planning to follow through with the fasting.
Then, as the wedding day approached, I was reassured by my older aunt that I didn’t need to fast since it was an old tradition and it’s not always feasible to do that with all the stress and anxiety of the wedding day. So, we ended up not fasting. (I still kept my smoothies as part of my wedding day meal plan!) Being open minded helps and often works to your advantage.
Learn the Meaning of the Traditions
Even though it might be hard to have family members explain each and every tradition, take time to understand the traditions that they can explain. It will make your ceremonies more meaningful and it will hopefully help you appreciate your religion and traditions that much more. Plus, you won’t just be doing the actions of the ceremony – you will really get what the priest is doing, and why.
One thing that I realize now that I didn’t realize throughout my wedding planning is that if you carry through with a cultural and religious ritual, it is more likely to be carried down to your future generation. If you skip the tradition, the chances are higher that you might forget about the tradition in years to come.
To me, carrying out Indian religious & cultural traditions and a few American traditions were important since I was born in America. Some brides and grooms might sway more “Western”/American and some might sway more Indian. Regardless of which way you lean towards, you should be mindful of your future generations and what these traditions would mean to them.
What if I’m not Indian and I’m marrying into an Indian family?
Indian customs can be confusing, they might not make sense, and they might seem intimidating. No fear! If you don’t get it, ask. There will be someone in your fiancee’s family who knows and understands the tradition that would be more than happy to explain it to you.
After all, they really want you to be a part of the traditions, so they would probably be happier knowing that you’re curious about what everything means. Another tip is that if you find that asking elders is intimidating, find a cousin or someone younger who can explain the ritual in simple terms without making you feel dumb. All in all, Indian traditions can be very fun, and they make the culture, so embrace it!
Check out the Hindu Wedding Guide from our Resources Page which explains different rituals.
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