Being a photographer for so many years and working in a culturally diverse area, I have had the pleasure of documenting a variety of weddings from many different backgrounds including traditional Indian weddings. Understanding the traditions and flow of events from certain cultures means I know what elements are crucial to document and which will evoke a particular sentiment. If you have never experienced a traditional Indian wedding, then have a peek behind the scenes of Mamta and Vish’s special day and get an understanding of the series of rituals that take place.
All of my Indian weddings I have shot have been from referrals. These couples tend to rely heavily on their friends and family’s personal experiences. Mamta’s sister worked with one of my past brides. Reena was at Amee and Balkar’s wedding which I had documented. After seeing the photography there, she was insistent on us working together with her sister.
We had shot Mamta and Vish’s engagement session at the Proof Vodka bar in the Intercontinental Hotel in Toronto. Alternatively, their wedding photography offered a much more traditional feel. A traditional Indian wedding will comprise of a series of events leading up to the day itself, such as the Sangeet and Mehndi parties. The Sangeet is a celebratory event full of music and dancing hosted by the bride’s family. This is prior to the Mehndi; an evening where all of the female attendees of the wedding have henna designs applied to their hands or arms. The designs can be very complex, especially for that of the bride. As well, the longer it is left on, the darker the ink will stain the skin, which is encouraged for her.
Experience the vibrant colours and energy of this traditional Indian wedding
We had an extremely early start on the day of the wedding with so many elements of the ceremony to capture as well as a clothing change. Both Mamta and Vish got ready at the Holiday Inn Express hotel. First, I stayed with Mamta and her ladies while Jacquie covered the boys. I wanted to make sure I included all of the little details including her henna designs, make up, sari’s, dress and bangles. I also made sure to get the important action of her mum and sister placing the veil on her head. Meanwhile, Jacquie focused on snapping away as Vish’s family blessed him during his preparations.
The next big milestone for a traditiona Indian wedding is the arrival of the groom; a tradition called the Baraat. Lots of music and dancing ensued as everyone celebrated his procession making his way to the venue. This section of the wedding is so much fun! Here, I switched to a documentary coverage to capture the party like vibe. As Vish made his way to the bride’s family, Mamta’s mother accepted Vish by placing a red dot on his head. The shoe game followed. This is when guests steal the groom’s shoe that is exchanged for money later on in the ceremony.
A look into some of the ceremonies behind this traditional Indian wedding
As the two of them were brought up onto the stage, they exchanged garlands and were blessed by the priest. They followed the meticulous traditional steps of each part of the ceremony, including the special 7 steps walk around the fire. At this point the shoe was exchanged for money as the tradition demand. At the end Mamta threw a trail of rice behind her, symbolizing her leaving her family and starting afresh; otherwise known as the Doli.
After completing the ceremony itself, we headed to the Riverwood Conservancy for their outdoor photo session. Normally I would be worried that the strong sun would wash out the subjects, but their attire was so vibrant that it didn’t impede at all. The bright greens, golds and reds of their wedding attire popped against the slatted wooden shed and the lush foliage. For a bit of fun, we revealed the groomsmen’s shirts underneath that were all different superheroes. The whole group was fantastic in their willingness to be spontaneous in front of the camera. There was a variety of different options for backdrops, such as the wooden trellis, rustic barns, historic looking house and colourful flowers, so we had a lot to work with for their portraits.
The beginning of the end of the ceremony and onto the celebrations
The final part of the day saw the two of them switching outfits into ones that matched the deep blue of the reception hall. It had a very powerful and regal feel to it that made the gold accents and accessories really stand out. A traditional Indian wedding always features the couple entering first and doing their speeches, first dance and wedding cake cutting before the meal commences. The concept is to get all of the traditional aspects out of the way and then open up the buffet for those who want to eat. Eating, drinking and dancing are the focus points of the reception, and the music and performances are intoxicatingly contagious.
I challenge anyone not to get up and want to dance as the dance floor heaves with guests having the time of their lives. With the guests in their glory, we snuck outside for my signature night-time portrait. Although the Versailles Convention Centre didn’t have sumptuous grounds, I had spied a patch of grass out front which was all I needed.
The key to being able to successfully capture the essence of an Indian or South Asian traditional wedding is to be prepared and knowledgeable. Mamta and Vish and their families were so happy and pleased with my work. In the end, I was lucky enough to shoot her sister’s wedding last year at Palais Royale!
Credits to below wedding professionals and locations that helped Mamta and Vish’s wedding to be one of a kind.
As per Lin and Jirsa’s photography blog post The Indian Wedding Ceremony consists of many different rituals below is a list of many of them. Click the links to read more about each part of the ceremony.
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