The traditions of a Hindu wedding do include gift-giving; however, you need some understanding of the culture and the couple to choose an appropriate gift. Like traditional Western marriage ceremonies, a Hindu ceremony celebrates the sacrament of marriage and the two people who’ve chosen to join their lives together. There are many different elements to the Hindu ceremony including an exchange of flower garlands, an offering of honey and yogurt and a literal “tying of the knot.” Some of the wedding customs take place days or weeks before the public ceremony and include only the bride and groom’s family.
The “Menhdi” or henna ceremony is for the bride and her closest female friends and family members. During this interesting ceremony, the bride’s hands and feet are painted with intricate henna designs that include the wedding couple’s names. Tradition holds that the wedding night cannot begin until the new husband finds both names.
If you’re attending a Hindu wedding for the first time, don’t hesitate to ask the bride or groom if there are customs you should know about. For instance, solid white or black is generally not worn at a Hindu wedding as both these colors are associated with death. And just as you would not wear a fancy white dress to someone else’s Western wedding, don’t wear a bright red one to a Hindu wedding: that color is reserved for the bride.
Many gifts are exchanged during the various rituals of a Hindu wedding, but most of the gift-giving doesn’t include friends or wedding guests; it’s a custom that involves only the family members of the bride and groom. The families of the bride and groom exchange gifts before and after the official ceremony. Gifts range from elaborate jewelry to practical household items to sentimental tokens of esteem.
The most traditional gift for wedding guests to give the newly wedded couple is money. While gifts of cash are sometimes considered bad form by Western standards, in Indian culture money is thought to be the most thoughtful and considerate gift for a couple just starting their lives together. If you wish to give a monetary gift, place cash or a check in a card along with your well wishes for the couple. A decorative envelope or bag is the customary wrapping. Typically, you want to bring the gift to the ceremony rather than have it mailed to the bride and groom (you can ask an attendant where the gift should be left).
Remember that amounts that end in 1 are considered most auspicious. In other words, $101 is a better gift than $100.
Other gifts that would be appropriate are the same gifts you might choose for any other type of wedding. In fact, many Hindu couples today may even be registered for gifts. If in doubt, select a small silver or gold statue of Laksmi or Ganesha, as both of these Hindu gods are thought to bring good luck to newlyweds.