If you’re planning for or have been invited to your first ever Indian wedding in Phuket, it will be a big help to have some idea of what to expect and how to prepare. What kind of clothes should you wear? What gifts are you expected to bring? What traditions should you be prepared for? A little forward planning can go a long way towards making this new and exciting experience memorable for all of the right reasons, rather than traumatising for all of the wrong ones.
What to wear?
The natural instinct for a westerner attending any wedding is to go for smart and subdued clothes. This is absolutely not the style typically adopted at Indian weddings. Instead, you want bright and bold colours. Ladies should select their largest, most eye-catching jewellery. Don’t worry about outshining the bride – the chances of that happening are extremely remote. Also, if you don’t happen to have a sari or lengha, go with a jewel-tone dress with a shawl to get approximately the right look.
How much to attend?
A full traditional Indian wedding ceremony lasts for about three days, but don’t worry – only the bride is expected to attend every second of it. The first day is for the ganesh pooja, which is just for close family members. The second day starts with the mehndi ceremony for the bride and her female friends and family. Later that day is the main event – the sangeet – which is for everyone. If you’ve been invited to an Indian wedding in Phuket, it’s probably for the third day, which includes the main ceremony and reception. However, the invitation should stipulate exactly which times and sessions you’re being asked to participate in.
What should you expect?
Some of the more surprising features of a traditional Indian wedding include the baraat, when the groom and his party arrive at the ceremony on a white horse. His arrival is met with music and dancing before he is finally greeted by the bride and her family and floral garlands are exchanged. For the ceremony itself, the priest, groom, bride and her family sit under a mandap, which is a sort of canopy similar to a Jewish chuppah. After a number of traditional rituals, the couple take the saptapadi – seven steps symbolising their vows to each other. Finally, the groom applies red powder to the bride’s forehead and fits her with a black bead necklace. They’re now married.
Should you bring a gift?
Indian weddings in Phuket (or anywhere else in the world) tend to be quite pragmatic in their approach to gifts. While western wedding gifts are meant to help set up the new household, Indian couples prefer to just have cash so they can buy what they want. It may also help pay for the extravagant wedding. If gifts are requested, you’ll generally be asked to have it shipped directly to the couple’s home.