A Guide to a Hindu Wedding Ceremony
A Hindu wedding is a religious ceremony and one of the most important of the sixteen Hindu sanskars or sacraments. It is seen, not only as the bond between two people, but also the bond between two families. Hindu marriage usually takes in the bride’s hometown and is traditionally organised by the bride’s parents. The bride is known as the Dulhan, the groom as the Dulha. While the ceremony lasts about one‐and‐a‐half‐hours, the preparations and celebrations begin weeks before and continue afterward. Here we will guide you through everything you need to know about a Hindu wedding ceremony.
- How is a Hindu Wedding Affected by Coronavirus?
- Who Officiates a Hindu Wedding Ceremony?
- Where does a Hindu Wedding Ceremony Take Place?
- Is a Hindu Wedding Ceremony Legally Binding in the UK?
- How Do I Choose a Date for my Hindu Wedding Ceremony?
- What Attire is Worn at a Hindu Wedding Ceremony?
- What Happens Before a Hindu Wedding Ceremony?
- What Happens at a Hindu Wedding Ceremony?
- What Happens after a Hindu Wedding Ceremony?
If you choose to go ahead with your wedding, government guidelines currently state that where Hindu marriage rituals or ceremonies are being undertaken under the legal provisions for a wedding reception, these ceremonies also must not exceed 15 people in England, and should adhere to all social distancing and other safety measures provided in this guidance. Those taking part in the ritual or ceremony do not need to remain seated at tables for this, but should be seated for any other aspects of a reception. If a faith or belief marriage ritual or ceremony is taking place as a wedding reception, it should take place within a reasonable timeframe alongside the legal solemnisation of the marriage.
The Hindu service is performed by a male Brahmin priest. The couple usually meets the Brahmin prior to the ceremony. This is so the priest can explain the significance of the ceremony and answer any questions the bride and groom might have.
The ceremony venue is normally a town hall or a hotel and is then followed by blessings in the temple.
The Hindu wedding ceremony is not recognised by British law, so you need to marry in a civil register office before the Hindu ceremony.
Astrological charts are consulted to choose a day for the wedding. Some days are not permitted for weddings: the Hindu calendar is lunar based and has a day in each month called Amas, for instance, when it is forbidden to marry. It is also impossible to marry during Shraaddh, a two‐week period during September, and 15 days before the festival of Holi. The Hindu calendar must be consulted, as these dates change each year.
The bride traditionally wears a fine, white sari with red and gold embroidery, traditionally given her by her maternal uncles. During the celebrations, she will put on a red sari, a gift from the groom’s family. The white sari represents purity, the red sari fertility. The bride wears ornaments in her hair, bracelets, a gold band around her waist and anklets of gold on her feet.
The groom wears a lounge suit or traditional Indian dress, which consists of a Nehru jacket and traditional trousers in white or ivory. Guests can wear what they wish, though it is best to avoid black. Men dress in suits or traditional dress. Female guests wear suits, dresses or sarees.
What is Mehndi?
Mehndi is an Indian tradition where a thick paste made from henna is applied on the bride’s and groom’s hands. This occurs to the day before the wedding. The bride has the palms of her hands and her feet painted with intricate, elaborate and artistic designs. Mehndi is considered to bring positive spirits and happiness to the couple. Traditionally, the darker the colour of the mehndi, the more in love the couple will be.
The Mehndi ceremony is organised and held by the bride’s family. Female members from both families gather to have their hands and feet painted too, with a focus on celebration, rather than decoration.
What is Haldi?
Haldi is a ceremony when turmeric is ground to a paste along with other ingredients. This paste is then applied to both the bride’s and groom by elderly female members of their families before they are washed with sacred water.
What is Sangeet?
Sangeet is a fun-filled ceremony where both the families get together to perform traditional song-dance routines, whilst becoming better acquainted. The bride’s family will sing folk songs welcoming the groom’s family.
For a religion as ancient and rich as Hinduism, its customs are as countless as they are timeless. Certain regions and sects have their own variations on the basic Hindu ceremony. So, the rituals described here are some of the most common traditions to appear at a Hindu wedding ceremony.
What is the Arrival of the Vara Yatra?
It is considered unlucky for the groom to see the bride on the wedding day The groom and his party are collectively called the vara yatra. They arrive at the ceremony site amidst much singing and dancing in a cavalcade of cars, where a number of rituals are performed. When the groom gets out of his car, the bride’s parents, family and friends greet him. The party is welcomed with a special rice toss, known as akshat, and the groom is presented with a plate carrying a lit lamp (or arati). The bride’s mother places a small round red dot on his forehead and gives him a garland of flowers, to signify her approval of the wedding.
Before entering the venue, the groom steps on a small terracotta bowl, to signify his virility and strength. The bride’s mother then accompanies him to the Mandap where the ceremony is conducted. His sisters follow behind him shaking a metal pot covered by a white handkerchief containing rice and coins to ward off evil spirits. While he waits for the bride to arrive, his feet are washed by her mother and father.
What is Varamala?
The bride is accompanied to the wedding venue by her maternal uncles. She is either carried by them or walks between them.
Once the groom has made his way to the entrance of the wedding hall or home, the bride, flanked by her sisters and bridesmaids, will be waiting with a garland for him. During the Jaymala (Varamala) that follows, the bride and groom exchange flower garlands and sometimes deliver a sort of vow in which they promise to be united forever. Traditionally, whoever can put the garland on their partner first will have the upper hand in the marriage.
What is Mandap?
The Mandap is a structure constructed exclusively for the marriage ceremony. It is held up by four pillars supporting a frame, with royal chairs for the bride and the groom, side chairs for parents and a pedestal for the sacred fire set within it.
The Mandap is traditionally made of wood and can be decorated with a variety of items from flowers and greenery to fabric and crystals. The main rituals involved in the wedding ceremonies take place underneath the mandap.
What is Gau Daan?
This is the symbolic exchange of gifts, particularly clothes and ornaments. Traditionally, gifts were exclusively given to the groom’s family. This originally came from dowery traditions, however now it’s more of an exchange as the groom’s family will also give the bride’s family gifts.
What is Kanyadaan?
Following the Gau Daan or often combined with it is the Kanya Pratigrahan (Kanyadaan). The groom’s mother gives the bride a mangala sutra, a long necklace made of gold and black beads. The father of the bride will then place his daughter’s hand in the groom’s as a gesture of giving her away. He states that his family has accepted the groom and wishes for the groom’s family to accept the bride. The mother of the bride then pours water over her husband’s hand, which subsequently falls on the hands of the bride and groom.
What is Vivaha-homa?
For the Vivaha-homa, the sacred fire, or the havan, is lit across from the bride and groom. In the center of the mandap, a fire is kindled. A Hindu marriage is a sacrament, not a contract. To signify the viability of the ceremony, fire is kept as a witness and offerings are made. The bride and groom both repeat the prayers spoken by the priest. These are promises to be humble and faithful to God and each other.
What is Hasta Milap?
This ceremony centers on the joining of the bride and groom’s hands. The bride’s right hand is placed on the right hand of the groom. Their hands are then tied together with a cotton thread wound several times, while the priest recites holy verses. The thread acts as a metaphor for the new marriage, bringing the couple together in an unbreakable bond.
What is Shilarohan?
Shilarohan is when the bride symbolically climbs over a stone to demonstrate her fortitude, strength, and willingness to pursue all her duties as a bride and a future mother. She will be the glue that holds her family together.
What is Saptapadi?
This is the main and the legal part of the ceremony. The couple walks seven steps reciting a prayer at each step. These are the seven vows which are exchanged. Among the Hindu communities in the world, each step may mean something different. Simply put, the first for food, the second for strength, the third for prosperity, the fourth for wisdom, the fifth for progeny, the sixth for health and the seventh for friendship.
These vows are traditionally spoken in Sanskrit, and are one of the most ancient aspects of the Hindu ceremony. The vows validate the marriage; no ceremony is complete without them. The main significance of saptapadi is establishing friendship, which is the basis of a Hindu marriage. A symbolic matrimonial knot is tied after this ceremony.
What is Surya Darshan and Dhruva Darshan?
For the Surya Darshan and Dhruva Darshan, the couple looks to the sun to seek blessings for a creative and passionate life and to the polar star (the north star) to remain steadfast.
What is Sindoor and Mangalsutra?
The parents of both the bride and groom bless the couple and sprinkle them with rose water. The groom then applies the sindoor, a red powder, to the parting in his bride’s hair. This symbolises her new status as a married woman once the ceremony is complete. He also strings the mangalsutra around her neck. This necklace, made up of gold and black beads, is meant to be worn always by the bride as a symbol of her marriage.
What is Ashirvada?
The service ends with the Ashirwaad. This is blessings from the priest, parents and close relatives for a long and prosperous married life. They are followed by friends who wish to add their congratulations. after the ceremony
After the ceremony, the bridal party sits down to a lavish dinner, after which, the bride and groom play a number of games. During the ceremony, they will have had threads with knots tied to their wrists. They must attempt to untie these knots, which represent the importance of having patience with one another. Another game involves a large bowl filled with red‐coloured milk, in which a number of items have been placed, including a coin. The bride and groom attempt to find the coin and the finder is said to be the person who will be dominant in the marriage.
After dinner, the bride says goodbye to her family and friends. The groom leads the bride to the car, and once in the car, the bride’s brother or a male relative covers her with a shawl and wishes her well. The couple visit a temple to offer their prayers and seek blessings, before heading off to the groom’s home.
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