Arguably the best part of living in 21st century England is the wide mix of cultures and traditions now surrounding us. The only tricky part of that is combining quintessential Englishness with any other tradition at your wedding. How do you balance the two competing styles and tastes of two competing families without disappointing either side? Once any faith issues have been resolved for the families regarding the actual legal bit of tying the knot, you then need to resolve how you do it.
The question is how do you combine a quintessentially English wedding with Indian traditions? Do you draw a precise line through the day dividing the ceremony from the reception and have an English church wedding followed by an Indian wedding reception, or vice versa? As much as this is a totally viable option, a better idea would be to blend the two together taking all of the best bits from each culture into making your day the best it possibly can be.
Here in the UK, Indian weddings are known for being large, colourful, vibrant affairs. However other than having hundreds of guests and bridesmaids in brightly coloured saris or salwar kameez, what else can you do to combine Indian traditions with your quintessentially English wedding? Given that the vast majority of English wedding venues will not allow any naked flames, this might be a handy tradition to omit due to the practicalities of including it. Venues that will permit the traditional sacred fire will often insist that you pay for a firefighter to attend the events for a few hours to monitor the fire. Instead, you could retain the garland exchange after you’ve exchanged rings.
Another issue is that the majority of wedding venues do not permit external caterers so having traditional food might be difficult. However, it is worth speaking to your venue to see what they can do to accommodate your Indian wedding theme. They might easily be able to provide Indian canapés – like samosas, pakoras, okra and bhajis. An easy starter could be chicken tikka with salad, or grilled Indian spiced prawns with salad. They might also be able to provide an Indian pudding like mango or pistachio kulfi (Indian ice cream).
If your venue is willing to be very accommodating in providing a wide choice of Indian food then @crazymasalafood has listed butter chicken, gulab jamun and puranpoli among the Top 20 Indian Wedding Food courses.
Flowers are a dominant feature of Indian weddings, so if you’re budget will allow have as many flowers as you can. You could even mix artificial and dried flowers with real flowers. Use them as arrangements as well as bouquets, crowns and corsages as well as on the tables and the reception to the venue and in the loos.
As an alternative to flowers, try to make your wedding as colourful as possible with multi-coloured paper lanterns, bunting and balloons.
Another option for heightening your Indian-English wedding theme is to have two wedding dresses. One quintessential English dress and one traditional Indian outfit for each sides of the day will show your support and love for both cultures. Alternatively you could try to find a dress which has influences of both. A heavily bejewelled or embellished white dress can easily be dressed to suit an Indian themed wedding. You could also encourage your guests, particularly the British contingency, to wear Indian outfits and put your bridesmaids in brightly coloured dresses.
The cake is another way you can combine a quintessentially English wedding with a traditional Indian theme. Paisley, or henna designs, could be piped on to the icing in bright colours and you could continue this theme into the favours. Spice mixes with brightly coloured paisley labels or biscuits with the same brightly coloured paisley patterns in icing will also combine the two themes perfectly. Another fun idea would be to give traditional Indian sweets, which you can of course buy in advance and bring with you to the venue for the staff to set out on the tables for your guests.
Favours are an area where you can go wild with your theme. There is so much choice for favours now, you don’t have to stick with the traditional sugared almonds.
Like wedding favours, entertainment is an area where you can really let your hair down and run wild with your theme. You could have someone doing henna on your guests and applying bindis or even handing your guests garlands of flowers (artificial ones if your budget won’t stretch to a 100 fresh flower garlands). Bhangra dancing and Indian music will really ensure that your guests remember your day forever.