Indian weddings have a tremendous following in photographic circles. Everyone wants to book one, and they’ll give their firstborn kid up for the opportunity. They’re legendary for the colors, the textures, the neverending dancing and the FOOD. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that level of celebration?
We have been fortunate enough to book one or two Indian weddings every year since 2007. Now that we have just about ten of them under our collective belts, I think it’s fair to say we know our way around an Indian wedding. The reality is, they’re a lot like a “Western” wedding… on steroids.
Inherent in every Indian wedding is exquisite detail. There is truly no lack for inanimate objects to photograph.
Nor is there a lack for people to photograph, from the festivities that happen on Day One (the wedding celebrations usually extend across two or three days), to the massive wedding ceremony and reception on the Wedding Day. The average guest count of the Indian weddings we’ve photographed is right around 450. That’s a LOT of people!
But for every commonality that exists from one Indian wedding to the next, there are twice as many differences. The Indian culture is vast, complicated, and wonderfully diverse – traditions differ from North to South, East to West, regionally and even within states. Individual families have their own traditions, meshed over generations from different sects and tribes. Probably the most exhilarating part of photographing Indian weddings is discovering these differences, these cultural traditions, and experiencing them, learning them, recording them for the first time. It’s such a rush, and it definitely satisfies my intense drive to learn everything I can about the histories of the families I work with.
Traditional Indian wedding day portraiture almost always included a portrait of the bride with her intricate henna, posing perhaps on a bed or an ornate couch, austere and almost sad, with her hands in the most feminine form. Dhruti asked to re-create the portrait her mom had done on her wedding day (sort of as a quirky little joke) – but we didn’t quite pull off the melancholy.
I’ve photographed Indian weddings that were quite plain and humble, and ones that were superbly luxurious. Dhruti and Andrew designed a wedding that landed right about in the middle, focusing most of their attention on the traditional decor and necessary luxuries, and forgoing a lot of the more ostentatious details. It was a very nice mixture, matching their personalities perfectly.
I don’t know about you, but when there’s light like this I start having little happy seizures all through my body.
The bangles that are worn by the bride on her wedding day carry significance – the number, the colors, the order that they’re worn. Dhruti re-assembled her bangles at least half a dozen times while getting ready. I’ve still not quite learned the exact significance of the colors and the order in which they’re worn, but I keep telling myself to look it up.
The getting ready part of the day is such a tranquil, soft, low-impact time… it’s nice to have this hour or so to warm up for the chaos and nonstop shooting that follows.
One of the things I love most about Dhruti and Andrew (and you can see the same thing in their engagement session) is that they both have this easy smile… it’s a smile that comes on without force, that takes over their faces, that brings an instant vibrance and almost innocence to their moments together. I love watching them interact, and catching those moments where they become who they are together.
They’re playful and up for anything, putting all their trust and patience into the specialists they hired. That’s a unique and wonderful trait, and I am always thankful to luck into couples that trust us, and let us work the way we need to.
We’ve yet to land an Indian wedding with an elephant. This is a huge sore spot for me, because (a) I love elephants, and (b) come on – an ELEPHANT!!! Who wouldn’t want to photograph an ELEPHANT?!?!
Despite the gut-wrenching disappointment of once again having no elephant to meet, Andrew did at least have a gorgeous horse, decked out in proper baraat attire for the groom’s entrance to the ceremony. This is the part of the day where I most wish we were videographers.
Because Andrew’s parents are from Taiwan, a fusion of cultures was evident in a lot of different parts of the wedding day. This was the most obvious – a for-real, no-shit dragon dance at the very end of the baraat and right before Andrew’s ceremony arrival.
There was a lot of light to play with after the ceremony.
To really appreciate the level of energy at the reception, you’d also have to know that most everyone present had been up – walking, standing, participating in the event – for about ten hours BEFORE THE DANCING STARTED.
I’m not gonna lie – sometimes at a wedding you’re grateful for sound ordinances and venues that shut the party down at a specific time. There are just some crowds that will never stop dancing, they’ll never stop requesting more songs, they’ll never. ever. stop. This was one of those crowds – and, believe me, they are an absolute joy to photograph… but shooting an Indian wedding is a long haul with no down time, so by about the twelfth or thirteenth hour you’re praying for a power outage. Don’t get me wrong, I love – LOVE these crowds, the energy, the nonstop dancing and the surges of excitement, and I actually do love being right in the thick of it, bumped around, elbowed, pushed and pulled and capturing all of the sweat and fever. But I also love chairs, and sitting in them now and then.
More fusion – these Chinese lanterns were set off at the end of the night. Now, I’d never seen one in person, so I thought they were probably a foot tall, and could be lit by one person… I mean, how else would there be HUNDREDS in the sky in some of those awesome photos we’ve all seen online?
Yeah, so I was totally wrong. These things are behemoth. They take three people to light (minimum) and if you don’t have enough lanterns and enough people, you kind of don’t have that big amazing show in the sky. Andrew and Dhruti tried their best, and we did manage to get a few shots of several floating up together, but it wasn’t quite the “Tangled” scene.
There’s nothing I could say about this wedding that would tell you much more than the photos do above. There was kick-ass Indian food, a lot of fabulous music (Indian, hip-hop, and some old standards), there was gorgeous texture and detail and wonderful accents and culture and a true reverence for family, history, and origin. Every single part, perfectly in place, sometimes imperfectly executed, and all with a sense of humor, energy, and love. What a great weekend.
Venue: Rose Hill Plantation
Priest: Dr. Pravin Shukla
Catering: Dilawer Singh (Tandoor)
Video: Life Stage Films (see the AMAZING video teaser here)
DJ: Kenz Desai (DJ Kenz)
Decor: Katen Shah and Elegant Designz
Catering: Chef Dilawer Singh
Cake: As You Wish Bakery
Baraat Horse: Bull City Carriage
Dragon Dance: Jiarong Fu