Bollywood’s unshakeable influence over India’s wedding industry

What is an Indian wedding without some groovy Bollywood music? But also, what are Bollywood films without a dash of glitzy Indian weddings? Bollywood films borrow from traditions and customs, adding them to mass culture, and, in turn, creating viral trends for real-life weddings to emulate.

The list of TV shows, songs, and Bollywood films that are inseparable from the idea of the big, fat Indian wedding is long. And while a definitive list is nearly impossible — and can become a subject of hot debate — we try to offer a sample of pop culture mainstays to help you understand Indian weddings a little more intimately.

Chandni (film, 1989)

A classic that celebrates weddings as galas, and the song-and-dance essence of them.

Saddi rail gaddi aayi (song)

Before flash mobs were flash mobs, Indian families would spontaneously form a human train when the DJ dropped this song. This tradition has survived generations.

Hum Aapke Hain Koun…! (film, 1994)

Right from the first time a couple meets, to the birth of their child, this film, starring superstars Madhuri Dixit and Salman Khan, is almost a three-hour-plus playlist and documentary of wedding ceremonies and their music. Bonus: there’s Cricket, and a pet dog playing a pivotal role.

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (film, 1995)

A cult romance of the 1990s in India, and an up-close and personal look at Punjabi weddings.

Hum Saath Saath Hain (film, 1999)

There’s family, there are weddings, there’s a song for every occasion, including one where the new daughter-in-law is introduced to the entire family through a choreographed sequence. This is a cheesy look at the big fat Indian family and wedding.

Monsoon Wedding (film, 2001)

Directed by Mira Nair, the film highlighted the darker shades of the Indian family system as well as the evolving aspirations of Indians and how they want to be wed.

Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (film, 2001)

Though it’s a movie about family, traditional values, and “loving your parents,” the sequence around the Punjabi festival of karwa chauth (where a wife fasts for the longevity of her husband) has made it a pop culture phenomenon. Plus, Bollywood music fits perfectly into any Indian wedding playlist.

Mehndi hai rachne wali (song, 2001)

Any mehendi (Henna) ceremony is incomplete without this song from the film Zubeidaa playing at least once. It’s a soft melody, packed with the nervous anticipation of the bride-to-be and her friends hoping for her happiness.

Mujhse Dosti Karoge (film, 2002)

The aughts were a big decade for Bollywood and weddings. This film, though not one of the biggest hits in terms of revenue, has a wedding at the heart of it. A medley from the movie is a perfect hat tip to the best wedding-themed Bollywood songs of the period.

Kal Ho Naa Ho (film, 2003)

Another film about love, friendship, and good ol’ Bollywood drama, but with an Indian wedding in New York at its center. The film has one of the earliest examples of a Gujarati family choreographing songs, including one which was recreated by Mukesh Ambani’s family for his daughter Isha’s wedding in 2018.

Band Baaja Baaraat (film, 2010)

The film explores how wedding planners in India hustle to put a wedding together. The film’s music and song sequences lend perfectly to the choreographed Sangeet (a night of music and dance ahead of a wedding).

Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (film, 2013)

Though this is strictly not a film about marriage, it is perhaps the most cosmopolitan look at Indian weddings, encapsulating the entire gamut of traditions, couture, and the cocktail party.

Veere Di Wedding (film, 2018)

Four friends navigate love, friendship, and marriage around one gala wedding event. This film is what Instagrammable weddings are: a bachelorette in a foreign country, designer outfits, dance routines, and reels-friendly music.

Made in Heaven (series, 2019)

This Amazon series takes an edgier look at the business of wedding planning. Each episode tells the story of a wedding, across ages, family backgrounds, and affluence.

The Big Day (series, 2021)

This Netflix series offers a glimpse into the really mega weddings in India, the kind that truly drives India’s $50-billion wedding industry.

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