What to Expect When Marrying into an Indian Family

A White groom kissing an Indian bride wearing red.

Marrying someone of a different culture than yours can be a challenge for anyone. In the case of marrying someone from Indian culture, some argue that it is more so, especially if you are a non-Indian woman. After all, it is said that when you marry an Indian person, you’re not just marrying the individual—you are marrying the entire family. With saying that, there are quite a few nuances that rise up and can make adjusting to a life together difficult.

Before tying the knot with your Indian fiancé, it’s best to get acquainted with their culture and traditions, even if your partner grew up in western countries. To put it in different words, since family is almost always at the center of attention, while your partner may be indifferent to Indian customs, your in-laws could be a different story. In addition to brushing up on Indian culture, as a bride-to-be, it will also help to know what marrying into an Indian family really means. This way, you will feel more comfortable should you end up making a few changes in your life.

Expect a Wild Wedding

An Indian wedding reception decorated in bright colors.

Before we discuss family life, let’s cover the wedding itself. Indian weddings are quite different from western weddings—and that’s not a bad thing at all. Traditionally, they are tons of fun and last for three days (if not more). Oh, and expect the guest list to be long. It is not unusual for an Indian couple to invite not only their entire family but even casual friends and acquaintances. So, if you’re keen on having a small elopement, you might want to keep that a separate celebration or risk offending your future in-laws. And if you are expected to have a traditional Indian wedding, it is highly recommended to read up on them. A lot of aspects are very different from western weddings. For example, a bride doesn’t usually wear white—red and pink are the most common colors.

Divorce Is a Dirty Word

Marriage is not something that’s taken lightly in Indian culture, and neither is divorce. It’s safe to say that the “till death do us part” clause should be taken literally. Divorce is seen as a last resort and it won’t be brought up over minor quibbles. This is, for many, seen as a good thing because you can count on a committed relationship. However, should you and your partner end up separating, prepare for your relationship with the in-laws to be on not-so-good terms, even if your partner is at fault.

A Tale of Two Families

An Indian family's hands performing a ceremony at a wedding.

As mentioned before, with Indian marriages, you are not just marrying the love of your life. You are marrying their family, too. Or, some may even argue, it’s a marriage and bond between both families. Everyone has their role and will do everything they can to help their loved ones. Hence, it helps to make and maintain good impressions. One of the ways to do that is to know what responsibilities are expected of you. As an example, if you work as a travel agent, don’t be surprised if you’ll be the first point of contact when your aunt decides to go on vacation. Or, it could be as simple as just being a loyal spouse while taking care of the home and children. This may seem a bit old-fashioned, but know that the family will have your back when you need it most.

Respect the Elders

In Indian families, it’s expected that the younger members of the family will take care of their elders—meaning parents (including in-laws), and possibly grandparents as well. It’s seen as a way for the children to thank those who raised them. While this seems like a sweet gesture, it can cause a rift between a couple because it is not unusual for elder family members to take priority even over their spouse. Hence, it’s recommended to discuss both your and your partner’s expectations of family life before it causes a more serious argument.

A Traditional Take

An Indian couple exchanging rings at their wedding ceremony.

In traditional Indian families, women are expected to take on the stereotypical role of the wife — meaning she should take care of the husband, the kids, the house, and she should know her way around the kitchen. While the man does cook a bit, the wife will be the one prepping the majority of the dishes. In return, the man is expected to provide financially and assure that his family lives comfortably. While modern Indian marriages have shifted from this take a bit, the base concept remains. This means that if you do have a career, but it takes away from your ability to deal with family matters, you could expect some criticism, both from your husband and your in-laws.

Privacy, Please?

It’s not unusual for Indian parents to be extremely nosey. Some would even argue that they don’t have a sense of privacy—but that is a bit harsh. Since Indian families tend to be close, it’s not surprising for its members to be up-to-date on what’s going on with everyone else. This means that you will likely encounter a good amount of unwanted advice, possibly on personal topics. While this may come off initially as a shock, don’t take it too seriously and know that any such interference is only done with the best intentions. It’s just another way the family looks out for one another.

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