OK, let me begin by saying that I am not an expert in Pakistani, Muslim, Indian, or Persian weddings. I've only done about 3 total in my career - the last very recently. But, I also want to add that they are a great wedding photography experience! In today's post I'll walk you through some of the highlights of a Pakistani wedding I did a few years ago. Here we go…
Keeping the Faith At A Pakistani Wedding
The wedding celebration I photographed about three years ago was a three day event. On the Thursday before Saturday's wedding, the bride's family invites the groom's family and all their close friends to come by for a dinner celebration.
Day One: Thursday Evening – Dinner With Family and Friends
At some point prior to this celebration, the bride is involved in the Henna ceremony. This is when her hands are decorated with very intricate henna designs - very beautiful and quite deteailed. As the photographer, you've got to get lots of shots of these designs.
For this evening's festivities, the bride is dressed in a beautiful silk gown representing her heritage. She and her family are now ready to greet their guests as they arrive. These gowns, by the way, are very beautiful and colorful. Since this is a multiple day event, the bride wears different colors for each of the day's festivities. Once I caught on to the color theme aspect of the wedding, I always tried to wear a colorful tie that would compliment the colors of the day.
Once all the guests arrive, the bride and groom take a seat under a canopy. The guests all come up and adorn them with flowers, rub aromatic spices on their hands, and feed them special treats. Lots of things are going on during this special evening and all of these activities need to be photographed.
After this special ceremony, it's dinner time. the fragrance of the spicy dishes wafted throughout the house. The father of the bride invited us to enjoy dinner with them. Normally I don't but I love spicy food and made the exception on this evening.
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The evening continues with everyone enjoying each other's company, especially the company of the bride and groom. Some guests may entertain the couple with a dance or a song, all in good fun. For my experience, it was wonderful to see the close family ties and how all the family members interacted so loving with each other. We take the occasional casual group shots, shoot tons of reportage images, and be at the beckoned call of our clients. Hey, that's how it supposed to be.
Day Two : Friday Night – A Big Party
Friday evening's festivities take place in the ballroom at the mosque. Nothing happens until after the evening prayer service. Remember to take off your shoes if you plan to enter. It's a way of showing respect for this holy place. After the prayer service, the celebration begins anew. At the wedding I photographed, about 200 guests arrived to be part of the fun. It was quite the party.
The groom is paraded in with his family and then the bride follows into the ballroom with her family. This is another of one of "not to missed" moments. The bride and groom then make their way to a raised platform and take their seats under another canopy.
The guests make themselves comfortable on the floor and entertain the bride and groom with music, song, and dance. Once again the bride and groom are adorned with flowers and spices, and the guests come up and offer them spices and special sweet treats along with congratulatory hugs and kisses. This time, though, the crowd is much larger than the night before. Be sure to capture the all action.
In a while dinner is served and everyone heads to the dinning area for the main meal. This is a time to get special group photographs of family and friends. After dinner, it's back to the main ballroom where the party continues.
At this point, the bride and groom join in the dancing. I was able to get several shots of the groom and his friends dancing, but once the girls got involved in the party, it was time for us guys to split. I offered to have a female photographer cover the action, but the client declined - so I really don't have any idea of what happened after we left. In talking with the bride the next day, I was told that the party went on into the wee hours of the morning.
Day Three: Saturday – The Wedding
Saturday is the day of the actual ceremony and reception. We got a pretty early start that day since we were scheduled to photograph the bride and groom getting ready, family groups and they sometimes are quite large groups with aunts, uncles, and cousins. It was during this pre-ceremony session, that I made one of my all time favorite wedding photographs.
Another ceremony takes place before the actual ceremony with the groom's family. There are lots of activities going on beforehand and you've got to be alert to everything going on around you so as to not miss anything. We were moving about a "million miles an hour" in these few hours before the ceremony. Time is always on the short side to get everything completed.
OK, we've got all the pre-ceremony shots, now it time for the ceremony. A Muslim ceremony differs a lot from a Christian ceremony in so far, at least in my experience, it can take place in a hotel as mine did.
A few of the closest friends and family join the couple up on the stage for the service. They may give a speech or two during the service. The person who presides over the service is usually someone special to the family - maybe an uncle or really good family friend. Be sure to capture all the action.
These weddings are super family oriented so you want to capture all the family interactions. The colors of the day are also important to capture - and there are lots of brilliant, beautiful color everywhere!
After the service, you only have seconds to get all your shots of the bride and groom, families, special group requests. You have to keep your wits about you, not miss a thing, and come home with all the photographs. It is a blistering fast pace to capture everything. But, hey, that’s what you were hired to do, right?
Now it's party time. there is no throwing of the bouquet and garter, but there is still the cake cutting. Be sure to capture it all. One very interesting tradition is that the bride's girlfriends will "steal" one of the groom's slippers and hold it out to the highest bidder among the men who need to negotiate for it's return - all in good fun.
The festivities continue till around midnight then it's time for the couple to leave. This is a very emotional event for the bride's family. Their daughter is leaving and will be living in another home. Be sure to capture all the emotions of this special time of the day. Everybody makes their goodbyes soon after the couple leave and the celebration pretty much comes to a close.
I hope this gives a little insight into what takes place at a Pakistani/Muslim wedding. The colors, aromas, and especially the show of family love is something to behold. What an experience it is to photograph these events. I hope I've done justice to the events. You can find more information on Pakistani/Muslim weddings right here.
Hey gang, It was a long post, it's late and I'm calling it a day. Everybody have a great weekend and Happy Mother's Day where ever you are. I'll plan to see you next week, all the pixels willin'.
See you then, David