How traditional Indian wedding rituals are getting a makeover

Feminism is changing the face of modern Indian weddings, for the better.

For generations, the script for Indian brides remained unchanged—a delicate balance of demureness, intermittent smiles, and teary farewells as they left their parental home. But the modern Indian bride is penning her own narrative.

In the patriarchal set-up of Indian weddings, rituals have long underscored male dominance, from the symbolic act of the bride's parents washing the groom's feet to the ritualistic "giving away" of the daughter in kanyadaan. In recent times, however, more Indian women are stepping into the spotlight, seeking to redefine these traditions to reflect gender equality and their role within marriage.

Take for instance, actor Dia Mirza's wedding. Like many other Indian customs, priesthood has largely been a male-dominated field but Mirza chose a female priest for her ceremonies and won hearts. However, feminism in weddings is not just a Bollywood phenomenon. Women across the country, even in the remotest corner, are standing up against archaic practices like child marriages.

At the heart of this metamorphosis lies the fundamental principle of consent, a bedrock of feminist ideology. Whether it's an arranged marriage or a love marriage, there's a palpable shift towards ensuring that women are not just passive participants but active decision-makers in matchmaking. And that they are empowered to select life partners who resonate with their values and dreams.

At the same time, feminist ideals are reshaping the very essence of wedding ceremonies. Couples are eschewing patriarchal customs like kanyadaan and opting for rituals that celebrate equality and mutual respect. Financial dynamics are also evolving, with brides and their families sharing wedding expenses, dismantling the notion of financial burdens falling solely on one side.

Traditionally, marriage has been symbolised by the adornments worn by women, from the mangalsutra to the sindoor, while men remain largely unmarked. However, feminism is challenging these entrenched gender norms, urging couples to reimagine traditions to reflect their beliefs better.

Another big shift from tradition is the choice of changing surnames. Women are increasingly choosing to retain their last names post-marriage, asserting their identity and autonomy against societal pressures. It's a statement of individuality and independence, challenging the notion that marriage should erase one's identity. In 2022, 92 per cent of respondents to a survey conducted by a matrimony app said they considered it normal for married women to not change their surnames after marriage.

Beyond the wedding day itself, feminism in Indian weddings is making waves in the broader wedding industry. Couples are seeking vendors who echo their values, fostering inclusive and diverse spaces. Photographers and planners embrace narratives that defy stereotypes, contributing to a more equitable wedding landscape.

Ultimately, feminism in Indian weddings is about rewriting tradition through a lens of empowerment and equality. It's a celebration of love, agency, and inclusivity, shaping not just individual ceremonies but the broader landscape. As couples pave the way for a more inclusive future, they're not just saying "I do"–they're saying "We do" to a more equitable and diverse world, one wedding at a time!

All images credited to: Unsplash

Also read: Is it necessary to go on a honeymoon straight after your wedding? 
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