January 16

Indian Wedding Traditions

We are so excited to introduce Braja Mandala on the Wedding Paper Divas blog. She is a talented wedding photographer extraordinaire most known for her work with extravagant South Asian weddings.

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Braja is a highly sought after photographer for Indian weddings because of the connection she shares with the culture and her unique ability to capture the emotion behind the memorable stories and scenes from each occasion surrounding the ceremony itself. Having practiced and being a follower herself of Hindu traditions for more than 15 years, this week we learn about Indian Wedding Traditions particularly for Hindu weddings from Braja Mandala.

Braja_Mandala_Photography

She likes to connect personally with her clients and fuse the traditional Indian elements with the more contemporary elements the bride and groom seek to incorporate into the weddings so the photos become a true expression of the bride and groom. In doing so, she is redefining tradition. We will learn more from Braja Mandala as she highlights the importance of understanding and knowing the deep meanings behind the wedding ceremonies of South Asian weddings.

Braja_Mandala_photography

1. What inspired you to become a wedding photographer and specialize in South Asian Weddings?

LOVE. It is the driving force behind my wedding photography. I feel very fortunate to be doing what I love.

I was born and raised in a a small beach town in Southern California, I spent my Summers as a kid swimming in the ocean and camping with my grandparents. From early in my teenage years I wanted two things in life, to be a photographer and to learn about the Hindu faith. The day after I graduated from high school I committed five years of my life to studying the Hindu religion. I traveled to India twice, although I must admit the first time I went to India at the age of 20 I was in complete culture shock, but after being there for a few days I grew to love India. I’ve been in love with the Hindu faith, the people of India and the traditions ever since.

After my five years of study were completed I still had one more passion that I had not fulfilled and that was photography. I studied under other photographers for a several years until I felt confident to branch out and start my own photography business. My roots in the Hindu religion was the deciding factor to specialize in South Asian Weddings. Understanding the traditions and meaning behind the ceremonies is a major asset to getting the best images for my clients.

2. In Hindu weddings, we have seen images of turmeric paste being smeared all over the bride & groom, can you tell us about the significance of this ritual?

Indian Weddings HaldiHaldi is the yellow paste like mixture that is applied on the bride and groom prior to their wedding meant as a blessing given by friends and family of the bride and groom. Out of all the pre-wedding events this is one of my favorites to photograph.

Being made mostly from tumeric this is what gives the haldi paste its yellow color. Haldi is applied the morning of the wedding or the day before the wedding. Traditionally the haldi is done at separate locations, one location being for the bride and the second location being for the groom to be. But depending on the families the haldi can be done together. Both the bride and the groom have the haldi applied on their hands, feet, legs, arms, face, basically any part of their body that is not covered by clothing. The haldi can be a really fun, light hearted ceremony as many of the guests applying the haldi have fun smearing it all over the bride or groom to be. Once one person gets going with smearing the haldi all over the bride and groom then everyone else follows their lead and start getting huge clumps of haldi to smear all over the bride and groom.

Once everyone is done applying or smearing the haldi on the bride and groom, the haldi is then washed off. Because of the yellow color the haldi leaves the bride and groom with glowing skin for their wedding day.

3. What is the significance behind the intricate henna designs the women have on their hands during Indian weddings?

Indian Wedding HennahHenna, or sometimes called Mehndi, is more or less a temporary tattoo (natural plant based dye) that is applied to a woman’s hands and feet prior to her wedding day. There are many different designs that a woman can get some of the most popular are; a flower, a peacock, or my favorite the paisley. A henna design is applied to both sides of a woman’s hands and goes all the way up the arm to her elbow. The top of the feet also have a henna design applied to them (so toe rings are a must on your wedding day).

Henna is applied as a wet paste and can take anywhere from 1-5 hours to dry. After your henna dries you have to scrape off the dry paste and your design is revealed. Your henna design can last anywhere from 1-3 weeks and will be a dark red color. Lemon juice is applied to the henna while it is still wet on the skin to help the henna have a deeper red color.

The funnest thing about a bride-to-be getting henna is that the henna artist hides the grooms name inside the henna design. On the wedding night the groom is supposed to find his name in her henna designed hands. If he can not find his name in the henna, then the bride is said to have the upper hand in the marriage.

4. Indian weddings can last for days can you tell me what are some of the pre wedding events in an Indian wedding?

Indian Wedding SangeetIndian Weddings can last from one day to one week long (even longer sometimes). If you are having a week long Indian wedding or are attending an Indian wedding that is longer than a day it is most likely that you will be going to a Sangeet. Those of us brought up in the US have never even heard of a Sangeet. So what exactly is a Sangeet anyway?

A Sangeet is more or less a big party thrown the night before the wedding day. Usually all of the guests who are attending the wedding are invited to the Sangeet. Because of the large amount of guests attending a Sangeet it is usually held in a ballroom of a hotel.

Indian Wedding Sangeet

Most families take pride in throwing a lavish Sangeet for their son or daughter. Guests are welcomed with drinks and appetizers and there are many times ladies who will apply henna to your hands. It is a good way for people to interact with each other and have some kind of activity to do during the cocktail hour. Don’t shy away from that gorgeous outfit hanging in your closet, come dressed in your finest lehenga or sari because not only do the bride and groom wear a stunning outfit to their Sangeet so do all of the guests (the more sparkles and embellishment the better).

Music is a huge part of a Sangeet. Many times cousins of the bride and groom put on singing and dancing performances. Anything from a live band to a Punjabi DJ are spotted at Sangeets. Along with rockin’ music comes dancing. And boy do Indians LOVE to dance. So strap on those dancing shoes and get ready to party the night away.
Along with music and dancing and henna the Sangeet night is a great way to meet family and friends of the bride and groom and toast to their new life together.

5. Can you explain to us the significance of the groom’s grand entrance (a Baraat) on his wedding day?

Indian Wedding Baraat

A baraat is a huge, I mean huge parade of friends and family of the groom dancing and singing their way to the ceremony site. This is the groom’s chance to make his grand entrance. I have seen a groom enter on an elephant, a horse and even a Ferrari. A baraat lasts between 30 minutes to 1 hour. During this time all friends and family members dance around the groom whom is traditionally carried on a horse or elephant. There is usually a DJ and a dhol player who accompany the friends and family. About half way thru the procession the groom gets off his elephant or horse and joins in on the signing and dancing. When the groom joins all of his friends and family members this is when the real fun starts to happen. The crowd goes wild and forms a circle around the groom while he dances to the ceremony site to see his bride-to-be.

6. What is the meaning of the Vidai ceremony that takes place after the wedding?

Indian Wedding Vidai

After the rituals of the wedding ceremony are performed the vidai, or saying “goodbye” takes place.
Back in the day, women lived with their family until they got married. Their wedding day would be the first time the woman would leave the protection of her family. After the wedding the groom and his family members would go to the home of the bride to bring the bride to live at their home.

Indian Wedding Vidai

Depending on families traditions today the vidai is most of the time located near the ceremony site and seldom at their homes. After saying goodbye to her parents the bride and groom are driven away in a car to the reception. The vidai is a very emotional ceremony, with tears from not only the bride but her parents and siblings as well. I love to see all of the emotion and love between the families during the vidai ceremony.

Shop Indian inspired Wedding invitations on Wedding Paper Divas – Indian Wedding Invitations

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January 12

Unique Wedding Proposal Story

We are so pleased to introduce Brittany, a guest blogger for our “Real Brides” blog series. Brittany is recently engaged and living in NYC with her fiancé Eric. The couple is planning their wedding which will take place in Chicago. She will be sharing tips, inspiration and ideas on the Wedding Paper Divas blog for engaged couples who are navigating the world of weddings!

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Hi, my name is Brittany, and I’m excited to share some of my experiences during this very exciting time with the Wedding Paper Divas community! My fiance and I are looking at the wedding planning process as a way to grow as a couple, have fun and ultimately, find creative and beautiful ways through décor and other details to celebrate our relationship. We’re pretty quirky, and hope to find ways to make the wedding representative of us, and fun for all involved!

First up in the series is the beginning of the path to Mr. & Mrs.: the proposal! Couples can pull inspiration from our story in that with a little imagination and thoughtful planning, there is a way to make a proposal incredibly unique and perfectly fitting of your relationship. I think this concept holds true whether you prefer a completely private engagement or one that goes viral.

And so our story begins… Eric and I had been dating for nearly five years and had talked about getting married one day. I’m a total sucker for a good engagement story, like this proposal video by Isaac Lamb, and over time, I had (not-so-subtly) relayed to Eric some proposal elements I’d hoped would be included. I wanted him to ask my parents’ permission ahead of time, and I wanted my family and close friends to be nearby, so we could all celebrate together. (Living out of state, I knew this would be no easy feat for Eric to orchestrate.)

On his end, Eric really wanted to pull off a surprise – so he planned, plotted, coordinated and sweated it out for months so he could one day say “Gotcha!”

As the day approached, I received a high urgency request from my friend Jenny to go bridesmaids dress shopping with Jenny’s mom after work on a summer Thursday. I thought it was a little weird, but chalked it up to bridal shenanigans.

The night before – Eric packed his bags to fly to Chicago for a wedding, on the first flight out the following morning. At 4:00am, like clockwork, Eric arose for his flight, kissed me goodbye and instead of heading to the airport, wheeled his bag to our friend’s apartment upstairs for a nap.

After work, I showed up as directed to Anthropologie in Rockefeller Center and started perusing dresses with Jenny and her mom – until they held up their phone and asked me to watch something that stopped me in my tracks.

Like any good Bachelor fan, I almost passed out, and had to watch the video twice to grasp what was happening. (Turns out Eric had told his colleagues about my love for the TV series, and one of them had a connection to JP Rosenbaum and asked him if he was willing to participate in the proposal!)

So then I was led into the plaza at Rockefeller Center, where Eric and I had had our second date ice-skating. It had been a great date, and the point at which Eric decided he really liked me, so he chose this iconic NY location for the moment!

Eric then materialized (a shock to the system, considering seconds ago, I was thinking he was in Chicago!) and pulled out adorable printouts of our adored nephews, who helped Eric get the words out.

As for Eric’s exact words, I can’t be too sure what he said, as I was in a Bachelor/proposal-induced blackout. I did catch the tail end, which was “Will you marry me?” and “Did I getcha?”

The answer to both questions was a resounding YES.

The incredible evening was capped off by a dinner with family and friends. Eric had coordinated both sets of parents to fly in from Chicago, with siblings and friends helping us celebrate. (Our friend Monica, creator of Monica Hues nail decals, was even there to jazz my nails up with her super cute engagement decals!)

Eric strategically planned every detail, creating an unforgettable start to a wonderful road ahead!

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January 9

A Flowers and Feathers Themed Bridal Shower

We are thrilled to share this whimsical bridal shower, coordinated and styled by the lovely Shannon of Bottle Pop Party Co. The talented Hudson Nichols captured incredible details like gorgeous flower crowns from Fresh Designs, a stunning cake by Princess of Persia and one of our fun bridal shower games. Shannon was inspired to create this theme after seeing our “Radiant Wreath” bridal shower invitation suite. Thank you, Shannon, for the inspiration!

Feather shoot 1Feather Shoot CrownsFeature Shoot 2Feather and flowers shoot table

Feathers shoot thank you cardsFeathers shoot tableFeather shoot gift bagsfeathers and flowersFeather and flower shoot favorsFeathers and flowers cake

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January 8

Real Wedding: Erin & Jordan

This week’s Real Wedding features one of our very own Shutterfly employees, Erin and her husband Jordan’s chic and simple San Francisco celebration. The Midwestern couple decided to turn their wedding into a family fun weekend by treating their nearest and dearest to a cocktail hour and dinner party in Fisherman’s Wharf, complete with post-dinner bar crawl through the city.

The adorable couple followed their KISS rule (Keep It Small and Simple) and firmly believed in making their special day just as special for their family. Erin and Jordan said “I Do” on the balcony at City Hall surrounded by their loved ones.

Erin and Jordan’s city hall nuptials were captured by Stephanie Hines, of Shines Photography.

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