Just Married

The Indian-American Wedding

Marguerite and Hari at the Sri Meenakshi Temple in Pearland, Texas, near Houston. {{name}}
Marguerite and Hari at the Sri Meenakshi Temple in Pearland, Texas, near Houston. {{name}}
01 June, 2011

Indian weddings in america are big business. With Indian-American households possessing the highest average income of any ethnic group (including whites) in the United States, an industry has grown around the prosperous community looking to carry on the traditional shaadi on new turf.

Goods and services related to Indian weddings have become increasingly available across the country. In regions with large Indian communities—from New York and New Jersey to Chicago, Illinois, and Houston, Texas, and the San Francisco Bay Area of northern California—infrastructure is in place for families to fulfill the cultural needs of their particular customs. There are mehndi artists, disc jockeys, clothing shops, florists, religious venues, event halls, wedding planners, matchmakers and priests catering specifically to Indians.

A decade ago, such cultural facilities were in shorter supply when the Indian-American community was still establishing itself. Many items had to come from India, usually packed in the suitcases of relatives. Indian families in America either mounted less elaborate weddings here, improvised with certain traditions, or sent the couple to India to get married. But today, a bride has the latest lehenga and sari styles at her fingertips at boutiques in big cities where a groom can also pick up his curl-toed nagras. There are even Indian wedding expos and fashion shows held occasionally, with items being sold for thousands of dollars.

While Indian-American weddings showcase traditions from different regions of India, there's more going on here than mere replication of subcontinental rituals. Indian traditions are blending with the cultures and practices of other groups in America, especially as more and more second- and third-generation Indian-Americans marry non-Indians. In turn, this translation begets new traditions of celebration.