From its initial simplicity, the wedding ceremony became complicated, over time to reinforce the extended family. Today, a marriage is perhaps the most important social occasion for any family.
Let us see what typically entails a marriage ceremony
A day before the wedding, the bride and her friends and female relatives gather for the ceremony of mehendi, in which their palms and feet are decorated with henna. The bride is teased with music and dance, by the other women about her future husband and in-laws.
The wedding mandap is erected at the marriage venue on the day of the wedding, within which the ceremony is conducted. The poles of the frame are draped with strings of flowers. On the wedding morning, various rituals are performed by both the bride and the groom in their own homes. Their bodies are anointed with turmeric, sandalwood paste and oils, which cleanse the body, soften the skin, and make it aromatic. They are then bathed to the chanting of Vedic mantras. Today this is done symbolically, if at all, with a token application of turmeric, sandal wood, and oil on the face and arms, before the bath. The bride now wears all her finery, helped by her family and friends. So does the groom.
The bride and the groom garland each other in formal mutual acceptance. This custom has become a very important part of the wedding ceremony now.. After this, the bride and groom sit in the mandap next to each other before a sacrificial pit or havana kunda. The ritual of kanyadan now takes place. The bride is given to the groom by her father, or by her grandfather or brother in the absence of her father. The bride`s father first symbolically gives her to God, invoked by the priest with the mantras. The bride`s guardian takes her hands and places them in the groom`s, transferring his responsibility for her to the groom. The groom assures her father that he will not be false to her in dharma, artha, or kama. After this, the groom ties a tali (a.k.a. Mangalasutra) around the bride`s neck. The marriage ceremony then enters its most important phase, the saptapadi (seven steps), in which the couple take seven steps together, facing the north. With the fire (Agni) as the witness, they exchange the wedding vows. Legally, the marriage is now final and binding. The bride is then sprinkled with holy water, believed to purify her from any previous sins and cleanse her, in preparation for her new life ahead.
In the north and east, the ritual of putting Sindhoor, or vermilion powder, in the parting of the bride`s hair is performed by the groom. The husband dips his ring in vermilion powder and traces a line from the center of his wife`s hairline to the crown of her head. Brahmin grooms who have not undergone the Upanayana ritual are given a symbolic initiation. Some warrior communities like the Kodavas involve sword wielding rituals in the ceremony. During the proclamation of the couple getting united, the gathering showers the bride and groom with flower petals and the couple come out of the mandap to receive blessings and are greeted by everyone present.
The bride now leaves for her new home, bidding a tearful farewell to her own family. She now belongs to another family and no longer to her parents, for she has been ritually given away. When the bride arrives at her new home, an arati is performed for her by her mother-in-law and she is ceremonially ushered into the house. She takes care to enter, auspicious right foot first. (In some communities the bride gently kicks over a strategically placed measure of paddy as an augury of plenty for her new family. The first night is usually spent in the groom`s house or in a hotel, the couple then leaves for their honeymoon.
The customs during the wedding ceremony in India are varied and reflect the vast diversity of cultures of the land. The cultures have influenced each other with mutual borrowing of practices.