Headed to your first Indian wedding? Here’s a go-to guide for where you need to be when, as well as what to wear.
Day 1: Lucky female guests—usually relatives and close friends of the bride—are invited to the mehndi at her family’s home. The bride gets intricate henna designs on her legs and arms; for guests, it’s hands only. Whatever you do, don’t wear white to this—or any—event. In Indian culture, white clothing symbolizes death.
Day 2: For most, the weekend kicks off with the sangeet, a colorful dinner with singing and dancing. Go bright—sangeets are lax affairs, typically decorated in purple, orange, and fuchsia. And load up on channa masala at the buffet. (Plated dinners are a rarity.) Not eating—or eating small amounts—might upset your host.
Day 3: Wear sensible shoes to the baraat, the groom’s procession toward his bride. Whether he’s atop a Ferrari or a horse, it’s considered proper to dance down the street. At Hindu weddings, guests often chat and drink chai. Sikh rituals tend to be more solemn. Looking forward to the open bar at the reception? Brush up on the couple’s religion first. Depending on the family’s traditions, there might not be booze. If you’re going with a money gift, make sure the amount ends in 1—it’s good luck.
This article appears in our September 2015 issue of Washingtonian.