What can I expect to see at an Indian wedding ceremony?
One of the first things that might surprise Western guests is the baraat, or groom's procession. For this, the groom arrives to the ceremony on a decorated white horse. Guests dance around him to the beat of a dhol, an Indian drum. After that, the bride and her family greet the groom, and the couple exchanges floral garlands to wear around their necks to symbolize their acceptance of each other.
For the ceremony, the priest, groom, bride and bride's parents sit beneath a mandap, a canopy similar to a Jewish chuppah. The ceremony starts off with the kanya daan, in which the bride's parents give her away. Then the couple joins hands and circles around a small, enclosed fire (the agni) in a ritual called the mangal phera.
Then the couple will take the saptapadi, or seven steps, as they vow to support each other and live happily together. Finally, the groom will apply a red powder to the center of the bride's forehead and tie a black beaded necklace around her neck, symbolizing she's now a married woman.