An Indian Wedding – The Glittery Reality

In May this year I visited Hyderabad, a large, bustling city in central India, to celebrate the wedding of my friends Shameer and Salima. It was my second visit to the country but my first time at an Indian wedding.
The photos I have selected below intend to show you a traditional Indian wedding from my perspective, but also from the heart of the occasion -the family. 
A muslim Indian wedding is filled with ceremonies and rituals, it lasts two days with changes of venue and outfit at every stage, but its epicentre really is the family, a strong unit whose love and respect for each other shine through as they enjoy every minute of their loved ones’ marriage.
An Indian wedding is also made up of the ingredients of any wedding; outfits, eating, dancing, photos, happiness, laughter, tears. Indians are very big on formally recording their weddings, a trend that is declining in the UK with lots of people opting for more candid photos. At an Indian wedding a full crew is hired for both stills and moving image, and studio lights are set up throughout. 
So armed with a Fuji xpro 1, I decided to try and capture more of the gritty reality behind the wedding, or as it turned out, the glittery reality…

(Please note the captions are based on my interpretation of an Muslim-Indian wedding from the eyes of an English photographer)

Preparations at Mahavir Nest, Shameer’s apartment…

On arriving at Shameer’s apartment, every room is filled with colour,patterns and people busily preparing for the upcoming wedding. Sultana Aunty sits and dries the Mehndi (henna) on her palm
Daulat, who has been brought up from Shameer’s parents home in Bodhan to lend a hand during the busy wedding period, sits and prepares vegetables for the evening meal
Nieces and nephews, indoors due to the intense heatwave that has hit India, keep themselves occupied as the adults are busy preparing for the wedding
As well as ceiling fans, large air conditioning units are on the go in every room of the apartment as temperatures reach over 45 degrees in the state of Telangana
All the extended family are invited to Shameer’s apartment in the days leading up to the wedding. For the men there is much catching up and conversation to be had. some have traveled from as far as Florida to be at the wedding
Meanwhile the women are busy in the heart of the Indian home, the modest kitchen, preparing  and serving the most delicious home recipes throughout the day
In one of the many spare bedrooms, young nieces enjoy the fruits of their parents labour and entertain themselves with an Ipad
Eventually the women of the family can sit and enjoy some home cooked food, sitting in a circle in another bedroom to finding space to chat and enjoy each other’s company
The night before the wedding weekend begins, is a Mehndi party, with each guest having a unique henna design on their hands
The designs which usually cover both sides of the hands have to be painstakingly dried for at least an hour
After and hour or so the thick paste starts to drop off leaving a design on the skin underneath

Over at her Aunty’s apartment across the city Salima is having both her hands and feet decorated
Salima still smiling despite a patient 4-5 hours of henna application 
Back at Shameer’s lines of hands are being held out to dry as the Mehndi party continues late into the night
Over 25 family members will stay in Shameer’s city apartment on the night before the wedding with blankets already laid down in the living room for people to sleep
After cooking for the family late into the evening Shameer’s mum Meera Pirani puts her feet up and has her Mehndi drawn 
The henna artists stayed until 1am and every last arm was filled with patterns
Then, as ritual requires, Shameer’s “Sisters” (sister and cousins) make a playful henna design on his palms
They also feed their brother, another common ritual in all Indian celebrations


The Haldi/Pithi Ceremony at The Grand Elite Hotel, Hyderabad…

The first night of the two-day wedding, The Pithi or Haldi ceremony. First is Salima’s who checks her appearance in a room above the ceremony hall before making her entrance to 300 waiting guests
Salima is dressed in a bejewelled yellow Saree for the ceremony which will involve yellow tumeric paste being applied to her face
24 year old Salima looks radiant as she composes herself before the ceremony
The bride plans every last details of her outfits and spends many days preparing for her wedding
The beautiful bride
Shameer’s niece Serena looks up to the bride, knowing one day she will be a bride at her own Pithi ceremony, as the camera crew watches the exchange
Salima composes herself, surrounded by loved ones who arrange a tradional shawl over her head 
A nervous expectant look as Salima begins to make her way down the central aisle of the hall
The shawl, an ancient tradition, is made up of a Bandhani print, usually worn on happy occasions in Indian cultures
Shameer’s mother Meera also chose a hint of yellow to wear for the Pithi ceremony, the bride and groom as well as all the guests will wear a different, carefully selected outifit for each ceremony
An offering of dried fruit or an almond is placed in the bride’s mouth by all guests attending the cremony
Rice and rose petals are also sprinkled on the bride
Along with the fun, the good wishes from close ones can be overwhelming for the bride to be
Salima’s emotions were visible on her face as the ceremony unfolded
Salima holds back tears as the first streaks of tumeric past are applied to her face
Salima’s mother and aunty keep a close eye on their young bride as she wipes away a tear
Smiles are soon resumed as the tumeric paste mounts up
The seated guests queue to visit the bride who is surrounded by close family and the camera crew and their equipment
Wedding guests offer prayers for the bride, which often result in overwhelming emotions
The bride greets each and every guest with a smile, sitting for hours as hundreds queue to join in the fun
Children will attend many weddings through out their lives, the young boys perhaps less excited by the spectacle
Salima brims with emotion as Shameer’s father Sadruddin Pirani offers his blessing
Yasmin Punjani, Salima’s mother brims with emotion as she receives a video call from her daughter Shireen who is in London and could not attend her sister’s wedding
Shireen, Salima’s sister poses for a wedding photo via video call from London. Salima missed her sister greatly during the wedding
After every guest has greeted the bride, a clay pot is broken by Salima, another Indian wedding tradition
The family then prepare the stage for the arrival of the groom, Shameer
Shameer is all smiles before the first of the tumeric paste is applied, he is likely to get a more messy approach than his soon-to-be wife Salima

Guests place a hand on the groom’s head as they give their prayers
Elders are invited to the stage first as a mark of respect
Shameer takes a moment to reflect in a fleeting break between well-wishers
Malek Faiba, Shameer’s Aunty, smiles at her nephews wedding
After queuing to see the bride or groom the guests are seated and can eat from the buffet. There is no alcohol at a Muslim Indian wedding
Due to the hugely increased demand for electricity during the heatwave powercuts were frequent throughout the wedding with mobile phones providing a temporary light source as the venue plunged into darkness
The sudden darkness didn’t halt the wedding and the groom smiles on regardless
Prayers and blessings offer serious moments amongst the fun
Though friends and relatives make the most of their opportunity to play around with the groom 

Niece Aliza, one of the youngest wedding guests
Family, always close to hand, are awash with colour and smiles
The embroidered shawl is held on the groom’s head at all times by a female family member, another ancient memory that’s significance has been forgotten over the years
The Indians have a universal ability to squat for long periods of time where a western person would kneel or sit
Shameer’s cousin mistakenly fed him a cashew coated in tumeric, hence the expression on his face as he notices the unpleasant flavour of the uncooked paste
The prayers are a deeply spiritual part of the ceremony, blessings from the community are everything to the Indian bride and groom
For the groom, after the last blessing is given, the fun begins
It is tradition to soil the groom’s clothes, cover them completely in Tumeric and generally make a mess
For the Indian children this is possibly the best part of the evening’s rituals
Shameer tries to cover his face as he is sprayed with can after can of fake snow
Many guests said this was the most elaborate soaking they had ever seen at an Indian wedding
Next came the glitter..
Shameer managing to smile as he continues to b sprayed with snow and glitter and friend start to remove his clothing

An explosion of glitter and snow hits Shameer’s head
And still it goes on…
The guests are having too much fun to stop, ripping Shameer’s shirt
Eventually the snow and glitter runs out and Shameer is brought a towel, as he sits amongst the destruction
The once immaculate stage area is filled with the remnants of the glittery explosions
An Inidan wedding is a place that youngsters make new friends, and who knows, future husbands and wives, within the community. In fact Shameer and Salima began their relationship at Salima’s sisters wedding
Everything is elaborate in colour and pattern, even down to the walls and chairs, creating a rich and vibrant atmosphere
Shameer’s father, Sadruddin, signals the start of the party as he makes his way to the dancefloor
Time for the bride and groom to let their hair down, be together, and dance
The fun and frolics don’t stop as father of the groom dances with a pink shawl
Indians always make time for other people, and didn’t forget to celebrate Sultana Aunty and Sultan Uncles wedding anniversary
Sadruddin sings for his brother and sister-in-law’s anniversary and cake is spooned into the couple’s mouths


The happy couple, just back from the ceremony at the Mosque, are now officially married

Their love for each other, and  the happy nature of Shameer and Salima Pirani radiates from the couple
A moment with the newlyweds as they wait to enter Shameer’s apartment for some family rituals
The camera crew are ready to capture their first step over the threshold
All eyes are on the couple, but they only have eyes for each other. They are also tied together by their shawls, later Shameer will have to bargain with his sisters and pay them to untie him, just one of the humourous elements of an Indian wedding
Clay pots are presented to the couple, the first to smash it under their feet is said to wear the trousers for the rest of the marriage – Salima won
The couple pause to pray to Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, leader of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims
Prayers are a prevalent part of the traditional Indian wedding, the couple bow to Shameer’s Uncle – Bade Papa, as he offers prayers
A quick “click” as the Indian’s say of Salima with her mother Yasmin and best friend Simi
Salima and Simi make a stunning pair

Salima, always ready to help someone else is found in the kitchen on her wedding day 
I whisked the bride away for some portraits by the window, to capture her marital glow and exquisitely detailed outfit
A matching portrait of Yasmin, mother of the bride
Smiling Salima settles on the floor for the first of the post-wedding games
Shamer and Salima have to sift through rice and rose petals to find a hidden ring, the winner becoming in charge of the marriage, of course Salima won
Wedding guests chat and relax before lunch, later that evening they will change for the main wedding reception
Salima and Shameer sit and chat to family and friends, the afternoon offers chance to relax before the grand wedding reception
With most spaces taken up, the married couple are served their lunch on a spare bed so they can relax and enjoy some home cooked  food
The couple are amused that the English guests think a table on the bed is part of a ritual, just a convenience according to the groom
Simi, Salimas best friend and cousin gets ready for the wedding reception. A picture of Imam is found in most rooms in the homes of the Ismaili community
The evening reception is held at a grand hall. The married couple personally greet the 900 guests who queue to wish them well and pose for more staged photos. this can take until the early hours of the morning when the family will eventually sit down to eat
Family gather on stage for one of hundreds of portraits taken by the camera crew throughout the evening
The stunning couple in their fourth and final outfit of the two day wedding. With Shameer opting for the Western choice of a tuxedo, as they dance on stage for their guests