Marriage takes place in three realms: The physical world, the inner world of the heart, and the spiritual plane. Over several days, traditional Hindu weddings honour each of these aspects of marriage with ancient Vedic rites and rituals. Rich in powerful symbolism, Hindu ceremonies weave hearts, families, and communities together. They bestow blessings of good fortune, express gratitude for one’s parents and siblings, and bind two souls with sacred fire. During the second phase of Meesha and Ravi’s Indian wedding celebration in Paphos – the religious ceremony – this holy journey began.

Despite spending many years as a Paphos wedding photographer, I was awe-struck by day two of Meesha and Ravi’s wedding. After their peaceful pre-wedding photoshoot and modern, intimate civil ceremony, the religious ceremony was a complete change of pace. Both grand in scale and intricate in detail, it soared with crescendos of love, humour, and solemnity. The aesthetic of the celebration also shifted dramatically: From head to toe, the bride and groom shimmered in their pink raiment, accented with golden embroidery, beads, and jewels. Around them, their loved ones gathered in luscious patterned fabrics and flowing scarves, adding to this wedding’s beautiful tapestry.

Serenaded by a musician and the soft whisper of the sea, the wedding began with a procession to the Mandap tent. This richly decorated canopy represented the universe that brought Meesha and Ravi together, with its four pillars symbolising their parents. Around its perimeter, fresh flowers, rice, and coconut were sprinkled to bring joy, prosperity, and fertility. Before entering the Mandap, Ravi crushed a clay pot, signifying his desire to overcome any obstacles in his path. Then, surrounded by love and hope, the couple’s spiritual wedding began.

In Hindu weddings, friends and family members serve as active participants, bringing their humour, warmth, and energy to the ceremony. As I watched in delight, Ravi removed his shoes and handed them to his best man. His best man proceeded to try to protect them as part of a classic Indian wedding game: Should Ravi’s shoes get taken by a member of Meesha’s family, he would have to pay to get them back! This prank gave everyone a chance to laugh and run, defusing any wedding jitters in preparation for prayer.

After the game ended, Ravi shifted into his true role as groom. Becoming a representation of Lord Vishnu on earth, he solemnly readied himself for Meesha’s arrival. In front of his face, a white cloth (the antarpat) was held, fluttering gently in the breeze… And then, it lifted, revealing Meesha in all of her radiant beauty. Seeing each other as if for the first time, the couple’s faces lit up with beaming smiles. After months of waiting, preparing, and wishing, the last barrier between them had finally been removed. Promising to choose one another for eternity, they exchanged garlands of flowers, officially heralding their new life together.

Overwhelmed with joy, Meesha and Ravi’s family stepped forward to complete their Indian wedding celebration in Paphos: First, Ravi’s sister tied his scarf to Meesha’s outfit, symbolising their unbreakable bond. Then, as the priest chanted prayers, Meesha’s parents wound a cotton Varmala cord around their shoulders. Made of exactly 24 threads, the Varmala is a reminder of the 24 holy virtues each person should strive for. Thus entwined, they lit the sacred fire in the Mandap’s centre, ushering in a lifetime of warmth. As Meesha and Ravi walked four times around the fire, Meesha’s brothers walked with them, promising everlasting protection and support.

In a final gesture, Ravi touched vermilion powder to Meesha’s forehead and slipped a sacred mangalsutra necklace over her head. Kissed by the last rays of the setting sun, they were officially declared husband and wife, bound in body, mind, and soul. Now, after exchanging sweets and receiving her last blessings, the time had come for Meesha to leave her parents’ home.

Farewells were shared, mingling joy and sorrow in soft, emotional words of gratitude. Then, glowing with inner light, Meesha strode arm-in-arm with Ravi through the night, fearlessly gazing into the horizon. Together, protected by the love of family, they walked into a future blessed by divine fire. They entered a world where truth, wisdom, compassion, and prosperity would always triumph over darkness.