Indian wedding traditions are as varied as their practitioners; we created this overview based on the ceremony of one Central Ohio couple, Navin Muni and Navya Parsa.

This story first appeared in the Fall/Winter 2018 issue of Columbus Weddings, published in June 2018.

A traditional Indian Hindu wedding is a multiday affair with ceremonies taking place at specific points over several days. Before the day of the wedding itself, the bride and her female guests participate in a mehndi ceremony. Here, the women’s hands and feet are covered in intricate henna designs. Following that is a sangeet—a celebratory event with lots of dancing and sometimes dinner.

The wedding day itself starts with the baraat (sometimes spelled barat), a processional of the groom—who rides a horse adorned with festive attire—and his family and friends to the ceremony venue. The bride’s parents greet the groom and his family at the venue in a milni ceremony. The mother of the bride places a tilaka marking on the groom’s forehead and performs an aarti blessing.

When the bride enters the room, accompanied by male family members, she and the groom are separated by a screen. Together with their parents and the priest, they sit under a mandap—a four-pillared altar for the ceremony. When the priest decides the time is right, based on the couple’s horoscopes, the screen is dropped. The ceremony itself can consist of any number of rituals, but it often starts with the exchange of floral garlands called varmalas.

Other rituals within the ceremony may include the placing of the mangalsutra necklace around the bride’s neck, signifying her new status as a married woman, and the laaja homam, where the couple pours an offering of puffed rice into a sacred fire called the vivaah homa. There’s also the saptapadi, where the bride and groom take turns leading each other around the sacred fire seven times, making seven sacred promises, and the ashirwad blessings that close the ceremony.