SANGEET | Guide and FAQ for First Timers
Sangeet means dance, and that's exactly what it's all about. It's one of the most popular of the Indian wedding traditions.
I'm going to explain what a Sangeet is for most of the Indian weddings in America so you have a sense of what to expect if it's your first time.
Goosebumps, I'm excited for you, Sangeets are AWESOME.
1. What is a Sangeet?
While there is a long history and tradition behind it, for Indian weddings in America or elsewhere in the west, a Sangeet is a party in a hotel ballroom or other venue.
What defines the Sangeet is that close friends and family of the bride and groom will do choreographed dance performances for them, for about 1-2 minutes each. This culminates at the end with the bride and groom doing a dance, often to Bollywood or Hindi or Punjabi music, to the cheers and applause of all the guests. As of 2019, we often see mashups and Hip-Hop also sprinked in along with the Indian music.
That's me on the right at my brothers Sangeet, and Vinay our in-house Dhol expert getting the cheers. LOL.
2. Do I have to attend the Sangeet?
Yes, you should for sure.
Especially if you like to party. You can always leave by 11 if it's not your jam.
It's a non stop celebration, and it's where the Big Fat Indian wedding truly begins.
Generally what happens at the Sangeet ends up being the conversation for the rest of the weekend, and sets the tone wonderfully. Think of it as a kickoff party and given the time and expense of the hosts to organize it, you definitley should. And then you'll see everybody hungover at the wedding the next day. :)
3. Do I have to Dance? I'm shy and would rather not.
Then don't worry about it!
Generally only close friends and family (e.g. High school, college, cousins, and immediate family) would be asked to dance, while the more distant cousins, older folks, colleagues and others just sit back and enjoy.
If you are asked to dance, and you're on the fence about it...you should definitley do it. Close colleagues from work are asked to dance all the time, and they never regret the experience.
You will make friends before the wedding as you'll need to practice for a few hours, often at someones house or gym or studio, or even the day of the event.
Otherwise just cheer from the wings, and join the dance floor later when it's open for all!
4. My Wife was asked to dance but not me. Or vice versa. Can I ask that we both dance?
Of course! That's probably an oversight.
Indian people will generally ask whoever by sending an email or message blast, so if they asked one of you but not the other don't stress and just say "Hey can my wife/husband dance too?" It's not meant to be overthought. It's a dance like at any other event (e.g. talent show, recital, etc..)
Once the bride and groom have watched all the dances, and done their own, the dance floor opens and party goes till 1-2-3am!
5. Will there be alcohol at the Sangeet?
In most Indian communities yes.
In fact the Sangeet is the ONE EVENT in which there probably will be a lot of booze (and the reception).
Unless the family is very strict about it or highly religious, but if you've seen the bride or groom's parents having a scotch, you can be sure there will 99% be an open-bar at the wedding.
Most Big Fat Indian weddings in America will have an open-bar.
6. What to wear in a Sangeet for Males?
A Sangeet is usually an evening gala, similar to attending a company party at a fancy hotel. Men generally wear either Suits, Jodhpuris or Sherwanis. As a first timer you can wear a suit or Jodhpuri, which are safe options. A kurta might be too casual, and a sherwani might be too formal.
7. What to wear in a Sangeet for Females?
That's a little more complicated, but we have the full guide on Indian Wedding fashion for first timers here.
However normally you will wear a
Lehenga (long skirt) with a blouse,
Sari although you'll probably need help getting it on,
Salwar which is a full sleeve one-piece that is probably your safest option.
Most Indian weddings also have Sari draping rooms where guests (especially at destination weddings) can have someone tie their Sari for them.
Can you guess which is the Salwar and which ARE the Lehengas?
8. What NOT TO DO at a Sangeet
That's a little more complicated, but lets assume you're attending a Sangeet for a Gujarati or Punjabi or mixed family in New Jersey.
Don't dress fancier than the bride or groom or close family. If you feel your outfit is too flashy or too expensive, ask your friend who invited you. Trust me, at my wedding I answered the same question 100 times and it's fine, in fact it got me excited knowing they were preparing!
Don't get so drunk you'll throw up or act a fool. There is a religious wedding the next day and if you're noticed trying to hit on someone or puking, you'll get bad looks from the elders. Try to avoid that.
Crash a choregraphed dance. They worked hard, let them enjoy it.
Similarly, while dances are going on try not to look at your phone or step out too often. (You will see many doing this anyways).
Take too much attention of the bride and groom. It's normal to dance along for a song or two, but they'll be pulled in a 100 directions. When in doubt, just flow into the party.