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Something Old, Something New: The Evolution of Indian Wedding Traditions

The fusion of tradition and modernity in Indian weddings. By Arushi Sakhuja

Weddings, an event stooped in emotions and tradition, have undergone a remarkable transformation in recent times. The Indian wedding industry is experiencing significant changes as it incorporates global trends while staying true to its cultural roots. Whether it's the impact of the pandemic, which has given rise to intimate weddings, the embracing of unconventional ideas like court marriages followed by a grand celebration, a shift away from 'more is more' in fashion, or the surge in multicultural marriages, weddings in India have come full circle. "Weddings as an industry may have become more digital in the avatar, but its significance in making memories for a lifetime remains stronger than ever," said Mehak Sagar Shahani, Co-founder of WedMeGood. She continued to say, "This is a unique industry where personalisation is married with convenience, automation is married with handicrafts - a space where the traditional and modern co-exist."

Mehak Sagar Shahani, Co-founder of WedMeGood

Adding further, Gautam Gupta - Co-owner of Asha Gautam and Founder of GG by Asha Gautam. accurately stated his thoughts on the changing traditions, "The vocabulary of wedding traditions has widened and it is now a podium of contrasting cultures to co-exist and even rejoice. India is among the few countries which still celebrate its century-old culture on one side and celebrate new cultures. We are at the cusp of traditional values and global outlook and I feel we are accepting the best of both and in fact, creating a unique wedding story. Lastly, the traditions and weddings have become much more personal and a great degree of customization is taking place which is like the storytelling of the couple by the families."

Today's couples are breaking free from the rigidity of age-old customs and adopting practical ways to celebrate their love. Popular global trends like proposals are gaining traction in India. Additionally, love marriages, particularly among urban millennials, are becoming increasingly commonplace.

As weddings evolve, more couples are prioritizing sustainability in their decor and clothing choices and striving for inclusivity across all races, castes, cultures, and religions. Traditional stereotypes, like the coy bride and red bridal couture, are being left behind in favour of new trends. Grooms no longer make their entrance on horseback but in vintage cars. Meanwhile, emerging trends like bridesmaids' speeches and dual wedding celebrations that honour the religions and cultures of both the bride and groom are shaping the new-age Indian wedding landscape. Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas' wedding is a prime example of this, as they celebrated with both a Hindu phera ceremony and a pristine white wedding. "While Indian weddings continue to hold a lot of significance for the couple and their families, there’s a lot that’s changing and rightly so. The bride and groom are now customizing their weddings to reflect their personalities, beliefs, and interests while adding contemporary elements to traditional ceremonies. Families are more accepting of intercultural unions. There’s also a gradual shift towards more equal roles within the wedding rituals, with some couples opting for inclusive practices. Some couples are also incorporating eco-friendly practices into their weddings, reflecting a growing concern for environmental sustainability, and that’s truly wonderful to witness," shared Khushi Shahreative Director of Shanti Banaras.

Wedding Fashion

This season, brides and grooms are opting for a more comfortable and fuss-free look, natural make-up with a dewy glow, barely there make-up is gaining prominence, and subtle waves with fresh flowers are becoming the hair trend for women. While minimalism is gaining popularity, the trend of repurposing and wearing heirloom pieces is also on the rise. Sarees however remain a mainstay, "Sarees itself is so universal that anyone be it the bride or otherwise who wants to adorn grace and elegance can wear a handloom saree and make a statement. However, with time we also construct pre-stitched, concept-based, drape styles, especially for Gen Z," adds Gautam. The concept of maximalism is not completely out, but the focus is more on quality over quantity.

Shanti Banaras

Modern-Age Bride and Groom

The two who are coming together in unison for instance are the first to reflect the change. While many still want a big fat Indian wedding, they might wish to stay clear of a red lehenga or Indian wear on their cocktail night. English tunes are making an appearance on the screens, and women of 2023 are treated as equals as opposed to their partners. The couples in question have taken centre stage as far as the budget, location, theme and guest list are concerned. " The show is now controlled by the younger mind which takes a more liberal, fun and multi-cultural perspective to the rituals and entire events. Yes, they do value traditional ones and they balance it off with some innovative ideas to make their wedding look unique and personal. When it comes to functions there have been changes in many aspects of weddings be it the engagement or the main day," told Gautam. The modern bride is empowered, strong, and elegant, and many choose to maintain their maiden name or add their husband's surname while keeping their maiden name. Finally, living together before marriage is becoming more common in India, as couples have realized the benefits of strengthening their bond before tying the knot. While the trend is at a nascent stage in India.

Destination Weddings

Over time, destinations for weddings too have changed. Traditionally, weddings in India are celebrated in the hometowns of the bride and groom. However, with changing times, more and more couples are opting for destination weddings, where they can exchange their vows amidst picturesque locations, surrounded by family and friends. What is interesting to note is the increasing trend in “Vicination Weddings” —destination weddings in the vicinity or close proximity to where the couple or their families reside. Additionally, the trend of announcing engagement and wedding news online is gaining popularity.

Entertainment and dining

Sarita Bazaz - Founder , The Food Affairs

The trend of couple dances during weddings, known as the "First Dance" abroad, is rapidly gaining popularity in India. This is just one example of how global influences are impacting Indian wedding traditions. In addition, catering formats have also evolved to include European-style sit-down meals with artisanal table set-ups. Couples are now opting for unique themes, curated mood boards, and inventive floral arrangements to make their weddings stand out. This shift towards creative and aesthetic set-ups is becoming increasingly prevalent in Indian weddings. As these trends continue to shape India, it will be fascinating to witness the fusion of tradition and modernity.

Multicultural weddings in India

"Weddings have indeed become more inclusive, grand and multicultural. The confinement to marry in the same community is a forgone thing. We see a different arrangement today where people of different communities, castes and demographics are taking wedding wows. The parents and the society have also become much more broad-minded where live-in relationships are accepted and encouraged before taking the final call of marriage. Such changes bring a lot of acceptability towards different cultures." added Gautam Gupta.

The most beautiful part of multicultural weddings is that each culture is respected and complimented seamlessly. "In the digital age, we are consuming information on other cultures and lifestyles that also become part of our celebrations. Weddings are now designed where themes are crafted for different occasions and hence different cultures become part of the celebration. Another reason is the new destinations, so if a wedding is happening in Udaipur or Jaipur then even a Punjabi family would like to adorn that mood and feel similar if a wedding is planned in Turkey then a Marwari family will choose different colour palettes."

Multicultural wedding outfit ideas

Khushi Shah, Creative Director, Shanti Banaras

"The core of Shanti Banaras is handcrafted silk. And, it’s truly wonderful how this storied textile can be interpreted into various cuts, colours and textures. A pastel-coloured silk sharara could be a wonderful choice for a nikkah; for a Punjabi wedding a classic red lehenga from Shanti Banaras would do the job; a red and white saree with intricate zari work for a Bengali wedding; a silk kanjivaram saree styled with temple jewellery for a South Indian wedding; and a white dress or even a cream-coloured saree with a train and a veil would make for a picture-perfect look for a Christian wedding."

Gautam Gupta

For a Nikkah, I would like to design a Red or Pink Zardosi lehenga with intricate embroidery instead of the usual kurta shararas, for other family one can design a nice kasab embroidery chiffon saree or Anarkali.

For a Punjabi wedding, I would go for a 3D embroidery pink peach lehenga with a modern blouse and organza dupatta. I will use a lot of pearls in embroidery as it not only looks opulent but graceful. For a non-bride, a nice concept saree – pre-stitched for Gen Z and frill for millennials and above. I would love to work with shades such as Onion pink, Sea green or Grey blue with knots and cut dana embroidery.

For a Bengali wedding, a nice Paithani lehenga with an organza dupatta is what I would suggest. We can surely give lucknawi saree or bandhani saree to the mother or elder siblings of the family. The Gen Z can even go for a brocade pantsuit to be playful and elegant at the same time.

For a South Indian wedding, a Kanjeevaram lehenga and a bandhani dupatta will be a unique combination with a gota embroidery blouse and belt. For Gen Z, I would suggest an indo western-like brocade or embellished jacket and dhoti.

For a Christian wedding, I will design a rose quartz or off-white colour organza gown with lots of 3D embroidery with pearls, beads and sequins for the bride. For the close family and guests, I would recommend a nice embellished chic dress in Lilac or Peach-pink colour having a layered top of feathers or sequins embellished cape top with a nice printed floral maxi dress.


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