The Inside Scoop on Traditional Sangeet Ceremonies

Attending your first sangeet ceremony? Here's what you can expect.
Hannah Nowack The Knot Senior Weddings Editor
by
Hannah Nowack
Hannah Nowack The Knot Senior Weddings Editor
Hannah Nowack
Senior Editor, Weddings
  • Hannah writes and edits articles for The Knot Worldwide, with a focus on real wedding coverage.
  • Hannah has a passion for DE&I and plays an integral role in ensuring The Knot content highlights all voices and all love stories.
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Hannah was the Social Media Editor at Martha Stewart Weddings.
Updated Dec 20, 2022

If you're reading this then you're likely wondering "what is a sangeet ceremony?" or "what happens at a sangeet ceremony?" Whether you're engaged to be wed, in the throes of wedding planning and researching how to plan a sangeet ceremony for your own wedding as a way of honoring your heritage or you're a guest who's been invited to your first sangeet, we're here to help you understand the Indian wedding tradition. We are diving into everything you need to know about the North Indian prewedding custom, with expect-backed advice. Read on to learn about sangeet attire, games, dances and unique decoration ideas.

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Sangeet Ceremony Frequently Asked Questions

To better understand the ins and outs of sangeet ceremonies, we connected with Indian wedding expert Rumela Sen, the lead editor of WeddingWire India. Below, Sen answers your most pressing questions about sangeet ceremonies—from the definition of the Indian tradition to etiquette you should be aware of.

What is a sangeet ceremony?

The word sangeet is Sanskrit for "sung together." A sangeet ceremony is a traditional Punjabi and North Indian prewedding ceremony involving lots of festive dancing and celebratory songs. According to Sen, "it is traditionally recognized as a prewedding custom only in many parts of North India. Historically, the Indian wedding tradition of a sangeet ceremony was a female-only event that was organized by the ladies of the bride and groom's families to celebrate the bride a few days before the main wedding ceremony. The word 'sangeet' is synonymous with the word 'song.' The ceremony involves singing and dancing with the couple and their close family members and friends to celebrate the onset of their new journey together. While many families still follow the traditional ritual of singing folk songs and dancing with dhols to tease and celebrate the bride, in recent years couples are also hosting the sangeet night together and performing on choreographed Bollywood songs with their best friends and family."

What is a wedding garba ceremony?

While the sangeet ceremony is celebrated in North India, a similar ceremony known as a garba is observed at Gujarati weddings. "The sangeet ceremony is a prewedding custom in North India, while the garba is a folk dance performed in Gujarat to mark any auspicious occasion in a Gujarati family. In modern times, the sangeet ceremony or the sangeet night has become a popular prewedding event for couples from different parts of India. The event is recognized as the celebration night when the couple's family and friends can dance to choreographed Bollywood songs. Garba continues to be a Gujarati folk tradition even today."

Who receives an invitation for a sangeet ceremony?

In short: it's up to you. Historically, this was a female-only event where women from both to-be-wed's families would come to celebrate. However, with modern sangeet ceremonies, many couples treat the event in a way similar to a wedding welcome party and invite a broader group of people. At the end of the day, it is your wedding to make uniquely your own so feel free to adapt the tradition to best fit your priorities.

When does the sangeet ceremony take place?

Generally, one or two days before the wedding. Some couples may choose to turn the sangeet ceremony into a welcome party of sorts. Ultimately it should take place before the wedding, but if you aren't able to schedule it a few days before and instead need to have it the night before the wedding, that's fine as well. According to Sen, the typical order for Indian wedding events is for the mehndi to take place, then sangeet, haldi, and finally wedding. She adds that "some people also plan sangeet as a post-wedding ceremony, but haldi is always planned on the day of the wedding, because there are rituals involved."

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How long is a sangeet ceremony?

Most modern sangeet ceremonies last for four to five hours. A long time ago a sangeet would sometimes last for multiple days, but over time the tradition boiled down to a one-day event so that all wedding events could fit within one week. Ultimately, the duration of the sangeet ceremony depends on how many guests are attending. Each guest may perform a dance so the time will add up quickly.

Sangeet Ceremony Attire

Color and maneuverability should be kept in mind when deciding on sangeet ceremony attire. Typically the sangeet has a more vibrant color palette than other wedding events. Additionally, since the sangeet is all about dancing, you want to ensure you can move easily in whatever you're wearing. As such, a salwar kameez or a lehenga choli are traditional options for women attending the prewedding function. According to Sen, "brides can choose to wear a traditional salwar kameez or a lehenga choli on the sangeet night. The event is celebrated with great pomp and show. As such, brides choose to get decked out accordingly as their families and friends plan special performances for them. Many brides and grooms take to the stage themselves these days."

Sangeet Ceremony Script

A formal introduction usually takes place before the dances begin at the sangeet, typically given by a professional emcee. If lots of English speakers are in attendance the speech may be given in English or may be bilingual, but it is most traditional for this speech to take place in Hindi or whatever the couple's native regional language is.

As with all wedding speeches, the script should steer away from controversial topics and the presenter should keep things appropriate for the audience.

Here is a sample sangeet ceremony script:

Good evening everyone. Thank you for your presence here today. We are gathered together to bless and celebrate the impending union of [partner name] and [partner name]. Marriage is the union of two people and represents to families becoming one. Tonight, we are here as one big family to celebrate this couple through singing and dancing. Tonight we usher the couple into their new marriage with joy, happiness and excitement. So who's ready for an unforgettable evening? Thanks again for your attendance, let the celebrations begin.

Sangeet Ceremony Dances & Themes

Sangeet dances and themes go hand-in-hand. Oftentimes couples will select a theme for their sangeet and then the dance performances that take place at the sangeet will align with the theme. "This generation sangeet nights usually have a remarkable theme like a Sufi night or a Bollywood night or bhangra night (differs according to regional traditions or couple's preferences)," says Sen. "The bride and groom's immediate family plan performances for them to make them feel special. Many families invite special performers for the event and some traditional families also plan folk songs and dances."

Songs for Sangeet Ceremony

Given that the sangeet centers around dance performances, selecting wedding songs to perform to is a critical element of any sangeet. If you're attending a loved one's sangeet and aren't sure what to dance to, we're here to help. According to Sen, "in traditional parts of India, especially Punjab, the sangeet sandhya continues to be an elaborate celebration chimed with folk songs like madhaniya, kala sha kala, etc." To make your research process for this musical night more seamless, we're gathered some of our favorite songs for a sangeet ceremony below.

Here are some traditional songs for a sangeet ceremony to consider:

  • "Nachde Ni Saare," by Baar Baar Dekho

  • "London Thumakda," by Queen

  • "BIBA," by Marshmellow and Pritam

  • "Chogada," by Loveyatri

  • "Kaala Chashma," by Baar Baar Dekho

  • "Kar Gayi Chull," Kapoor and Sons

  • "Bole Chudiyan," by Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham

  • "Sweety Tera Drama," by Bareilly Ki Barfi

Fun Games for Sangeet Ceremony

While choreographed dance is typically central to a sangeet, the festivities don't need to end on the dance floor. From dhol players to games with attendees, there are plenty of additional elements you can add into a sangeet to make it memorable.

When it comes to games, think about fun ways to involve your guests. Pass the parcel is one of the most traditional games included in sangeet ceremonies. Additionally, activities like charades, beer pong, the shoe game and freeze frame are great options to consider.

Gift Ideas for Sangeet Ceremony

Gifts are not traditionally given in association with a sangeet. According to Sen, "wedding guests usually do not bring gifts on the sangeet day. Gifts are showered on couples on the wedding day or during the wedding reception."

Sangeet Ceremony Decoration Ideas

Decor for sangeet celebrations is generally very colorful and vibrant. According to Sen, "couples and their families are free to choose the decoration they want for a sangeet night depending on the chosen theme for the night or wedding." Sen goes on to share that "we are forecasting all white sangeet and cocktail nights or bling and jazz themes to take center stage with a special focus on the play of lighting and candle or lantern decorations." Check out some of our favorite sangeet decoration ideas below to inspire you.

Fuchsia-and-Teal Sangeet Decor

Not only was the velvet lounge seating at this sangeet incredibly practical, but it also added to the vibrant aeshtetic of the event's decor.

Draping and Dramatic Uplighting at Sangeet

Lighting is an incredibly versatile element of any event's decor and can do wonders for creating a certain vibe. For example, this couple used uplighting to create a dramatic, moody feel at their sangeet.

Tropical Garland Sangeet Decor

For a prewedding sangeet in Mexico, this couple leaned into tropical foliage to ensure the decor felt appropriate for the locale.

Greenery Tunnel Entryway for Garba

From the moment guests arrived to this garba, they were greeted with memorable decor. A dramatic arched entry tunnel, decked out in lush greenery, beckoned them into the event space.

Blue Velvet Draping and Fuchsia Velvet Chairs at Sangeet

Velvet, in an array of jewel tones, added a luxurious feel to this couple's prewedding garba event. The velvet chairs selected matched the vibrant roses which sat atop the dinner tables while dark midnight blue velvet draping anchored the space as a backdrop.

Boxwood Arch at Barn Entrance

Although this couple opted for a tented reception for their main event, they chose to utlize an existing barn space at the venue for their prewedding garba event. And a dramatic boxwood arch marked the entrance.

Bouncy Castle Decorated With Pastel Balloons

This couple modernized their sangeet party by combining it with their welcome party. Instead of just having dancing they chose to also have lots of activities, like a festive bounce house so everyone could feel like a kid again.

Directional Signage at Sangeet Function

Signage is always a helpful tool to ensure guests know where to be and even more so if you're having multiple games or activities at your sangeet. This couple commissioned a large board to direct attendees to the various activities on site.

Fountain Decorated With Pink Roses

This couple leveled up a stone fountain at their garba venue by decking it out in a cascade of pink roses. Lounge furniture was placed around the central fountain for guests to enjoy as they mixed and mingled.

Pink Sangeet Welcome Sign

A pink welcome sign included the couple's wedding hashtag so guests could share their memories on social media.

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