Though a traditional Hindu wedding encompasses more than a dozen rituals and can last for several days, it can be condensed - a North American ceremony typically lasts about an hour and a half. My description here focuses on some of the highlights of the actual wedding day, but customs vary widely among ethnic groups, families, regions, and castes.
Weddings are conducted by a Hindu priest, or pandit, who chants Sanskrit mantras from the Vedas, the books of holy scripture. The groom wears white, while the bride wears a red and gold sari.
Under the mandap, a flower-bedecked canopy, the bride and groom exchange floral garlands to wear for the duration of the ceremony. After the father of the bride gives his daughter away, the priest ties the couple’s right hands together. The heart of the ceremony, the mangalfera, also involves a binding ritual, wherein the groom’s scarf is tied to the bride’s sari and the couple circles a sacred fire seven times. With each round, they pray for a blessing - from food and prosperity to strong and virtuous children.
Once the steps are completed, the marriage is sealed. The groom puts a red powder called sindhoor on the part of the bride’s hair to show that she is a married woman.