By Julie Christensen
Traditional Indian weddings are lavish, vibrant affairs. They may last several days or even a week and involve a great deal of expense and preparation.
Flowers figure largely in the decorating motif of most Indian weddings. Indian brides use flowers as take-home gifts. A bride may tuck flowers in her hair in lieu of a veil, or wrap a nosegay around her wrist. In a Punjabi wedding, the bride’s brothers hold a sheet of flowers, which the bride walks under to approach her groom. Sindhi brides wear jewelry and adornments made of flowers. The in-laws give these accessories to the bride in a separate ceremony, known as ‘Sagri.’ Flowers also decorate the Mandap, a canopy erected in the center of the wedding. Here sacred prayers are offered for the bride and groom. The Shamianas, or tents for the guests, are also decorated with flowers. Varmalla are traditional Indian flower garlands. They are worn around the neck and typically made from roses, jasmine, or carnations.
While many brides opt for delicate flowers in subdued shades, Indian brides love brightly colored, extravagant flowers. Red and gold are traditional colors for an Indian wedding, although other colors are becoming more common. Flowers are often highly fragrant and bring a festive exuberance to the wedding occasion.
Some popular choices for flowers are:
- Chrysanthemums. In some cultures, white chrysanthemums are associated with funerals, but Indians often use all shades of the sturdy flowers for wedding bouquets and garlands. Chrysanthemums symbolize long life, joy and optimism. What could be better at a wedding?
- Delphinium. As East meets West, this flower is becoming more common in Indian weddings. It generally comes in pastel shades and means a welcoming, open heart.
- Freesia. Freesias are an ideal wedding flower. They are relatively inexpensive and long-lasting. They come in a multitude of bright colors and have a light fragrance. Use them as a filler with more costly flowers or weave them into garlands. Freesias symbolize love, innocence and thoughtfulness.
- Gerbera Daisy. Bright, sturdy and cheerful, gerbera daisies make beautiful flowers for an Indian wedding. They come in a variety of colors and look fresh even after several days. Gerbera daisies are best for a casual Indian wedding. Gerbera daisies mean innocence and loyal love.
- Hydrangeas. Hydrangeas come in white, green, purple or blue. They’re an excellent wedding flower because of their large size. They look extravagant when massed together and make lovely centerpieces.
- Jasmine. Small, white jasmine flowers, sometimes known as mallipoo, are considered good luck and a sign of future prosperity and fortune. Brides weave these flowers into garlands to wear in their hair. Jasmine has a sweet, heady fragrance.
- Marigold. These cheery flowers are a common feature in an Indian wedding. Use small marigolds or opt for large French marigolds. Use yellow, orange, or multicolored marigolds or try a combination of colors. Marigolds have a peppery, pungent scent that some people find offensive. If you don’t care for the smell of marigolds, use them in floral arrangements set at the periphery of your wedding, rather than in your bouquet or on tables.
- Orchids. Purple and white is a common color theme for an Indian wedding. Use exotic orchids in arrangements or weave them into chains. Pink, white or purple orchids are often used.
- Roses. Roses are not a traditional Indian flower, but they are sometimes used in Indian-American weddings. Combine them with marigolds or jasmine for a beautiful display.
- Sunflowers. Large, cheery and vibrant, sunflowers are an ideal flower for an Indian wedding. Their strong stalks hold up well in arrangements. Typical garden varieties drop a lot of pollen so ask for sunflowers bred specifically for flower arrangements. These varieties are pollen-free.
- Tuberose. These large, fragrant flowers are white and fragrant. They symbolize pleasure.
For further reading, check out these resources:
Flower Ideas from My Asian Wedding
Hindu Marriage from Facts and Figures
Photos of weddings in India on Flickr.
When she’s not writing about gardening, food and canning, Julie Christensen enjoys spending time in her gardens, which includes perennials, vegetables and fruit trees. She’s written hundreds of gardening articles for the Gardening Channel, Garden Guides and San Francisco Gate, as well as several e-books.