Weddings that have 100-200 guests are big or small? Well, for Indians just a small party. Indian weddings are considered the largest and most expensive in the world.
Weddings here are usually huge. They never know how many people will come. It’s generally normal for Indians to invite everyone they know, even if they don’t have a close relationship with these people. And each of them can bring along a few more relatives or friends, even if they don’t know them at all. It’s believed that unknown people crossing by the street may come also, but usually they don’t do so – because they will surely be noticed being not dressed according to occasion.
For weddings Indians don’t book restaurants but wedding halls, organize a buffet. Vegetarian non-alcohol weddings are normal here – but it depends on the families of a couple – if they are vegetarian or not, drink or not (about vegetarianism in India you can read Here). Halls are usually heavily decorated with flowers, often alive flowers rather than artificial. People dance a lot at Indian weddings. The bride and groom spend most of their time taking pictures with the guests.
Guests dress up mostly traditionally, Indian women like to look shiny, they also do mehendi for themselves (henna painting on hands). But the bride should obviously look shinier than everyone – she wears a lot of jewelry on her, a heavy bright make-up, large mehendis on her arms and legs. The Indian wedding dress has traditionally been red, but now it can be any color (for Hindus with the exception of white – because it’s a funeral color for them, and local Catholics, on the contrary, are getting married in the same white dresses that we are used to). The groom can be dressed both, traditionally and in usual formal suit, regardless of religion.
The weddings are celebrated here usually for 3 days (except of the pre-wedding and after-wedding parties): a mehendi party, religious rituals and a reception party. If the bride and groom are from different cities, then the wedding is organized most often in the city of the bride (therefore, most guests can be from her side), but then they can also arrange a party in the city of the groom.
But! The next words will shock you: according to Indian tradition, parents of the bride are the ones who supposed to pay for the wedding! Yes, and along with it to give a quite big dowry (well, let’s say a car). Because of such expenses, some people in the past could even kill their newborn daughters. Traditionally, the groom’s parents could also demand the dowry – now it is prohibited by law, but many people continue to do so – in tribute to the tradition. And the groom was traditionally considered to be the one who would provide for their daughter for all her life then. Therefore his financial situation also played a big role in decision of marriage. Still now in India most marriages are arranged, and love marriages are accepted with difficulties. Castes and religions have a big matter for that. But now many things are changing, women want to work, laws are changing and people are questioning this kind of traditions. I will write more about it later.
In spite of the fact that Indians nowadays often get married at the age of 25-30, only a few people try to take a part of the expenses on themselves, mostly weddings are considered to be paid by parents. Therefore, the gifted money are being taken by parents as well. People here spend really a lot of money for weddings but this doesn’t always mean that they are rich. The matter for it is in traditions and society habits. Parents save for their children weddings sacrificing a lot (someone may consider a wedding as more important than daughter’s education even), they take big loans. But only a few people yet dare to make weddings smaller or not to celebrate them at all (more often, local celebrities try to make things simpler, what’s strange). Even if the couple doesn’t want to celebrate the wedding – their opinion, more often than not, is not decisive. For elder Indians, public opinion is extremely important. And weddings are the way to show a “status.” So some people are willing to spend even millions of rupees for just a “status”.
Because weddings are given huge importance here, all wedding services are much more expensive than usual ones. For example, makeup for a bride may cost around 400$ (Rs.25000) if you want to book a good make-up artist (while the same make up artists charge much less for other type of work, and will charge 10 times less for guest’s make up) – which is bigger than salaries of many people in India. But the makeup of the bride here is usually made very heavy and bright, so they consider that they spend a lot of make up products for it, put many layers of make up. The word “wedding” itself increases the price tag a few times, and people are willing to pay it, simply because “wedding are once in a lifetime”. It’s not considered normal here to try to economy on wedding expenses, even when most of the people in India bargain on many things in their daily lives.
In India, religious marriage is more important than official one on paper (with foreigners it’s different). If there was a religious wedding, people are already considered married and the girl can change her name and documents simply by showing the wedding photos from the rituals. The exceptions are cases when a couple needs to go abroad – then they need to issue a marriage certificate officially. The process of its registration, by the way, can take the whole day, but in such cases they don’t need to apply prior. Divorce, on the contrary, is supposed to be done officially.
Due to the fact that there is no need to get a marriage certificate, there can be people who can commit marriage crimes: suppose, have several wives at the same time in different cities, and each of them is convinced that she is the only one. Although, it’s prohibited by law here (but allowed to local Muslims in the same time) and if someone complains, such person can be imprisoned. Women here also can commit marriage crimes – they marry religiously, steal all the money and run away. If the marriage is on paper, then such things will be much more complicated. But usually people here don’t give importance to this and marry only religiously. In India it’s considered wrong to speak about possible marital failures and divorce, since for Indian people it means person has in mind to do it, not that he/she just tries to ensure himself/herself. There is also no concept of marriage contract in India.