Indian wedding photography is particularly difficult for an outsider who is not aware of their customs and traditions. As a professional, it should be your responsibility to make sure that you bask in their culture for the duration of the project. That is the only way that you will really be able to pretty much make sense of the sequence of events that are likely to happen during the actual ceremony. This will equip you better in capturing the heart of the moments and to be able to translate that to the photos that you will be processing.
Mhendi – Pre-wedding ritual
One of the most iconic of Indian wedding practices would have to be the pre-wedding ritual of getting the bride ready, it’s called Mhendi. The bride’s feet and hands are intricately and meticulously painted with miniature art out of henna. It’s usually red in color but may at times vary depending on preference. This is a great photo shoot opportunity that you should not pass off.
There’s also the Barat. Barat is the groom’s grand entrance to the wedding. He is usually decked in heavily decorated finery and depending on the grandness of the wedding, may be riding a horse, an elephant, or some kind of exotic animal. In modern times, you may encounter a more less traditional vehicle such as a limo. The groom is usually accompanied by a live band with the rest of his family dancing in the procession. This is awesome for photographs.
You should keep your eyes on the prize though and should not be sidetracked with the ostentatious ceremonies that come with a typical Indian wedding. There are more emotional and romantic practices such as the Varmala. Varmala is basically a practice of having the bride and groom swap heavily flowered garlands and hanging it on each other’s necks.
There is also the Pheras wherein the bride and groom exchange their wedding vows around a holy fire. All the while, they do this while holding hands and walking slowly around the fire for about seven times. If this isn’t the epitome of what makes a romantic scene for you, then we don’t know what will.
Perhaps the most emotional of all of the Indian wedding ceremony rituals is the Kanya Daan. The bride’s family officially hands over their daughter to the groom. This moment can turn quite emotional and a bit weepy. Like seriously, if you will be able to film this will extremely dry eyes, no misting of any kind whatsoever, then props to you for being an immovable rock that is devoid of emotions.
The thing is, Indian wedding photography is interesting and different and involves an entire array of practices and customs that will both throw you off and endear you to the culture at the same time. Make the most out of the moments that you are able to witness and you should be just fine. Always shoot with your instincts but more importantly, shoot with something even more basic and intrinsic – your heart.