A traditional Hindu marriage is formation of a bond between two families and it is the duty of the boy & the girl to be the base of the bond. The newlywed couple has to do the samudra manthan by being like Mount Mandarachala, the churning rod and Vasuki, the churning rope, and churn out affection and happiness to friends & family and give way to a new beginning.
The wedding embarks a new phase in lives of the boy and the girl - they are transcending into manhood and womanhood respectively. To make this shift memorable and smooth for the bride and the groom there is celebration in the families. Gifts are exchanged and valuables are gifted to the newlywed couple so that their initial path may remain streamlined even under the shadow of early jitters.
India has been an agricultural country, so, one of the most holy processes - marriage - finds a lot of allusion to agriculture. The marriages generally takes place, after the chatur maas, i.e post the four months of rainy season, i.e a time which heralds the beginning of new crops and prosperity to the farmers and thus helps bring Lakshmi to the family.
There are various rituals that take place in a Hindu marriage and every ritual has its own meaning. The marriages begin with engagements. Traditionally, the parents decided the prospective spouse for their child thus engagement became the ceremony, when the boy & the girl see each other and meet and greet with the family members.
Between the marriage and engagement takes place ladies sangeet. it is one of the most prominent and enjoyable ceremony. As the name suggests, its a celebration time, dedicated specially to women. During the sangeet, the female members of the family have a merry time together, by singing, some romantic, bawdy, fun filled songs. The main purpose of this ritual was to make a conscious shift in the mind and heart of the girl from the phase of girl to womanhood. The ladies would playfully tease the bride with the the incoming introduction of new romantic phases in life and make her ready for every type of physical & emotional pleasure that awaits her.
The ceremony just before the marriage is anointing the couple with haldi and chandan. This is mainly done by the ladies of the families. The main idea of this is make the bride and the groom attractive for the wedding night. By hosting this ceremony, the society give a green signal to the physical relation between the bride and the groom.
After anointing the couple with haldi, comes the process of applying hte mehandi paste on the hands on the bride. Mehandi function fits in place to abide by the Solah Shringaar suggested by Lord Lakshmi. Now a days, the mehandi function is couple with dance and a cock-tail party, to enjoy the last day of the bride's bachelorhood. This concept of clubbing cock-tail with mehandi, came to existence because of the western intrusion of Bachelor's Party.
Once the bride and groom are prepared, they are asked to invoke their Gods and ancestors This process is of utter importance to the bride since she is making a shift and is transcending from one family to other. She has to now take the responsibilities of the new family.
Just before the marriage rituals take place, the family members, invite the Gods - Avahan - and then the couple worships them and then the Gods are allowed to go - Visarjan. The guests are given the status of Gods, thus the groom and his family are welcomed with utmost respect. The groom is then given the most valuable gift - The Bride.
The Groom comes along with a long procession of his friends and family members, in the most boisterous manner. This is supposed to represent the long and eventful procession of Lord Shiva. The groom's face is generally covered, so that no one casts an evil spell on him. The drinking and dancing - even in the most irresponsible manner - embarks the last day of carefree behaviour and the groom heralds the end of irresponsible behaviour.