Haldi Ceremony Explained: An Indian Bride’s Insight from an American Lens

Before delving into our story, it’s crucial to note that I am from the United States, while my now-husband is a product of India. In the initial phases of our relationship, discussions about marriage surfaced naturally, driven by the shared certainty that we were destined to spend our lives together. Given our stark cultural differences, we opted for two distinct weddings to honor and fully embrace the unique ways our respective backgrounds signify and celebrate the sacred union of marriage.

Our Indian Wedding took place in December 2023 in Monish’s hometown of Vadodara, Gujarat, India at Laxminarayan Club & Resort. Our wedding lasted three days, with the first day consisting of the Mehndi Ceremony, which you can read about here. The second day unfolded with a busy agenda, commencing with the morning Pre-Wedding Rituals, followed by the Haldi Ceremony in the afternoon, and concluding with the lively Sangeet in the evening. And then came the big day – the wedding ceremony! With that, our incredible Indian wedding journey officially came to a close. This article is dedicated to unraveling the mystery of a Haldi ceremony along with my individual viewpoint on participating in this ceremony as a bride. Let’s dive in, shall we?!

What is the Haldi Ceremony?

In Indian culture, haldi (turmeric) holds a special place of honor, with its utmost significance evident in various Indian traditions. It is known for its anti-inflammatory and additional healing properties, causing it to become popular as a medicine as well. I, personally, take turmeric tablets daily along with my multivitamins so as to ingest its ayurvedic properties. However, in Indian weddings, this amazing ingredient has an entire ceremony to its name: the Haldi Ceremony, known as Pithi in Gujarat (Monish’s home state).

During this ceremony, a paste made out of haldi (turmeric) is applied to both the bride and the groom’s bodies before their wedding. The paste can either be homemade or store-bought (or, in our case, a combination of both), the choice being up to the bride, groom and their families. Traditionally, this ceremony was held separately for the bride and the groom at their respective homes on the morning of the wedding day. As time passed, this ceremony started to be combined for both the bride and groom into one event versus two separate events, largely due to influence of such occurrences in Bollywood movies. Again, because I am American and do not have a family home of my own in Vadodara, it was a no-brainer for us to decide to combine our haldi into one event for the both of us (thank you, Bollywood!).

Typically, the bride and groom will each sit in a round, shallow bin that resembles “kiddie pools” that you might find in the United States. We ended up scrapping the original plan to use the bins and instead sat together on one seat because there wasn’t enough space for two bins to fit comfortably in the setup provided by the hotel nor was there enough space for us to share one bin together. While seated, our family and friends would take turns coming up to us and applying the haldi paste to our faces, hands, arms, legs and feet.

In many customs, the bride and the groom will also apply a small portion of this sacred paste to their unmarried friends and family members. It is said that whoever gets touched by this paste will soon find a good looking partner. That said, Moni and I enjoyed smearing haldi paste on any and everyone who came up to us that was unmarried at the time.

What is the purpose of this ceremony?

There are a number of reasons why this ceremony occurs, though I’m only going to mention the ones that were relevant to Moni’s family. The prevailing reason I discovered behind this ceremony is to bestow a radiant glow upon the skin of the bride and groom in preparation for their wedding day. Turmeric is known for staining, although when diluted, mixed with additional ingredients, and turned into a paste that’s then applied to the body, it enhances the natural beauty of Indian people’s skin. However, seeing as I am a very pasty American, we asked everyone to be careful when applying this paste to my pale skin so as to avoid turning me into Marge Simpson before our big day. We actually only wanted to use the store-bought, light yellow paste in our haldi ceremony, but Moni’s friends decided to bring some homemade, super-potent paste which they only applied to Moni (thankfully!). This homemade paste ended up staining Moni’s white pants and even the shirt that he put on after showering! That’s how powerful this natural ingredient is.

Additionally, the yellow color of turmeric is considered very auspicious in most Indian traditions. The auspiciousness of this ingredient and its color ushers in a life of prosperity for the couple as they begin their new life together. It’s typical for both the bride and groom as well as their guests to dress in yellow from head-to-toe when attending this ceremony.

Moreover, the application of haldi before the wedding is highly regarded, given its medicinal properties and antiseptic qualities. This ensures that the bride and groom have clear skin and are protected from cuts, bruises, or illnesses before their big day.

Haldi Traditions

It’s said that if the bride and groom apply the magical haldi paste onto an unmarried friend or relative, they will soon find an attractive partner and get married themselves. Therefore, in order to “bless” our unmarried friends and family members, we made sure to apply haldi to each and every unmarried individual that approached us. Whether or not this folklore is actually true, it’s still fun to play along!

My Experience as a Bride Attending a Haldi Ceremony

Before the ceremony began, myself and Moni had to change out of the beautiful pink clothing we wore for the Pre-Wedding Rituals that just ended and into our yellow, “trash” clothing. We nicknamed the clothes we would wear for the Haldi as “trash clothes” because the haldi paste would stain them badly, meaning we would need to dispose of them afterwards. Additionally, I learned from one of Moni’s cousins that you’re not supposed to keep the clothes you wear to your Haldi for some ritualistic reason that I’ve yet to learn more about. If you happen to know why it’s custom to toss out the clothes you wear to your own Haldi ceremony, please leave a comment and educate me!

Due all of the day’s events taking place at a hotel, we had booked a room for ourselves, making it easy to change clothing when required. Upon donning our yellow attire, we swiftly proceeded to the foyer where the ceremony was scheduled to take place. The moment I exited our room, an alarming noise reached my ears, one that would induce panic in any bride – a resounding tear, accompanied by an unexpected breeze on my back. I knew instantly that the zipper had ripped. Oh boy!

I rushed to find Mom who would know exactly what to do. Thankfully, she was surrounded by a group of Aunties who immediately went into “fix-it mode”. Someone had the brilliant idea of taking one of the yellow ribbons that were tied to the chairs and safety-pin it down by back in order to keep the dress closed while hiding the torn zipper. This worked out great, especially considering that the backside of my dress would not be seen in any photos. That said, I have no photo-proof of this incident, just the now-hilarious memory as I’m retelling it to you.

Moni and I took a seat together inside the beautiful floral bin that was located on the center of the platform. The ceremony began calmly, with Moni’s mom stepping up as the first person to apply haldi paste onto each of us. Next, his relatives all lined up and took their turns applying the paste, followed by all of our friends, ensuring that we coated each single person with the magical paste in order to bring them good fortune. Everyone was very kind and was careful to apply very little (if any) haldi to my face per my request, focusing mainly on my arms and feet. Moni, on the contrary, became covered in the turmeric paste, unconcerned about the possibility of turning yellow.

Once the family had finished their turns, the friends gathered round and things began to get messy! It started with the guys ripping off Moni’s kurta, a new trend during haldi ceremonies thanks to Bollywood. Then, one of Moni’s friends appeared with some super-potent homemade paste that they mixed with water and then, quite literally, washed all over him. Someone grabbed flower petals that were in a nearby basket and chaos ensued! Fun chaos, to clarify. Below you can see just how much fun we all had. 😉

Unfortunately for us, this ceremony didn’t last very long because we started late and I was due at the beauty parlor by 4:00pm. Once the fun was over, Moni and I rushed to our room so we could shower before heading off to get ready for the final event of the day: The Sangeet.

Up Next: The Sangeet. Make sure to stay in the loop by subscribing to my blog, where I’ll be sharing ongoing updates on my journey as the bride in an Indian wedding.

Special thanks to Pranav and his team at House of Stories for beautifully capturing all of our wedding events.

Published by Bailey Reber

Hi friends! Welcome to the world of Hey Bails, where you will get a glimpse of all the things I get myself into! Explore the world with me, check up on my progress learning the Hindi language, hear about my journey with mental health & bipolar 2 disorder via my podcast (Distressed to Joyful; Bailey's Way) and learn how to do a variety of DIY projects with me, such as crafting and beauty tutorials. So, what are you waiting for? Let's start having FUN!

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