Marriage in any culture is a formal, legal, and sometimes religious, joining of two individuals in a special and personal relationship. There are many differences in marriage practices across the world, specifically between wedding ceremonies between Hindus in North India and Catholics in the United States. From the level of family input, dresses, and rituals, Indian and American weddings differ drastically from one another. Although Hindu and Catholic ceremonies differ in many of their traditions, the practices of both cultures reinforce the idea that marriage is about bringing two families together and hoping for a new life for a newly married couple.Hindu weddings are one-of-a-kind and can differ from couple to couple. Even throughout Northern India, the customs during a Hindu ceremony are not uniform.
First, there is a significant amount of parent involvement in many Hindu marriages. According to my mother, arranged marriages are still very common in India, however the idea that arranged marriages equate being forced into marriage is not always true, and they are not necessarily forced to marry each other to make their families better off. In a modern arranged marriage, parents typically help their children find suitable partners, and the couple meet each other several times to see if they are compatible, and the decision is ultimately up to them. The parents’ input comes in handy once the match is set as well.
In regards to clothing, and pre and post-wedding rituals, a Hindu bride typically wears a red saree or a lehenga. A saree is a garment worn by women that consists of a long piece of cotton or silk wrapped around the body with one end draped over the head or over one shoulder. A lehenga is a two piece garment that consists of a midriff-baring blouse and a skirt. The skirt is elaborately embroidered with beads, shisha mirrors, and other ornaments (My Mother). The groom on the other hand typically wears a white sherwani, a long coat-like garment that is similar to a British frock coat. Picking clothing ahead of time is just one of the pre-wedding logistics to cover.
Before the wedding ceremonies begin, the bride is “painted in elaborate mehndi or henna designs covering her hands and feet” (Hindu Wedding Traditions). During the actual ceremony, the length and complexity of the wedding rituals depends on the couple themselves; however, there are several iconic customs that are present in almost every Hindu wedding. One of the most important ceremonies is the Hastmilap, which is when the bride and the groom’s “hands are tied together with a cotton thread wound several times, while the priest recites holy verses” and it is meant to bring “the couple together in an unbreakable bond” (Hindu Wedding Traditions). Another important ceremony is the Varmala ceremony, which “is an important main wedding day ceremony. It is also known as Jaimala and involves the exchange of garlands between the bride and the groom” (Wedding Rituals). This ceremony signifies that the bride and groom have accepted each other. Hindu wedding festivities can last an entire week, as many Hindu weddings tend to be very large affairs.
Although shorter, Catholic weddings incorporate as many different rituals as Hindu weddings. Traditionally, the involvement of the parents is slightly less apparent. It is customary of the parents of the bride to pay for the wedding, but the idea of an “arranged marriage,” is sometimes unheard of.
When it comes to attire, the bride typically wears a long, white gown while the groom wears a suit (American Wedding). Similar to Hindu weddings throughout India, Catholic weddings in the United States can have different customs depending on the couple’s beliefs. Often, prior to the wedding ceremony, it is common for the couple to meet with the Father of the Church, and discuss their compatibility and their joined paths ahead (Planning a Catholic Wedding). Although the wedding ceremony typically takes place in a church, the couple is free to pronounce their marriage wherever they please, as long as a Priest is present. In addition to an officiant declaring their marriage, the couple has several other customs as well, including the reciting of vows, and the ring exchange (Taneja). A wedding reception takes place shortly afterwards, where the couple celebrates their love with all of their guests, with food, dancing, photographs, speeches, and games. Although the entire wedding lasts only one day, the ceremonies and practices are just as beautiful as they are in Hindu weddings.
Hindu weddings in Northern India and Catholic weddings in the United States greatly differ from each other because of the level of family input, attire, and rituals. Today fusion weddings are becoming very common around the world. Customs from both religions are incorporated to create a harmonious event. While there are many significant differences between the two cultures when it comes to marriage, in the end, both marriages are about bringing two people, and two families, together.