Groom on an elephant at his Indian wedding baraat in Southern California

Indian Wedding Terminology For Venue Executives

Indian weddings are inherently rich in culture, traditions, religions and customs.

As such there are a lot of Indian wedding terms associated with each step, event, and custom. In this article we’ve detailed the Indian wedding terminology For venue executives with an emphasis on the aspects that are relevant to Venue Catering Teams.


Definition: It means wedding/marriage in Hindi which is the national language of India. In everyday conversation shaadi refers to the entire wedding event as a whole, not just the ceremony.

Pronunciation: Shoddy

Who It Applies To: Hindu, Jain, Sikh and Muslim weddings.


Definition: The rounds around the fire taken by the bride and groom during Hindu and Jain weddings. The number of rounds varies by cultures usu. either 4 or 7.

Pronounced: Fair-ay

Who It Applies To: Hindu and Jain weddings.

Indian bride and groom taking pheres at their Hindu wedding ceremony
The bride and groom taking pheres during their Hindu wedding ceremony.

{Laavan Phere}

Definition: The 4 ’rounds’ taken by the bride and groom around the Guru Granth Sahib (the Holy Book) at Sikh weddings. A Sikh wedding is also called an Anand Karaj. In the photo below, you can see the bride, led by the groom making their way around the holy book which is covered by pink-salmon colored cloth, in front of the officiant, on the stage.

Anand Karaj at the Fairmont San Francisco
Lavaan Phere at the Fairmont San Francisco. Photo: Aperina Studios

Pronunciation: Lava

Sikh weddings usually take place in a Gurdwara (Sikh Temple). However over the last 5 years it has become increasingly popular for couples to choose other venues for their Anand Karaj. Above, is a Sikh wedding at the Fairmont San Francisco. Below is a Sikh wedding at the Coronado Island Marriott. Sikh weddings are distinct in that the couple and the guests are seated on the floor as the Holy Book is the only elevated aspect of the ceremony.

Additionally, everyone must cover their heads. The head coverings – for the men have become a part of the wedding decor. As you can see in the photo above, the couple supplied head scarfs for men that match the wedding colors.

Head scarfs aren’t usually provided to women, as women use their dupatta the scarf-like cloth that comes with the majority of Indian women’s outfits.

Sikh wedding at Coronado Island Marriott
Anand Karaj at Coronado Island Marriott. Photo: Lin & Jirsa


Definition: the Muslim wedding ceremony. This is the actual wedding ceremony vs. “Shaadi” which describes the wedding celebration as a whole.

Pronunciation: nick-aa

Who It Applies To: Muslim weddings.


Definition: A mandap is the equivalent of an altar. Traditionally, it’s a 4-pillar structure setup on a stage. It’s where the ceremony will take place.

Pronunciation: Click to hear how mandap is pronounced.

Dimensions: The mandap is usu. at least 8ft. x 8ft. x 8ft. Larger ones can go up to 12ft. x 12ft. x 12ft.

Staging & Decor: At most hotel and resort venues they provide the staging and the decorator assembles and decorates the structure. At many golf clubs and banquet halls the decorator is responsible for the staging in addition to assembly and decor.

Who It Applies To: Hindu and Jain weddings; not Sikh and Muslim weddings.


121-Indian-wedding-venue-South-Asian-Mandap-lehenga-baraat-ceremony--Hyatt-Mission-BayPC: Lin & Jirsa

Backdrop style mandap

Pillar-less Mandap. PC: Randery Imagery


Definition: The groom’s procession. This is where the groom and his family and friends dance to live music, outside the venue, making their way towards the ceremony site or towards the venue.

Pronunciation: bu-raat

Who It Applies To: Hindu, Jain, Sikh, and Muslim weddings on a case-by-case basis.

At most venues this takes place in the front of the venue in the porte cochére or in the parking lot. Or some venues have separate pathways for the baraat. The groom stands out as he is either:

  • riding a white horse
  • in a horse and carriage
  • riding an elephant – very few venues allow this due to its weight and space required
  • in an exotic car

{Answers to FAQs About the Baraat}

  1. Animals and cars DO NOT go indoors.
  2. Animals are provided by licensed, insured, bonded companies and accompany the animal the ENTIRE time.
  3. The baraat lasts anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes.
  4. The DJ sets up a mobile station to accompany the baraat.
Wedding party in front of the Ferrari for the baraat, before the ceremony starts. PC: Greycard Photography
Indian groom enjoyng his baraat. PC: Greycard Photography
baraat horse and carriage for the groom at his Indian wedding
Instead of riding on a horse, some grooms opt for a horse and carriage for their baraat. PC: Global Photography
The groom in his horse and carriage and the baraatis assembled.  PC: Randery Imagery
Baraat with live dhol (drummer) in Anaheim, California. PC: Randery Imagery
Ami and AJ 1
Below: Some venues (believe it or not allow an elephant for the baraat. 
Ami and AJ 7-elephant
The ele is a favorite in Southern California, in particular!
Ami and AJ 3
Elephant dressed for the baraat in Orange County, California. PC: Lin & Jirsa

{Agni: Ceremony Flame}

Definition: the wedding ceremony flame and main witness of the ceremony. Fire is  considered pure, immortal, young and sanctified. Thus is it a symbol incorporated into Hindu and Jain weddings. Couples agree to vows and make oaths to each other in front of the fire.

Pronunciation: Ugg-nee

Who It Applies to: Hindu and Jain weddings (not Sikh nor Muslim weddings).

Wedding Ceremonies from the Hindu and Jain faiths include a contained, but uncovered ceremony flame. In this section I am going to address a lot of the misconceptions about this. Let me point out that MAJOR hotel brands such as Marriotts, Hyatts, and Hiltons are successfully hosting Indian weddings indoors and outdoors with the ceremony flame so I encourage all Catering Executives to keep that in mind before jumping to conclusions.

If they’re doing it successfully and safely then clearly it’s possible.

It is NOT a bonfire. I’m surprised by how many people that I come across assume that the ceremony flame is a huge bonfire. It’s not. It’s a small flame and the couples along with their officiant are happy to work with venues to determine the size on the flame to ensure that it doesn’t set off the fire alarm.

The fire alarm? Yes. Lots of hotels and resorts host Hindu and Jain weddings indoors and it’s no problem.

The officiant immediately extinguishes the flame with rice.

The fire portion of the ceremony is about 10 minutes long, out of 1.5-2 hour ceremony.

A mandap setup for an Indian, Hindu wedding ceremony
PC: Aaron Eye Photography

{Safety Measures Venues Can Take For Indoor Ceremonies}

Venues can take additional safety measures:

Fire Watch – in addition to the fire permit, some venues may require a fire watch at the wedding ceremony. All this means is that someone from the venue or the local Fire Marshal will oversee the ceremony and have a fire extinguisher at the ready…just in case. This is a precaution – I’ve never heard of anyone ever having an issue. Since there is labor involved venues can charge for this. Most charge between $200-$400 for this.

Temporary Bypass – with the permission of your local Fire Marshal you can have the smoke alarm put on temporary bypass.

Flame Size Restrictions – some venues impose restrictions on how big the flame can be i.e. it can’t exceed the top of the container.

Fire Permit – require couples to get a fire permit from the city where the event is being held.


  • the fire is very small
  • it’s only needed for about 10 minutes
  • the officiant immediately extinguishes the flame
Having a Hindu/Jain wedding flame indoors is fine and safe. PC: Randery Imagery 

{South Asia NOT Southeast Asia}

When referring to Indian, Pakistani, Bengali, Gujarati, Punjabi, Jain, Hindu, and other Indian/Pakistani/Afghani/Sri Lankan/Nepali weddings, it is incorrect to refer to them as Southeast Asian. They are South Asian weddings.

Southeast Asia is comprised of these countries: Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar, Timor-Leste, Brunei

South Asia is comprised of: India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Maldives.

{Naan NOT Naan Bread}

Calling it “naan bread” is like calling toast, “toast bread”. Naan IS bread, so to say it/refer to it, is redundant.


Hinduism: the majority religion of India. Hinduism has hundreds of sects and ways in which it is practiced. Some Hindus are polytheistic while others are monotheistic. Followers are referred to as Hindus. Hinduism is mostly practiced amongst Indians but has spread to others countries.

Jainism: A small religion in India whose core belief is non-violence (ahimsa) towards all living beings. Followers are referred to as Jains. Jainism did not spread to be practiced in other countries.

Sikhism: Also a smaller religion originating from the Punjab state in Northern India.  Followers are referred to as Sikhs. Sikhism has several major tenets including equality and prosperity for all and selfless service (seva). Sikhism has spread and gained followers outside of India.

Islam: The second largest religion in the world. It’s a monothesistic religion and the  the Holy Book is called the Koran. Followers are referred to as Muslims.

Buddhism: The 4th largest religion in the world. Though it originated in India it spread across Asia and gained popularity and declined in India during the Middle Ages.  Followers are referred to as Buddhists.

Pretty much all of your Indian clients (except Muslim weddings) are going to want a hosted consumption bar and opt out of bar packages. Why? Because at Indian weddings there’s always between 20-35% of the guests who don’t drink alcohol. And the guests that do drink VERY VERY VERY rarely ever drink enough to make up for those that didn’t.


Download our Indian wedding Type Cheat Sheet for Catering Managers

{Outside Catering}

Indian wedding at Hotel Irvine with vegetarian catered Indian food.Outside catering setup for an Indian wedding. PC: Global Photography

Professional Caterers: First of all the caterers that are hired for Indian weddings are professionals. They’re licensed and bonded and they know that they will not have kitchen access. Remember, these couples are spending anywhere from $40,000 to $200K + on their wedding. They’re not messing around; and seek professional vendors working their wedding.

And the fact is, venues require professional caterers (and all vendors) that are licensed, bonded, and provide copies of their health rating and business license.

Satellite Kitchens: So, now that we clarified that let’s talk about the satellite kitchen that outside caterers setup. Most of the food is pre-prepared and brought to the venue where the venue provides hot boxes. Usually the only item the caterers make at the venue is the naan. The satellite kitchen is fully contained. The caterers set it up and clean it up.

Peace-of-mind: For additional peace-of-mind, and frankly we recommend venues to require, that outside caterer do a walk-through with the Catering team and meet with your Executive Chef.

Hindu food: some Hindus are vegetarian, others are not. As a general rule Hindus do not consume beef.

Jain food: restrictions on foods and ingredients that cannot be in the food: totally vegetarian, no onions, potatoes, garlic, potatoes, carrots (no root vegetables), eggs, mushrooms, honey, alcohol, gelatin, rennet.

Swaminarayan food: restrictions on foods and ingredients that cannot be in the food: totally vegetarian, no onions, garlic, alcohol, asafetida.

Halal food: Muslims follow laws of what is permissible called halal. Muslims do not eat pork and other animal byroducts. Meats must be provided by halal suppliers.

{Religion vs. Practice}

Above are general rules you’ll find across Indian and South Asian religions. Religion and religious practice are very personal. Teachings vs. practice and personal philosophies vary. The best thing is to ask your clients if they have any dietary restrictions that you need to know about.

{Take Aways}

This is a comprehensive overview of terms used in Indian and all South Asian wedding celebrations. Knowing these terms and what they mean is really helpful for Venue Catering Teams. Terms vary by religion and sub-cultures and we’ve identified that for you above.

There are a lot more terms used in Indian weddings. However for this article we decided to focus on the terms that are particularly relevant to Catering Managers while selling South Asian weddings.

Other terms and customs are helpful for you to know and we have and will continue to publish articles about all of those things i.e. What a Milni is, Jaggo at Punjabi weddings, information about the mangalsutra, and a lot more. But for the sake of keeping this article focused and shorter than an epic tale, we’ll save those other topics for later.

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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  • Custom profile that we help write so that it resonates with the Indian market
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{ShaadiShop Testimonials}

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Cover image: Lin & Jirsa

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