Indian bride's posing for a photo to show off her hair and makeup for her Indian wedding ceremony.

Indian Bridal Jewelry Breakdown

We’re bring you this article as part of our #CateringManagersWhoCrushIt series.

Not only are Indian bridal jewelry, headdresses, and the clothing insanely gorgeous but each piece has cultural significance and meaning. And we thought it would be fun to share that info with Catering Managers. After all, the more you know the more you can crush it when you’re selling Indian weddings!

{Wedding Ceremony Clothing}

Bride’s Lehenga. A lehenga is comprised of three pieces:

  • skirt
  • blouse
  • shawl

Most Indian brides wear a lehenga for the wedding ceremony. And you’ve probably noticed that usually it’s a shade of red, pink, or traditional Gujarati brides will wear a panetar which is primarily white.

And I’m sure you’ve noticed these lehengas are HEAVILY jeweled and bedazzled with bling for days. That’s what makes them so heavy- weighing anywhere from 10+ pounds!

She wears her shawl pinned to her head as a sign of modesty and honor in Indian and many South Asian cultures.  In the original tradition a new bride not only covered her head but her entire face, as you can see in this scene from a very famous Bollywood movie, “Jodha Akbar”.

But as times change traditions evolve with the times and modern brides cover their head but not their entire face.

Lehenga Pronunciation for Catering Sales Managers: le-nga; rhymes with Jenga (remember that game?!).

The bride in her pink lehenga. PC: Global Photography

Muslim Bride’s Lehenga. Lehengas worn by Muslim brides share the same 3 components:

  • blouse
  • skirt
  • shawl

But the blouse will be hip length or longer and 3/4 in to full sleeves. Conservative is the keyword here. Now scroll up and down and notice each bride’s sleeve length and her blouse length and you’ll start to notice the differences.

Muslim bride in her 3/4in sleeve, down to her ankles lehenga blouse with her groom wearing a sherwani. PC: Aaron Eye Photography

Groom’s Achkan or Sherwani. Most people don’t know that there are two types of outfits that grooms wear. Most people call it a sherwani. And while they’re very similar they are different. First of all the pieces are a long full sleeved shirt, pants and a scarf.

The groom’s outfit is also super blinged out and most couples seek to have their outfits in matching colors.

The primary difference between an achkan and a sherwani is that an achkan’s top is knee-length where a sherwani is below the knee.

The groom’s knee-length achkan, and the bride’s sexy sleeveless, midriff lehenga blouse.  PC: Global Photography
The groom’s below the knees sherwani and the bride in her white sari. PC: Randery Imagery
The bride and groom sitting in the mandap. The bride wearing a maroon, short-sleeved lehenga and the groom in a matching achkan. PC: Greycard Photography

Sari. So while everyone will know what you mean when you call every Indian dress a sari, they’re not all saris. The sari is the iconic dress of India that has permeated the globe.

And again while all your clients will know what you mean when you say, “how much you love all the brides in their saris” the sari has a specific meaning. A sari is a single long piece of fabric which is anywhere from 12-27ft. long and 2-4ft. wide. Some brides (not as many as those who wear lehengas) wear this, again in shades of red, pink, or white for the wedding ceremony. You will really only see Hindu and Jain brides wearing a sari for their wedding ceremony. Especially South Indian and Konkani brides. Most other brides wear a lehenga. Muslim and Sikh brides typically do not wear saris at their wedding ceremony.

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Konkani bride wearing a sari for her wedding ceremony. booked at a venue in Anaheim, California by ShaadiShop. PC: Aaron Eye Photography.

{Sikh Bridal Clothing}

Sikh bride in her Patiala suit. PC: Vipul Sharma Photography

Sikh Brides. Sikh brides are a split for their wedding ceremony outfit of choice. Some wear the traditional Patiala suit (as seen in the photo) and some wear the red, pink lehenga as worn by Hindu and Jain brides.

Patiala pronunciation: Putt-ee-aa-la; and that’s putt as in “putt a golf ball” not “put” as in “put that away.”

A patiala suit again is in a red or pink hue but instead of a skirt in a lehenga, the bottoms are pants. And as you can see in the photo they’re pretty wide leg pants that bunch at the ankle.

The other pieces are the same as a lehenga – a top and shawl. You’ll notice her top is thigh height and her sleeves just over the elbow to leave room for her, a Punjabi bride’s iconic choora (bracelets), which are described later in the article.

Choora pronunciation: choo-raa

The bridal Patiala suit is really only worn by Sikh brides, so if you ever see a bride wearing this, you’ll be able to identify her and the customs and traditions easily.

As Catering Sales Executives, right about now you might be saying to yourself that your current venue or even throughout your Catering Sales career, you haven’t worked on as many Sikh weddings as Hindu and Jain weddings.

And I’m not surprised. The reason is traditionally the Sikh wedding ceremony, called an ‘Anand Karaj’ is held in a Sikh place of worship called a Gurdwara.

And that tradition has carried through to the majority of Sikhs who have settled in the USA, Canada, UK and other countries. Still some families decide to host their Anand Karaj outside of the Gurdwara for a variety of reasons such as one of my friends who had about 700 people at her Anand Karaj and the local Gurdwaras simply couldn’t house that many guests. Some people want to take advantage of a gorgeous oceanfront location or garden location such as this Sikh destination wedding at the Le Meridien in Phuket, Thailand.

Guys wearing rumaal during Sikh Punjabi, Anand Karaj, Indian wedding in Phuket, Thailand.
Sikh men wear turbans called Pagadhi; pronounced pug-a-dee

But a lot of Sikh brides opt to wear a lehenga instead of a Patiala suit – it’s personal preference.

Sikh grooms usually wear a sherwani vs. an achkan.

Sikh Weddings for Catering Sales Managers: Notice that the guests are sitting on the floor/ground sub-flooring. This is an imperative part of all Sikh wedding ceremonies. You see, their holy book called the Guru Granth Sahib is the only element at the ceremony that can be elevated. And everyone must be seated at a lower level. Sikh weddings in ballrooms are no worries. Lay down some white sheets and you’re good to go.

Outdoor Sikh ceremonies get tricky because you want guests to be comfortable so they might arrange padded mattresses like the photo above. But how would your venue team feel if your ceremony space is grass? Will you allow those padded mattresses or a sub-flooring to be laid down?

FYI: Sikh, Hindu and Muslim ceremony setups are theater style seating.

{Indian Bridal Jewelry}

Now that we’ve covered a bride and groom’s wedding ceremony clothing, let’s talk the bride’s head-to-toe jewelry and accessories. This is called “Solah Shringar” or 16 adornments of a Hindu, Jain or Sikh bride.

Maang Tikka: The maang tikka is kind of like a Christmas tree ornament. Essentially it’s an ornate ornament attached to a “string”. The “string” portion is pinned in the the bride’s hair so that the ornament dangles on her forehead.

Like any piece of jewelry the maang tikka enhances the overall bridal look but it also has significance in terms of being placed in just above the center of the forehead. In the Hindu, Jain, and Sikh religions the center of the forehead is also known as the Third Eye. This is the spiritual eye and the gateway to spiritualism and wisdom. Who wouldn’t want a bit more of that on their wedding day?!?

This is also why in a groom’s saafa (his hat) often has an ornament or charm dangling from the center such that when he puts it on it rests on his third eye.

Like and jewelry there are all kinds of styles and designs for the maang tikka.

Indian bride smiling, wearing her tikka
Bride wearing her maang tikka. PC: Inbal More Photography; notice how the red charm dangling from the ornament sits dead center on her forehead, on the Third Eye.

Jhoomar: A jhoomar is also worn on the head – on the side and represents unity of the bride and groom. You mostly see Muslim and Punjabi brides wearing jhoomar.

Indian bride wearing jhoomar, tikka, and payal at her Indian wedding
Punjabi bride wearing a jhoomar on the side of her head AND a maang tikka on her forehead. PC: Global Photography

Bindi: Bindi’s are synonymous with Indian women across the globe. The “red dot” as it has become known sits in the middle of the bride’s forehead on her Third Eye. For weddings brides don’t necessarily wear a “red dot” as they want the bindis to match her outfit. Additionally for weddings, to look more done up, bindis are placed across her entire forehead, following her eyebrow line.

Bride wearing her maang tikka and bindis across her forehead. PC: Paul F. Gero Photography

Sindoor: The sindoor signals that a woman is married. During the wedding ceremony there’s a point at which the groom applies sindoor in his bride’s hairline symbolizing that now she is married. In India you’ll see women wearing this everyday. It’s a lot less common in the USA, especially amongst the younger generations.

Groom applying sindoor on his bride during a Hindu wedding ceremony. PC: Greycard Photography
Groom wearing sherwani putting sindoor in bride's maang at Indian Hindu wedding ceremony.
Groom applying sindoor on his bride during a Hindu wedding ceremony. PC: Wedding Documentary Photo + Cinema.

Kajal aka eyeliner: In Indian culture eyeliner has meaning in addition to being makeup to enhance ones eyes. It’s said to be a coolant and protects the eyes from the suns rays and particles in the environment. It’s also often applied to children on the regular (in India) and the groom on his wedding day as it’s believed to ward off the evil eye. Kajal itself is made out of different ingredients than eyeliner you’d buy at Mac or Sephora but it serves the same purpose.

Indian bride's posing for a photo to show off her hair and makeup for her Indian wedding ceremony.
Bride wearing her nath aka nosering; PC: Greycard Photography
The Indian bride wearing her beautiful red lehenga and gold nath.

Nath — nosering. Over the last couple of years fewer brides are wearing these. The nosering is worn on the left side and attached to the bride’s ear. Big or small, simple or ornate there are all shapes, sizes and styles of naths. It is believed that piercing the left nostril near a particular node in the nostril gives women relief during their menstrual cycle. Traditionally having a nose piercing was reserved for married women, so it was done right before the wedding.

There are clip ons too for those who don’t want to get a nose piercing.

Maharashtrian brides wear a specific nath style called, ‘guchhedar nath’ which is made out of pearls.

Earrings and Necklaces. No bridal look would be complete without earrings. And there are absolutely gorgeous ones to perfectly match each bride’s outfit. As for necklaces we’re talking about some serious statement necklaces when it comes to bridalwear. Brides usually wear long dangling earrings a chokar plus a longer chain-like necklace.

Mehndi aka henna: Mehndi is an other bridal adornment which according to ayurved when applied also has skin healing and relaxing properties…just what a bride needs right before the stress of her wedding! The bride’s mehndi is usually applied 2-3 days before the wedding. The designs are very intricate and applied by skilled artists via cones, identical to how frosting is applied to cakes. Somewhere in her mehndi she has her future husband’s first name inked in and a fun post-wedding game is where he has to find it. Below this bride made it easy but some brides make it difficult, hiding individual letters throughout the designs and he has to find each of them!

The Mehndi Wedding Event for Catering Sales Managers: You’ve probably heard of the mehndi as one of the wedding events to be hosted at the venue. The mehndi function takes place the same day as the bride gets her mehndi done. It’s a fun night full of fun, food, and music where the women – family and friends – get their mehndi done as well. From a setup standpoint it’s a combo of rounds and scattered chairs, a bar, a buffet, and a dance floor. It’s not nearly as formal as the reception.

PC: Braja Mandala Wedding Photography

Baajubandh aka armlet: It’s similar to an anklet….but for your arm. This is less and less common as well as only brides wearing short sleeves can really get the effect of it. Armlets are just beautiful pieces of jewelry. And they come in a variety of styles, colors, designs and materials.

Bracelets. Indian brides fill their wrists with gorgeous bracelets matching their outfit.

For Punjabi brides these bracelets are more than just beautiful jewelry, rather Punjabi brides have a choora ceremony whereby her maternal uncle gifts her a set of bracelets 9-21, in ivory + red, or ivory + pink). And traditionally Punjabi brides wear these bracelets for the entire first year of their marriage. In ancient Indian culture (and actually a lot of cultures across the globe), daughters were not given inheritance. All of the inheritance went to the sons. Thus maternal uncles were charged with being protectors — looking out for their sisters. And the choora ceremony, whereby the maternal uncle gifts these bracelets to his niece is a manifestation of that duty.

Pronunciation of choora: choo-raa

Panja aka hand rings. Another adornment for Indian brides are her panja or rings that also adorn the outer hand and attach onto her middle fingers.

Payal aka anklets:  In Hindu, Jain and Sikh religions these are made out of silver or other metals, stones or gems – not gold as gold is considered the material of the gods so wearing it on one’s feet is disrespectful.

But many are also made of beads and other gems. Payal make a chink chink sound and are kinda like a signal when the bride is entering the room. Traditionally new brides continue to wear these everyday after marriage for a few years. But you don’t really see this today as it’s not practical.

Payal come in a variety of styles, shapes and sizes and as you can see here this bride’s payal also attach to a toe ring.

An Indian bride's foot showing her mehndi and payal on her feet.
PC: Payal Photo + Video

Bichue or toerings. These are another adornment traditionally observed for a wedding or after marriage only and not worn by women and girls before marriage.

In North Indian and Punjabi culture there is a bichue ceremony after the haldi where the bride’s Bhabhi or sister-in-law places bichue on the bride’s feet symbolizing that she is a bride and ready to get married.

Hair pieces. Hair adornments are also common for brides as they look beautiful

Indian bride's hair and makeup at her mehndi
PC: Greycard Photography
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Konkani brides also wear a white cloth over their sari blouse, called a khola. It’s worn like a sash and is a separate piece from the sari – not attached to it, gifted by the bride’s mother. In Konkani weddings, the bride enters the mandap wearing the khola and and once the couple is officially married, it is removed. It’s a symbol of a bride transitioning from her parents’ home to her new home with her husband. PC: Aaron Eye Photography

Kamarbandh or waist belt. Mostly you see brides wearing this on her sangeet night vs. for the ceremony or reception.


{Take Aways for Catering Executives}

While Catering teams don’t directly get involved with the fashion and jewelry for Indian and other South Asian weddings it’s always useful to acquire more info and knowledge. It just makes you more approachable during site visits and conversations. Plus it’s beautiful and lovely to look at!

I hope this article has been helpful to you. If you have comments, questions or stories you’d like to share, feel free to post them in the comments below. Follow ShaadiShop on FacebookInstagramTwitter, and Pinterest – whatever your preferred media is, as we frequently publish articles for venue sales and catering teams.

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Cover image: Greycard Photography

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