With over 6 years of experience in photographing Indian wedding ceremonies in different parts of the world and major cities across North America, we tried to summarize this experience and everything that goes into delivering to the needs of clients planning an Indian wedding ceremony.
Whether it is a beach Gujarati ceremony in Florida, a regal Sikh wedding in New York or a destination Indian wedding in Mexico, we have years of experience in all these types of weddings. We believe to become an Indian wedding photographer in North America, one needs to understand the expectations of clients as well as Indian wedding customs and traditions inside out.
Here are some things which we believe are important to become an Indian wedding photographer in North America.
Understanding of Rituals and Traditions
India is the land of diversity; wedding photography for a Sikh-Sikh wedding or Hindu-Hindu wedding can vary if your ancestors are from different states or areas. For example, Gujarati wedding rituals could be different if you are ‘Patel’ or let’s say ‘Gandhi’.
To become an affluent Indian wedding photographer, one has to be really knowledgeable of the different rituals to make sure capture them.
From the beach to ballroom weddings based on your priest some rituals could differ and as a photographer, you must be flexible to adjust and ensure to capture these important customs for your clients.
Understanding Family Expectations
Indian weddings are not simply the marriage of two individuals but also of their families. Family values play a big part of Indian culture; you will see that Indian weddings go beyond nuclear families. Strong family bonds are extended to the grandparents, aunts, and uncles like ‘chachas’, ‘massis’ and ‘bhuas’.
Although, it is impossible to meet all these relatives before the wedding itself, knowing typical North American Indian wedding expectations it will be important to capture portraits of these main family members.
We are preparing for a lot of family portraits during the time of nanki chak in Sikh weddings or shatak or pithi at Gujarati weddings. During the ceremonies where bride and groom are getting gifts from both sides of the families, we have to capture these for the family as memories.
Whenever we are photographing Indian weddings, we assign our associate photographer to take charge of documenting these precious moments for the families.
Some rituals may be unfamiliar to some couples like when the bride’s mom tries to grab the groom’s nose during the first aarti in Gujarati ceremony. These types of special moments may not have been covered in prior conversations with the couple, but parents will expect us to capture them. With our years of experience, we are able to capture those types of moments as the day progresses.
As a photographer, there are times you have to anticipate moments before they are about to happen or you have to connect with grandparents and guests. Language can be a barrier if you do not speak Hindi, Gujarati or Punjabi; especially when some of the family members are not comfortable communicating in English.
It isn't only about understanding family members, but mostly the priests when they call for the sisters of the groom and bride to come forward or when it's time for sindoor. There is definitely an advantage if your photographer understands these languages.
Our team speaks Hindi, Punjabi, and understands basic Gujarati and Tamil; from experience, it gives us a lot of advantage while photographing different cultures.
Example from a Hindu wedding - Our understanding of language and significance of the different ceremonies ensures that we are ready to be alert and capture emotions from different family members and a couple during the day. When the father and mother are called for the kanya-daan ceremony, we understand the significance of that ceremony which is giving your daughter away so we know there will be chances of teary eyes which we want to ensure we don't miss.
Example from a Sikh wedding - Right after wedding ceremony finishes, there is a special kirtan “Veya hoya mere babula”. Understanding the language and meaning of that shabd, we know we will see emotions in mothers’ eyes or fathers’ eyes.
Understanding Religious Beliefs
You want to show respect towards all religious beliefs as a photographer. For example, not turning your back towards the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji during a Sikh ceremony and being respectful when entering a mandap for photos during a Hindu wedding; these small gestures go a long way when photographing Indian weddings in North America. With our experience, we understand the rules and beliefs of most Indian religious ceremonies and usually go introduce ourselves to the pandit ji or granthi ji before the ceremony and ask them if there is anything specific they want us to extra careful with.
Understanding the Importance of Special Moments
From mangalsutra at a Hindu wedding or father handing over the groom's palla to his daughter at a Sikh wedding, these are some key moments at Indian weddings which best Indian wedding photographers in North America understand how to capture. These are quintessential moments in Indian weddings, so you will need to prepared to document these ceremonies irrespective if the wedding is in Chicago, New York or Florida.
No matter how chaotic it gets, how many guests are at the ceremony or what constraints you have while photographing Indian weddings in North America, you have to get the big wedding moments.
Experience of Photographing Indian Weddings
If your photographer does not have prior experience with Indian weddings, there is a risk they might miss some important moments. Some things just come with experience of doing over and over again.
With an experience of shooting over 100+ Sikh ceremonies, we have realized that it is optimal to shoot the father giving the groom's palla to his daughter moment positioning the camera on the left side of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji instead of the right.
Also, after years of experience with Hindu ceremonies, we have understood that you want to make sure to position your lighting such that when the fabric between the couple goes down and couple sees each other for the first time we get good light on both the bride and groom. It is also important to prepare your team to be at certain angles to get those images. Even lighting the couple from both sides of mandap to get perfect lighting on the bride and groom along with the bride’s brothers standing at the edge of the mandap comes with practice and experience.
Overcoming challenges while photographing Indian weddings in North America become second nature when photographing over and over again every weekend. Our experience makes us more efficient when photographing Indian weddings from different cultures and different religious beliefs.
Example from beach Gujarati wedding - The groom’s face is normally veiled by a curtain when the bride makes her entrance. We know the groom will be eager and excited to see his bride behind the curtain, so we make sure one of our photographers gets that excitement through in images.
Example from first look - We know at the gurdwara when the bride will turn to the groom for the first time as she sits down, there is a magical exchange of smiles and glances that we will catch. We usually place two cameras to cover both sides; that way, we can paint the first look story from both the groom's and bride's expressions, this comes with the experience of photographing Indian weddings.
Hiring the Expert
Whoever you hire to document your wedding make sure they have a good knowledge about how Indian wedding ceremonies take place in North America and hiring the expert is totally worth it.
Some clients, brides, and grooms do not know much about rituals as they grew up here in North America far away from traditions back in India. Those times we come handy as experts as we have been to so many weddings. There are times when bride’s parents will ask when is the best time to take off kalgi at the Sikh weddings or which direction to sit during mahiya ceremony.
We are so happy that we can share our experience to make your wedding better and would love to document your wedding. Here are the latest images from our weddings in North America.
For more information about things that might affect your photos at a Sikh temple wedding, please see our blog.