Indian weddings have a wide array of ceremonies, traditions, foods, and more. We have created this glossary of Indian wedding terms, to help you understand the festivities. For context, when we use the term “Indian”, we are referring to communities from the Indian sub-continent (e.g. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc).
Before we jump into key terms, we want to be clear about what you’ll find in this glossary. Indian people and their cultures are rich in diversity and variation. What that means is that each community may have its own unique terms and words. Therefore, the goal of this glossary is to share terms that are common across many Indian and South Asian communities.
An Achkan is a type of outfit that a groom may wear at an Indian wedding. Like the Sherwani (another type of groom’s outfit), an Achkan consists of a long coat and pair of pants. Furthermore, the Achkan coat is compact, fitted, and goes down to knee-level. The main difference between an Achkan and a Sherwani, is that a Sherwani coat is typically longer, less compact, and more flared from the waist.
The Baraat is the name of the procession that happens, when the groom and his party proceed to enter the wedding venue. Depending on the family, it is not uncommon for the Baraat to be accompanied by a band and a drummer (Dholi). Participants will dance to the beat of the band and drummer, during the procession. The groom will be dressed in their formalwear, and can be transported via car, horse, elephant, helicopter, etc. (depending on how lavish the event is!).
A Punjabi form of music and dance, that is often played at wedding events.
The Bindi is a decorative mark that women wear in between their eyes. The Bindi can either be applied as a colored-powder, or an adhesive.
Worn by women, a Choli is the upper part of an outfit (e.g. Lehnga Choli).
Also spelled as Chuda or Chura, the Choora are special bangles worn by the bride.
Some communities may have ceremonies that revolve around the Choora. For example, the Punjabi culture has a Choora ceremony, where the bride’s maternal uncle will put the Choora on the bride.
Also referred to as a Dupatta or Chunri, the Chunni is a scarf worn by women with their outfit.
Sticks used for Garba, a Gujurati dance.
Often referred to as the Salt Ceremony, this post-wedding ritual consists of passing salt between the bride, groom, and their respective families, 3 times. This ceremony is often associated with the Sindhi community.
A double-barreled drum that is often associated with Punjabi music, and is also used in the Baraat ceremonies in Northern India and Pakistan. Given the large size of the drum, the Dholi (drummer) will typically have the Dhol slung over their shoulder.
A Dholak is basically a smaller version of the Dhol. Within the context of Indian weddings, it might be used at the Sangeet ceremony, to accompany singing done by Sangeet guests.
During the farewell ceremony for the bride, she is sent off in a Doli. In the olden days, a Doli may have been something like a carriage. In more modern times, something like a car may be used.
See definition for Chunni.
A Gujurati form of dance, that may take place at a pre-wedding ceremony.
The Haldi ceremony is typically an intimate event, where close friends and family of the bride and/or groom, apply a yellow paste on both of them. The paste is typically a mixture of Haldi (the Hindi word for Turmeric), and other ingredients.
There are regional variations and terms for this same ceremony. Below is a list of those variations of the Haldi, listed by region, state/province, and/or country:
· Southern India – Pithi
· Bengal and Bangladesh – Gaye Holud
· Punjab – Batna, which is the Haldi-application ceremony, that typically happens during the Maiyaan.
· Pakistan – Mayun
This Sindhi ceremony is the official approval of a marriage.
Worn by women, a Lehnga is a skirt that is often worn as a part of an outfit (e.g. Lehnga Choli).
Often referred to as henna, mehndi is typically applied on the bride’s hands and feet. Depending on the community, other members from the bride and groom’s may have mehndi designs applied to them as well. Generally speaking, the mehndi might be applied during a Mehndi ceremony.
The Milni ceremony is often associated with a Sikh wedding. Following the Baraat, the bride and groom’s family will participate in this ceremony, where individual members from each side greet each other (e.g. Fathers from each side greet eachother). After each pair of people from each side greet each other, they place flower garland’s around each other’s necks.
A general term used to refer to Indian sweets.
This is a Sindhi ring ceremony, which happens prior to the wedding.
This is a Punjabi ceremony, where a marriage is approved before the actual marriage.
An outfit consisting of a knee-length top and loose pants. The outfit is worn by women in Northern India, and some men in India and Pakistan.
The Sangeet is a ceremony that is often accompanied by singing and dancing. Often referred to as the “Ladies Sangeet”, the ceremony can sometimes include close friends and family members from both the bride and groom’s side. Dance performances aren’t uncommon! While the ceremony is often associated with Punjabi weddings, the ceremony can be found in other South Asian communities.
A traditional women’s drape that is typically draped around a woman’s shoulder, and wrapped around their waist.
Also spelled as Shadi, this is a word used to refer to a marriage. It is not specific to any particular religion.
An Sherwani is a type of outfit that a groom may wear at an Indian wedding. Like the Achkan (another type of groom’s outfit), a Sherwani consists of a long coat and pair of pants. Unlike the fitted appearance of an Achkan coat, a Sherwani coat is longer, less compact and flared from the waist.
A red/orange-colored powder that is applied to a bride’s scalp, after being blessed by parents. While the practice is traditionally considered a Hindu practice ,it is practiced by some non-Hindu communities.
This is not to be confused with Chicken Tikka! Within the context of a wedding, the Tikka is a piece of jewelry worn over the bride’s hair.
The varmala is a ceremony where the bride and groom place flower garlands around each other’s necks. The varmala may also be referred to as a Haar or Jaimala.
Also spelled as Bidaai, this is the farewell ceremony where the bride says goodbye to hear family, before leaving to join her husband. A similar farewell ceremony among Muslim South Asians is referred to as Rukhsat.