A Photographer’s Guide to Malayalee Christian Weddings
Malayalee Christian Weddings have many beautiful visual elements that are inspired by Christianity and Kerala culture.
Couples want to make sure that their photographer and videographer capture these unique special moments. We’ve built a database of photographers who have worked with Malayalee Christian couples before, but this guide will help any photographer understand the ceremonies and can’t-miss-moments!
This guide primarily focuses on the Indian Orthodox Service. There may be slight variances for Catholic, Mar Thoma, CSI, Brethren, and other ceremonies. We try to note these differences.
A big thank you to Jiju Mathew Photography for providing the images used in this article.
Before the Ceremony
At the House or Hotel
In addition to typical “getting ready” pictures, many Malayalee Christians will have a Dakshina or “lemon ceremony”.
In this ceremony, elders and family members will take turns receiving a lemon, wrapped in betel leaves from the bride or groom. The bride or groom’s families will gather together for a prayer prior to the ceremony. This is a good time to get pictures for the respective groom and bride’s sides.
At the Church
The manthrakodi (the bridal saree that is gifted during the service) will be placed in front of the altar along with the rings and necklaces – sometimes in a basket. Before the ceremony starts, you can take this beautiful shot of the items that will be exchanged during the ceremony.
You might also want to take a picture of the wedding program book which often has the couple’s names and picture on the cover.
During The Ceremony
In addition to traditional ceremony aspects (like the bride walking down the aisle, the bridal party standing at the altar, and priest giving a homily) there are a lot of visual aspects to capture that are unique to Malayalee Christian Weddings.
The ceremony has two parts:
- The Blessing of the Rings
- The Blessing of the Crowns
The Blessing of the Rings
During the first ceremony, the priest will bless the rings, and then place the rings on the fingers of the bride and groom (symbolizing how the union is through God). This is an important moment to capture!
The Blessing of the Crowns
During this ceremony, the priest will bless the necklaces which symbolize the crowns. Note: Some weddings will include actual crowns in addition to the necklaces.
Before placing the necklaces on the bride or groom, the priest will wave the necklace over their heads in the sign of a cross three times. This is another great moment to capture.
The groom will then place the manthrakodi over the head of the bride. (Another good shot!)
Note: Up until this time, the maid or matron of honor will probably be standing next to the bride. After the manthrakodi has been placed over the brides head, a female representative from the groom’s side will stand next to the bride. You might want to capture this change.
Lastly, you’ll want to capture the moment when the priest places the groom and bride’s hands together:
And when witnesses and the couple come up to sign the wedding registry.
They will then switch sides, be announced as husband and wife, and make their triumphant walk down the aisle!
That is until the craziness of family pictures…
During the Reception
In addition to the typical reception shots (entrances, cutting the cake, speeches and reactions, programs, and dancefloor), there are a few unique ceremonies that take place at the start of the reception.
Typically there will be a prayer and the couple will light a lamp (the velukka) together.
Then there might be a milk “ceremony” where the mothers give a glass of milk to the couple.
The bride (and sometimes the groom) will also typically have at least one outfit change. After they change outfits in the middle of the reception, there might be a “second entrance” to capture. This might also be the time to do a second “first look” picture.
Finally, once the dance floor opens up, someone will probably pick up the bride and groom. A fun moment to close the night!