As a photographer, there is nothing more rewarding, or as challenging, as photographing a Hindu wedding. The colors, symbolism, emotions, traditions, and customs, can lead to sensory overload. When photographing a Hindu Wedding the photographer must remain focused (no pun intended) and know the flow of each ceremony in order to capture the most important moments of this joyous occasion.
Here are some informative tips that I have found to be very useful when photographing a Hindu wedding.
Have a clearly defined scope of work
Hindu weddings may last several days and at several different locations. Like any event, the photographer needs to be very aware of the events are to be photographed, the times and locations of the events, and the logistics associated with covering these events. The bride and groom in Hindu weddings may have their own set of events even before they arrive at the wedding venue. At times, these events could happen simultaneously, therefore it is important to know whether more than one photographer will be required.
Find a Person willing to act as your advisor during the ceremonies.
I have been very fortunate in having a person (or persons) identified by the family to assist me with the wedding ceremonies. My advisors are only too happy to assist, and advise me of where I need to be and when I need to be there. In exchange for their services, I usually provide them with some portraits of their family.
Frequently the advisors will advise me when a special event is likely to be crowded (most of the ceremonies are very crowded) and I am often advised to find my spot before it becomes too crowded.
Know the Wedding Process
A Hindu wedding will have several important ceremonies and traditions, however these ceremonies and traditions may vary, depending on the region or geographic locations. Again, it is important to consult with the client and to fully understand the ceremonies that need to be photographed.
Hindu Weddings may be divided into three separate categories; Pre-wedding, Wedding, and Post-Wedding; each category has special significance and traditions. This article does not address all of the variations of a Hindu Wedding Ceremony. Following are some examples of ceremonies which may take place:
Nav-Graha Puja in both the groom and bride’s homes, the priest will say prayers to the Gods of the “nine planets”, thus bestowing the couple with their blessings.
Ghari Puja – a series of prayers combined with offerings of wheat, coconut, betel nuts, rice and spices for prosperity. Both mothers will don their wedding clothes and walk to the doorways of their respective homes with earthenware pots containing water on their heads – the water will be cut with a knife to ward off evil spirits, and relatives and friends will then adorn the parents with flowers and money.
Mehendi: The process of getting ready for the wedding starts with painting the Bride’s hands and feet with an intricate artwork of henna.
Sangeet: An evening of music and entertainment for the close circle of family and friends. It can vary from a traditional night out to a wild party.
Barat: The groom is decked up in finery and brought in a procession to the extravagantly decorated wedding venue. This procession could be on a horse, elephant or other means of transporting the groom. The groom’s family would be accompanying the procession and in most ‘barats’ you can expect folks dancing to a live band along with the procession on the move.
VarMala: The Bride and groom exchange colourful garlands of flowers on a small but decorated stage called “Mandap”.
Pheras: The Bride and Groom exchange vows in front of the holy fire and go around the fire holding hands seven times.
Mangal-Sutra: The Groom ties a Golden Locket/Thread around the Bride’s neck as a mark of them getting married.
Mangal Sutra: The Hindu equivalent of a ring in most cases.
Kanya Daan: A ceremony where the Bride’s family formally hands over their daughter to the Groom’s family. It’s a symbolic ceremony which involves the first family.
Bidaai: A symbolic ritual these days where the Bride leaves her parents and joins her husband in the journey to his house.
Mandap: The Mandap provides a stunning prop in which many photographs will be taken. Bold colors such as red, burgundy, orange and gold are typical of Indian ceremonies.
Post-Wedding (Wedding Reception)
The wedding reception is the first public appearance of the bride and groom together, after the wedding where they receive the blessing and gifts from family, friends, and guests. The reception is an extension of the wedding day and is characterized by opulence and magnificence.
Generally, the wedding reception is in open spaces such as a garden, courtyard, farm house, or a location such as a banquet hall. The décor includes lavish flowers such as red roses, or orchids. Bunches of flowers are arranged in strategic locations to add to ambience. Unlike all the other ceremonies, the wedding reception party typically does not include any customs or rituals, it is a time for the groom’s community to welcome the bride with open arms. The wedding reception is dominated with good music and non-stop dancing by the guests.
Find a time to take the formal portraits
In a Hindu wedding the bride and groom are frequently busy and don’t have the time to be taken away from the festivities. Discuss potential times with the bride and groom, when they will be available for formal photos. Such opportunities may be available during the Sangeet or during the reception.
Do you homework, then have fun!
After you have done your research and are familiar with the ceremonies and traditions, enjoy yourself and be engulfed in the beauty, traditions, and joy of the wedding ceremonies. You will capture some amazing photographs.