Contextual Data: Over Spring Break, my family received an invitation to attend a wedding. I was a bit curious about what it would be like, as I hadn’t been to a wedding — specifically, an Indian wedding — in a really long time and couldn’t remember very much about any wedding traditions. I asked my mother to tell me a bit about Indian weddings and some specific aspects of the weddings that stood out to her. She mentioned the parade that happens when the groom arrives to the venue. The following is an exact transcription of her description.
“The groom is supposed to come… It’s called a barat—B-A-R-A-T — so him and his family are supposed to come to the girl’s house for the wedding. The wedding takes place generally in the girl’s house. And so they come in that procession… The groom is usually on a horseback or something or walking ahead. There’s a band playing in the front first, then the groom is behind—on either a horse or a car or something — and then behind that there are like people dancing. And then… behind that is all — everybody else who…is just walking. It’s usually a short distance. So they set it up such that it’s a short distance from wherever the girl’s family decides to host the wedding. And…uh. That’s what it is. And they come and when they enter the venue (either the house or wherever they’ve set it up) then the groom — the bride’s mother does a pooja, welcoming the groom. And then the bride is supposed to put a… necklace — mala, a flower one — a flower necklace around the groom and the groom does the same I think… Uh. I think so. I think the bride does it… And, at least in our tradition sometimes they make it difficult for the bride to put it, because men are generally taller. So they lift the guy up so it makes it even harder for the girl to do it [Laughs.] That kind of little stuff goes on.”
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When I asked my informant what she thought the significance of these traditions were, she attached no particular symbolic meaning to them. Mainly, she suggested the groom arrives with a parade because he’s essentially coming to take the bride away, and so, he’s arrived with all the accompanying “fanfare” — it’s a way for him to announce himself to the bride’s family.
Additionally, there are certainly symbolic meanings that can be attached to the act of the bride’s family throwing a flower garland around the groom (thinking about concepts of virginity and the term “deflowering”). The fact that the groom’s family might make this difficult by lifting the groom seems to speak to the idea of a wedding as a liminal, transitory state and the importance of being able to complete these rituals properly and wholly in order for the transition to be complete. But beyond this, the parade seems primarily to speak to the fact that weddings are considered special, celebratory, joyous occasions — the parade is what kicks off the wedding with this air of festivity, particularly through the music and the dancing and the fact that it happens in a very public place; this is an important day for the groom and one on which he deserves some attention and which he should be happy for.