Traveling is an amazing adventure. There is nothing worse than your adventure getting put on hold or diminished due to a lost bag. That is why minimalist traveling is the only way to travel. With one carry-on bag, you can hit the ground running. This may seem daunting to the overly prepared traveler, but it actually takes some of the stress out of traveling. The key is versatile clothing. You need a few quality pieces that will go a long way.

Many people over pack because they are uncertain what they will encounter, and, without the aid of a full closet, afraid they will be without that perfect outfit they need.

You simply need to change your mindset and then take a leap of faith. Most of the time people only use a fraction of what they pack. What if you planned ahead and had outfits for multiple purposes? Once you realize you can work with what you have, the stress melts away. You throw on an outfit and you are ready for the beach, the trails, the market or dinner.

Navagio Shipwreck Beach in Greece
Navagio Shipwreck Beach in Greece

Pants

Decent pants can be one of the more bulky items to pack in your luggage so you want to keep their numbers to the bare minimum. One pair of casual pants should be enough, or two if the weather deems it necessary. When it comes to cooler temperatures and inclement weather such as rain and snow, pants that are durable, lightweight and weather resistant are priceless. Exponentially more so when it comes to outdoor activities such as trekking and hiking, where proper laundry facilities are not available. Gearweare recently reviewed the best pants for just such an environment -- read more here!

Dresses

For the ladies out there, travel dresses are one of the most versatile pieces in your minimalist arsenal. They dress up and down with the greatest of ease. If you add in a pair of slide shorts, you are prepared for almost any occasion. Almost every culture utilizes some kind of dress or skirt, so they are easy to adapt to different locals. You can wear one dress many ways, which makes it perfect for travel.

In the winter and fall, throw a scarf, some leggings and a warm coat in your bag and you are ready to go. If it gets warm out, ditch the warm accessories and don a pair of sandals. Accessories tend to pack down smaller than wardrobe pieces. You can pack a couple of dresses and not have to worry about making sure all your tops match all your bottoms. You simply throw on your dress for the day, and you are ready to go. Visit sites like tobi.com to find the perfect dress for your next adventure.

Fabrics

When choosing clothing, look for synthetic fabrics or natural moisture wicking fabrics. You want your clothes to wash and dry easily. This makes doing laundry while traveling as easy as finding a small sink. Merino wool is a great natural fiber. It is soft, unlike the wool of your grandparents’ days. It wicks moisture, is antimicrobial and dries quickly. Bamboo is another material that is great for travel. It is typically lighter feeling than merino wool with the same fantastic attributes. When possible, stay away from cotton. It takes a long time to dry and doesn’t maintain its thermal abilities once wet. There are many nice synthetics out there as well.

Hiking up Bohey Dulang in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo
Remember to wear appropriate clothes -- and shoes -- when hiking up Bohey Dulang in Sabah, Malaysia

Shoes

Keep your shoes to a minimum. They take up a lot of room in your bag. Wear a pair and pack a pair a most. Have a pair of sneakers of light hikers and a pair of sandals. This should cover most of your needs no matter what the adventure. Sandals are great for warmer climates and can double as dinner shoes with your dress if you’re a lady. Your sneakers or light hikers fill in the gaps. They can be used for outdoor adventures and workout sessions. These shoes should have more support than your sandals and be comfortable in case you are on your feet all day. Typically, these will also be your travel day shoes as well since sandals usually pack down smaller.

Underwear and Socks

There are many companies that sell travel underwear these days. If you invest in a couple of good pairs, you can lighten your load and still feel fresh. Good travel underwear resists odors and washes easily. With two pairs, you can always have a clean pair while you wash the other. Also, invest in a good pair of socks or two. A good pair of socks helps keep your feet happy and last a long time. Two pairs of merino wool socks are all most travelers need.

Traveling light has many advantages. With less stuff to keep up with, you are less likely to lose something important. Staying mobile is a lot easier when you can sling one bag on your back and head out the door. Choose quality products that are easy to wash and resist odor. When you travel with less, you can afford to spend more on quality items. Always go for versatility.

Published in Travel Tips

Canada is an amazing winter destination due to its pristine beauty and wealth of outdoor winter activities. There is something for everyone here! Of course buying all your gear or forgotten items while on winter vacation is considerably more expensive than bringing them from home. So, if you are heading to Canada this winter, here is what you need for some of the most popular activities:

Elk Viewing

Getting to see winter animals in their native environment is a humbling, peaceful activity -- and a great opportunity for photographers. Edmonton, Alberta is home of the Elk Island National Park and offers some of the best winter Elk viewing in all of Canada. Don't forget:

  • Binoculars
  • Photography gear

Dogsledding

Banff, Alberta is home to the Banff National Park and an amazing destination for adventurous winter activities such as dogsledding. To avoid expensive gear rental fees, be sure to bring:

  • Fleece or down jacket with a wind/water proof shell
  • Supportive insulated winter boots (or water-resistant hiking boots) above the ankle
  • Goggles or sunglasses
  • Lip balm to protect against the cold, dry winter winds

Skiing is one of the best winter activities in Canada

Skiing

Canada has no shortage of skiing destinations for people of all skill levels, however Whistler, British Columbia is consistently ranked as (one of) the top ski destination in Canada. It not only is fun for kids and adults, but also has plenty of non-skiing activities as well, including snow tubing and snowcat tours. For those who plan to go skiing, do not forgot to bring:

  • Thick, waterproof parka with a hoodie
  • Supportive insulated winter boots (or water-resistant hiking boots) above the ankle
  • Any ski gear you own that is not too cumbersome to bring (to avoid high rental fees)

Winter Festivals & Events

For seasonal festivals, shows and events, there is nowhere better to be than Quebec. Food festivals. Holiday shows. Performances and events a plenty. There is something new to do every day here during winter. However the pinnacle of all Canada's winter festivals is the Quebec winter carnival, Le Carnaval de Québec. It is one of the world's largest winter festivals and includes parades, parties, ice sculptures, sleigh races, shows, amusement rides and more.

What to bring to Le Carnaval de Québec?

  • Your appetite -- there are plenty of wonder winter foods and delicious dishes available
  • A swimsuit!

Why your appetite? The carnival also includes the "Bain de Neige" or snow bath. The unique challenge is something unique that you won't soon forget!

Everything Else

When it comes to general outdoor activities and family fun, Mississauga, Ontario is a great choice. There is plenty of great ways to pass the days outside. Some of their most popular activities include tobogganing, snow-shoeing, cross-country skiing, and ice skating. Of course there are also lots of great festivals, events and even indoor activities as well. Just don't forget:

  • To bring a great attitude and be ready for a fun winter vacation!

  One final note: do not bring any cotton clothing. Cotton (including blue jeans) absorbs moisture and when combined with the cold, snowy Canadian winter, can easily cause hypothermia.

Published in Canada

Do I need warm clothes? Do I need to bring my hiking boots? Or is my toothbrush, tickets and passport enough? In only a few days before I'm off to Thailand. I'm excited, chaotic and nervous. Its my third or fourth time that I will be visiting Thailand but I'm still worried. Worried I'll forget something.

Now I have to pack my backpack and every time its a challenge. I always pack too much, but for the first time I’m going backpacking for a short time. Only two weeks, which means that I don’t need a lot and anything which I forget I can buy in Thailand.

This is my Thailand packing list:

    Basic Necessities
  • Passport
  • Photocopy passport
  • International drivers license (for renting a scooter)
  • ATM card
  • Credit card (just in case)
  • Student ID (for discounts when available)
  • Moneybelt (to keep everything in one place)
  • A small purse
    Clothing & Apparel
  • (1) long plants
  • (1) sweater
  • (1) long sleeve shirt
  • (2) T-shirts
  • (4) socks
  • (4) sets of underwear
  • (1) night shirt
  • (1) short and 1 skirt
  • (1) bikini
  • (1) harem pants
  • (2) tank tops
    Tech / Travel Gear
  • Iphone and charger
  • Photocamera and charger
  • SD-card for camera
  • Lonely planet Thailand
  • Book to read
  • Notebook and pen
    Accessories
  • Sunglasses
  • Walking shoes
  • Sandals (I got mine after checking NicerShoes.com)
  • Comb
  • Shampoo
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Basic make-up
  • Quick-dry towel
  • First aid kit
  • Sunscreen
  • Deet bugspray
  • Earplugs

Backpacking Thailand and my gear is ready to go!

Any Questions?

What else do you recommend for backpacking Thailand?

Published in Thailand

Anyone who is fan of Sex and the City will know that the second movie, although set in Abu Dhabi, was actually filmed in Marrakech. So for all you cosmo-sipping, handbag-toting, high-heel-wearing fashionistas out there, here is A girl's guide to Marrakech.

1. Take a leaf out of Miranda's book - Know before you go.
It is always a wise idea to learn about a country's customs before you visit, it's only polite and you don't want to cause any offense. It also helps if you can learn a little bit of the language. Remember in SATC2 Miranda says that "shukran" means "thank you"? It is also highly beneficial to know that "laa" means "no" so when you are receiving unwanted attention from henna ladies, snake charmers, souk sellers etc etc, a polite "laa shukran" should in most cases be enough to prevent you from being pressured into buying that rug that won't even fit into your suitcase! You will also find that a little bit of French goes a long way here too, making all those gruelling hours of French lessons you sat through at school all the more worthwhile.

2. Don't follow in Samantha's footsteps - Cover up.
Morocco is a conservative country and women in particular should cover up when outside of their hotel. Samantha being Samantha didn't do this and got into all sorts of trouble. While it is unlikely you'll get arrested for flashing a bit of cleavage, you may receive some unwanted attention. Invest in some cute maxi skirts/dresses and cover your shoulders with a light scarf, if these aren't features in your wardrobe then it makes for a good excuse to go shopping!

3. Shop like Charlotte - Just save some space in your suitcase for souvenirs!
Don't get yourself locked away in a room with fake designer handbags quite like Charlotte did, but do spend time wandering around the souks. There are plenty of gorgeous items on offer from leather goods, argan oil beauty products, hand-made jewellery and homeware. Take a wander through this labyrinth of colour and pick yourself up a pretty bracelet or a beautiful pashmina - and don't forget to haggle for it. If you think that the seller is trying to rip you off, then walk away, as you are likely to find the exact same item a few doors down in another shop.

4. Shun the stilettos - Only Carrie can carry them off!
If you are shopping in the souks, then it is inevitable that you will be doing alot of walking. Carrie Bradshaw may be able to run around all day in 5 inch heels, but trust me you are better off without. This also applies to any excursions you may take into the Atlas Mountains - wear closed in shoes with a bit of grip - there's slippery mud and snow to contend with up there. You can always purchase yourself some Moroccan Babouche slippers from the souks, just like Carrie did when she left her passport behind, if you want to add a bit of Sex and the City sparkle to your feet.

5. Beware of the black henna - keep your hands to yourself.
Henna tattoos look beautiful but beware - black henna has been known to contain toxic chemicals and cause severe skin reactions so the best advice is to avoid getting one. The henna ladies are prevalent on Jemaa el Fna square throughout the day and they are persistent too! They will most likely be called Fatima and will follow you, tell you that you have beautiful eyes and they may even snatch your hand (blink and you have a tattoo - they are that quick!) or they may offer to draw you a small tattoo as a "gift" (which they will later want paying for). Just say "laa shukran" and be on your way - Fatima may be a flatterer but it just isn't worth the risk of rashes, blisters or worse.

With its snake charmers and magic potions, Marrakech is truly a city that would only otherwise exist in a storybook. So pack your suitcase, grab your passport and make a story of your own - one that Carrie Bradshaw would be proud of!

Published in Morocco

You Don't Have To Like Fashion To Love Harajuku!

Harajuku Girls
In this wild district absolutely
"anything goes" fashion-wise!

Harajuku is located in the northern portion of Shibuya ward and even though I don't care for fashion or shopping, this is still is one of my favorite districts in all of Tokyo. Two things I appreciate most while traveling are uniqueness and art. If you had to describe Harajuku in any two words except for the obligatory 'fashion' and 'shopping,' well it would undoubtedly be those.

The district, its' spirit, and of course its' original and indescribable street fashion is why the area is known worldwide as being not only the fashion capital of Tokyo but also the world. Countless ideas have sprung from Harajuku and numerous now-prominent designers proudly trace their inspiration to this humble little district.

Given the district's obvious status as a fashion-Mecca, it should be no surprise that Harajuku is also renowned for its clothes shopping. The area has two main shopping streets, Takeshita-dōri (Takeshita Street) and Omotesandō. Takeshita-dōri caters to youth fashions and has lots of small stores selling Gothic Lolita, visual kei, rockabilly, hip-hop, and punk outfits. If arriving via Harajuku Station you will most likely recognize the iconic entrance of Takeshita-dōri, located just a few feet from the station.


Upon exiting Harajuku Station visitors are greeted by the hallowed Takeshita-Dori

During my first visit to the district I arrived relatively early in the morning, anticipating a brief trip. The plan was to have a quick look around and then continue on to Yoyogi for more explorations there. As it turned out I was so impressed by the area and its unique spirit that I completely lost track of time. It was only when noticing shadows start to creep up the buildings that I realized the sun was setting and had spent my entire day in Harajuku.

The great gorilla of Harajuku, Tokyo, Japan

The streets of Harajuku, Tokyo, are always busy

While the vast majority of clothing and accessories here may not be a perfect fit to your style, that does not diminish the enjoyment of strolling the streets and browsing the stores. Everything little thing is incredibly interesting and so appealing that each second can only be described as a gift to your eyes.

  Yes, Harajuku is indeed a fantastic area for capturing great photographs. However when walking down Takeshita-dōri it is important to be polite and focus pictures more on the street as a whole and not single out any of the individual clothing stores. A vast majority of these stores have prominent English signs which read 'No Fucking Pictures' and 'Want Pics? Fuck Off!' and other colorful variations along the same theme.

Condomania, your one-stop-shop in Harajuku for all your condom needs

Progressing south from Takeshita towards Omotesandō the shops begin to transition from the gothic and youth-trendy independent shops into more upscale places aimed at the slightly older — or at least wealthier — shoppers also wandering the district. It begins gradually with Puma and Adidas and other brands along that tier but quickly becomes exclusively luxury stores. All the big names you would expect are there, such as Chanel, Prada, and Louis Vuitton to please all you ladies, but I was happy to see my personal favorite was also here: Burberry. (Touch is my scent after all)

Random old shrine in Harajuku, Tokyo, Japan

Although the prices along Takeshita-dōri were reasonable, the same cannot be said about the luxury stores of Omotesandō, which had clearly been built to satisfy local demand rather than entice visiting foreigners. None of these brands stock any extra mechandise that is unique to Harajuku. Instead their shelves are piled high with the same items found in their Western counterparts except at inflated prices, to reflect Tokyo's high cost of living. Keep that fact in mind as you shop and explore throughout the rest of this metropolis and be sure not to purchase anything that can be found at home for cheaper..

Turning down Omotesandō street the area steps up its level of quality by adding a small but soothing stream that runs lengthwise underneath the sidewalk and features regularly-spaced openings to highlight the flowing water. Following it will lead towards Omotesandō Hills, a mall with a decidedly unique and almost triangular shaped architecture. Inside the building several floors line the outer walls at a slight angle, allowing you to slowly circle your way up or down the structure, still passing each and every store along the way but without ever being obligated to transverse the optional staircases located in the middle of the structure. Although the architecture of this mall is quite intriguing, it is a shame that the same cannot be said about its' stores. The majority were aimed towards women yet none seemed to have anything really exciting.


Small corner coffee shop

Another notable section of Harajuku to explore is called "Ura-Hara" and its located off the main streets, in the alleys of the northeast. Ura-Hara is essentially just a collection of small, independent clothing shops with much more reasonable prices then the stores along the more prominent parts of the district. I found myself stopping in nearly every one of the shops I passed, mostly because everything was from Japanese manufacturers and no two had the same items.

The majority were fairly small — not quite as small as the bars in Nonbei Yokocho though — and they were definitely directed at a more youthful crowd then the shops of Omotesandō. The bulk of items for sale were still clothing, as with all of Harajuku, but this specific area was decidedly more about trendy t-shirts and other hip items more suitable for college students.

Regardless of which subsection you may be wandering, the shops of Harajuku are a wealth of clothing possibilities, even to those who may initially be skeptical of the style or worried items might clash with their wardrobe back home and never get worn. Given the large number of one-of-a-kind stores and their wide assortment of clothing, accessories and jewelery, finding a few fresh items to compliment your style is just a matter of recognizing the underlying potential of what you see. Being open to new ideas never hurts either.

Worth pointing out is that despite Harajuku's notoriety outside of Japan, the clothing sold here is targeted towards the locals and sizes offered are much better suited for people of a slightly smaller frame and stature than myself. Here is an easy rule of thumb: If you notice while walking the crowded Tokyo streets that you are significantly taller or wider than the folks which surround you, well I apologize for being the bearer of bad news but that unique Harajuku clothing just was not designed to fit you.

  What I Learned Clothes Shopping Along Takeshita-Dōri
  Female visitors will have a much easier time and more successful shopping experience thanks to the high number of stores specializing in ladies apparel. They also fare better at being able to fit into the limited range of sizes found here.
  Guys hoping to pick up some new clothes here will have a slightly tougher time, primarily due to their restrictive size. I would advise individuals taller than 6'1"-2" or with a waist size larger than a 32, you not to get your hopes up. Same goes for anyone with large biceps. Japanese shirts feature very narrow sleeves, several of mine became unwearable after the first wash.
  Even if the clothing hunt is not a complete success, everyone will still get immense pleasure and enjoyment from the scenery and sights while strolling through Harajuku.
  The near-endless supply of jewelery and accessories also sold in these shops is a great source of souvenirs for friends back home.

  Do you like people-watching? Perfect, Harajuku is one of the best places in the world to do it!


More Harajuku Girls

This is a district where crazy costumes, extreme hair and strange accessories are all just part of daily norm here, making the simple task of people-watching here unlike anywhere else. Local residents have long been recognized as possessing a great sense of style but that alone is not enough to stand out in Harajuku anymore. Individuals must also be highly-creative and fresh-thinker if they hope to stand any chance at designing a look that is worthy of representing Harajuku. And finally they must be able to pull it off. You never see anyone out here bring anything less than their A-game, especially on Sundays.

It has become a kind of rountine for local youths and cosplayers to come out every Sunday dressed to impress. Some outsiders may consider this gathering to be a simple or even silly social event and escape from reality, but to those involved it is often much more than that. Most are also quite proud of their costumes and treat these sundays as an opportunity to demonstrate their creativity and bold sense of style. After all, in a metropolis of nearly 37 million its no surprise than so many strive to be unique.

Visitors taking photographs of the weekly gathering and its participants are acceptable, although its advised to ask permission first (either verbally or with hand gestures) prior to snapping close-up shots of individuals or couples, as not all are comfortable being the center of attention. This is especially important with individuals encountered along the streets on normal weekdays.

The "Harajuku Girls" have always been my favorite and while most love posing for pictures, a few are still too shy. I've always been curious how many hours some of the have to spend getting all dressed up. Some of the hairstyles alone appear to have required hours of preparation!

  What do you think of the Harajuku style? Seen any wild fashion trends during your travels?

Published in Japan

So, you’ve been invited to a traditional Indian Hindu wedding. You are in for a treat, and also some work. What is rarely witnessed at these elaborate celebrations is all the effort, energy, and preparation that go into orchestrating the 3+ days of events, which marry colorful fabrics, robust, rich food flavors and pulsating rhythms. Then again, masters of any craft have the incredible ability of making the most difficult tasks look effortless.

>All that is required to breeze through and bask in the glow that is this stunning series of ceremonies is an open mind, the willingness to learn, and lots of (fun) practice. While it may be work, the fruit of your labor, getting an intimate glimpse into one of the richest cultures of the world, is well worth it.

Rule #1: During a first encounter with an elder (you can gauge age by comparing them to other folks around you, usually 70 yrs. + is elder status), greet him/her by saying “kem cho” (how are you in Gujarati) and reach down to touch their toes. This is done as a sign of respect.

  Event & Attire Shortlist

Don’t wear red (one of the bride's colors), or white (a color worn for Hindu funerals).

Mehndi (bride's family) (very casual)

women traditional-salwar kameez with sandals.
women western-maxi dress or comfortable pants/jeans and top.
men traditional/western-jeans or shorts and shirts and casual shoes.

Raas-Garba (bride and groom’s families and friends) (business casual)

women traditional- chaniya cholis and comfortable dancing shoes.
women western- nice/casual dress and shoes.
men traditional-kurta pyjama (also known jabho langho) and sandals or slippers.
men western-nice slacks and button down shirts and comfortable shoes for dancing.

Grah Shanti (bride’s family) (very casual)

women traditional-salwar kameez.
women western-casual pants and tops.
men traditional-kurta pyjama/jabho langho or pants and polo shirts. Shoes can be sandals or flats.

Wedding Ceremony (bride and groom’s families and friends) (formal attire)

women traditional-saree and sandals.
women western-elegant dress and heels
men traditional-sherwani and pointed slippers.
men western-suits and dress shoes.

Reception (bride and groom’s families and friends) (business casual)

women traditional- chaniya choli or saree whichever will be most comfortable.
women western-nice dresses and sandals, flats or heels.
men traditional-kurta pyjama/jabho langho or sherwani and dancing shoes.
men western-nice pants and button down shirts or suits.

Modern Hindu wedding guide: Mehndi party
Mehndi party

Mehndi (bride’s family) (very casual): This is a henna (tattoos made with special plant-based dye) party for the females, which happens the night before the Raas-Garba. The men usually hang out in a space next to where the women are getting henna-fied. They meet up with the women to help them eat (since they cannot use their hands for several hours) at the buffet-style dinner later in the evening.

Mehndi Clothing: Dress is very casual. Women wear traditional salwar kameez (skinny cloth pants and long sleeveless, cap-sleeved or long sleeved tops, a dupatta or scarf is optional). Choose clothing that will be comfortable while you sit for several hours. Maxi dresses or comfortable jeans and tops are options. Sandals are the typical footwear, although these are always left at the entryway in Indian homes. Men wear jeans or shorts and shirts.

Raas-Garba (bride and groom’s families and friends) (business casual): This event is similar to a Western reception. The night before the wedding, guests eat; drink, unless they happen to be in a dry state (which we were in when attending a wedding in Gujarat, India) or prefer not to for religious reasons, and dance Raas (male folk dance) and Garba (traditional Gujarat state dance). Let’s Do Garba Instructional Video

Modern Hindu wedding guide: Candle lighting at Raas-Garba
Candle lighting at Raas-Garba

The Raas-Garba begins with a prayer and lighting of a candle by the bride and groom. Guests form different circles (the goal is to dance in the largest circle, as people congregate to the best dancer’s circle) throughout the night and dance to non-stop music. Waiters usually walk around with trays of water to keep everyone hydrated. There is a buffet-style dinner of traditional vegetarian Indian fare, including dal (lentils and spices).

Modern Hindu wedding guide: Chaniya choli for Raas-Garba
Chaniya choli for Raas-Garba

Raas-Garba Clothing: Women wear chaniya (also known as lehenga) cholis
(3-piece traditional Indian dance outfit, which includes a cap sleeved blouse, skirt and dupatta, long piece of fabric, wrapped diagonally around the front to cover the exposed midriff, it is shorter than the dupatta used for sarees). Dancing can be done barefoot, or with comfortable dancing shoes that won’t slip off throughout all the turns and jumps. Closed-toed flats are usually best. Men wear kurta pyjama (also known jabho langho) (skinny pants and a long shirt with a slit neck). On their feet they can choose sandals or slippers. For Western clothing, women can wear nice dresses and nice slacks and button down shirts are appropriate for the men. Again, shoes accompanying the outfits should be appropriate for dancing.

Modern Hindu wedding guide: Chaniya choli and bungdi slid onto and tied to the dupatta (in order to hold the pattern)
Chaniya choli and bungdi slid onto and tied to the dupatta (in order to hold the pattern)

Modern Hindu wedding guide: Men's kurta pyjama/jabho langho. Right: Chaniya choli and example of braided hair extension
Men's kurta pyjama/jabho langho. Right: Chaniya choli and example of braided hair extension

Raas-Garba Accessories: Women wear an abundance of bungdi (bangles). Ladies select about a dozen for each arm in colors that will complement their chaniya choli. The bangles are arranged into a pattern, which must be the same on both arms. This can take up to 30 minutes to do. A ‘set’ (earrings, usually elaborate dangly ones, ring and necklace) is also worn.

Raas-Garba Hair and Makeup: These are usually done at a salon, similar to the process for Western weddings. Guests ask for a variety of up-dos or down-dos. In India, they also supply hair extensions or braid extensions (as shown in photo). Colorful flowers or similar hair adornments are worn. Makeup is done with a lot of heavy eyeliner, to accentuate the eyes and a sparkly bindi (gem pressed between the eyebrows) is worn to protect the wearer from bad spirits.

Modern Hindu wedding guide: Grah Shanti offering ceremony
Grah Shanti offering ceremony

Grah Shanti (bride’s family) (very casual): This is a type of puja (prayer) ceremony done the morning of the wedding. The family of the bride and those closest to her gather to make different offerings to the Hindu Gods to ensure a blessed ceremony and union. A priest blesses the fruits, nuts and small item offerings, which the bride’s family will give to the groom’s family later in the day.

There is also a ‘grab the sweet’ game. To play, a small mound of what looks to be clay, but is actually a grey-colored sweet called kuler, is placed in the center of a circle. The eldest male protects the sweet clay-like substance from capture by the eldest aunt by swatting at the her with a large, knotted cloth as she lounges for the treat. There is drumming, impromptu Garba dancing and a buffet-style meal.

Modern Hindu wedding guide: examples of different salwar kameez at Grah Shanti
Examples of different salwar kameez at Grah Shanti

Grah Shanti Clothing: Women wear the salwar kameez or casual Western clothing and men wear kurta pyjama/jabho langho or pants and polo shirts. Shoes can be sandals or flats.

Wedding Ceremony (bride and groom’s families and friends) (formal attire): The traditional wedding colors are green, red and white. Don’t wear red, or white (a color worn for Hindu funerals).

The three-hour ceremony takes place on a circular stage adorned with flowers and crystals.

Modern Hindu wedding guide: Wedding ceremony stage
Wedding ceremony stage

The groom arrives at the venue with a group of dancers and small parade. In India, he will ride into the venue parking lot on a horse. He and his family are the first to take the stage. Once there, the bride’s family comes to them to present the offerings, which were blessed earlier in the day at the Grah Shanti. Guests mill around, chat, and eat at the International buffet-style dinner, which serves dishes like Waldorf salad, pastas, and even Mexican fare. The bride and groom’s immediate families do not eat until the end of the ceremony.

Modern Hindu wedding guide: Groom's arrival at wedding, accompanied by dancers and drummers
Groom's arrival at wedding, accompanied by dancers and drummers

A cloth is placed in front of the groom to block his view as the male members of the bride’s family carry her to the stage. On the stage, the females in her family shake small, decorated cans filled with metal to ward off bad spirits. A bit of black eyeliner has also been marked behind her ear to keep the evil spirits at a distance.

Modern Hindu wedding guide: The sapta padi
The sapta padi

Everyone pays attention to the sapta padi (walking of seven steps/vows) around a sacred fire:

  1. Plentitude of food.
  2. Mental and physical strength and a healthy life free from ailments.
  3. For the successful performance of their spiritual duties.
  4. Happiness in all walks of life.
  5. Prayer for the welfare of all living beings.
  6. Bountiful seasons all over the world.
  7. Prayer and sacrifice for universal peace.

As in other ceremonies, there are small games to keep guests entertained. One of which is the groom’s shoe hide-and-seek. The groom’s shoe is hidden at the beginning of the wedding ceremony. Whoever finds it, presents it to him and asks for money as a reward. The groom, if he wishes that his marriage goes well, is obligated to give the cash reward.

The marriage is confirmed after the tying of the manga sutra (sacred thread) or with the sapta padi. After that, a receiving line forms and the guests congratulate the couple and gift them envelopes filled with cash (the standard Hindu wedding gift). At the end of the night there is an emotional farewell between the bride and her family, accompanied by sad, traditional songs. The luggage she has packed to take to her new family's home (the groom's family) is blessed and she is pulled away from her parents' embraces and whisked off to her in-laws.

Modern Hindu wedding guide: Examples of men's sherwani and women's saree
Examples of men's sherwani and women's saree

Wedding Ceremony Clothing (Accessories, Hair and Makeup similar to Raas-Garba): Men wear sherwani (a long coat, which can be paired with a sleeveless under-vest and pants). Pointed slippers are the shoes of choice. The groom wears this, in addition to a safo (also known as a turban) (head wrap). Ladies wear saree (petticoat in same color as the dupatta scarf, with the dupatta wrapped around the waist, tucked into the petticoat and pinned and pleated across the chest and midriff, a capped sleeve half blouse is also worn). Women wear sandals for footwear. If opting for Western clothes, men may wear suits and dress shoes. Ladies should put on elegant dresses and heels. How to Wrap a Saree Instructional Video

Modern Hindu wedding guide: Examples of sarees
Examples of sarees

Reception (bride and groom’s families and friends) (business casual): This is the last of the events and is hosted by the groom’s family. In India, the reception is literally just a receiving line. The bride and groom, along with the groom’s family, spend several hours on a stage greeting congratulatory guests armed with envelopes of cash. All of this is filmed and broadcast on a giant screen near the buffet tables. Again, International fare is served for dinner.

In the United States, Hindu wedding receptions tend to be more Western-esque, consisting of eating, drinking and dancing. In India, they are obviously much more of a cultural affair, and can vary greatly depending upon ethnicity and local traditions.

Reception Clothing (Accessories, Hair and Makeup similar to Raas-Garba): Women can wear either chaniya choli or saree whichever will be most comfortable. For a western style, a nice dress and shoes will suffice. Men too can decide between kurta pyjama/jabho langho and sherwani. And for a western look, nice pants and button downs or a suit are appropriate. Shoes, especially for receptions in the U.S., should be made for dancing.

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Published in India

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