A Guide to a Sikh Wedding Ceremony
Marriage is considered one of these necessary responsibilities of Sikhism. Sikhs believe the holy union brings one closer to God and happiness. Marriage is the highest form of love – love of the Divine. Sikh wedding celebrations last several days and are community-wide events. Here we will guide you through everything you need to know about a Sikh wedding ceremony.
- How is a Sikh Wedding Affected by Coronavirus?
- Where does a Sikh Wedding Ceremony Take Place?
- Who Officiates a Sikh Wedding Ceremony?
- What Happens Before a Sikh Wedding Ceremony?
- What Happens at a Sikh Wedding Ceremony?
- What Happens after a Sikh Wedding Ceremony?
Currently in the UK, both wedding ceremonies and receptions have limited numbers depending on where you live. Wedding ceremonies and receptions in England are currently limited to 15 people. There will, inevitably, be a number of elements that will be challenging for a Sikh wedding while social distancing measures are in place. Couples are having to face changes to the venue, catering and guest lists as Sikh wedding are large celebrations over several events. So, you will need to limit your plans if you want a wedding to go ahead. You may choose to postpone your wedding until a time when you can celebrate fully. On the other hand, you could go ahead with a smaller, legal ceremony now, then have a full celebration when it is safe to do so.
If you choose to go ahead with your wedding, government guidelines currently state that where Sikh 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 Sikh Wedding rituals themselves often take place in a temple, such as a gurudwara. The marriage hall is called the pandal; it is where family and friends gather to watch the bride and groom officially join together as a married couple. The ceremony is often held in a gurudwara, or a Sikh temple.
Sikhism does not permit for priests. Rather, a custodian of the Guru Granth Sahib will read the relevant passages of the book and marry the couple.
What is Akhand paath?
The families start off the Sikh wedding rituals and ceremonies by reading the whole Guru Granth Sahib. After this, the wedding date is fixed. Then both families present each other with gifts. The bride and groom exchange rings.
What is Chunni Chadai?
After the engagement, the groom’s family visits the bride and his mother symbolically covers the bride’s head with a chunni.
What are the Mehndi and Chooda Ceremonies?
Mehndi and chooda ceremonies are often done together. Mehndi is when the bride gets her hands and feet decorated in beautiful henna/mehndi designs.
For the chooda ceremony, the bride’s maternal uncle gifts the bride with a set of red and white bangles that are to be dipped in milk before presenting. Golden ornaments called Kalires are tied to the bangles. It is said that whichever bridesmaid the bride showers with her Kalire will be the one to get married next.
What is Maiya?
This is a Sikh wedding ritual where the bride and groom are not allowed to leave their respective houses before the day of the wedding.
What is Vatna?
This involves a paste of turmeric powder and mustard oil being applied to the bride and groom before the wedding for a natural glow.
What is Baraat?
Traditionally, after the groom is dressed in his wedding attire, he mounts a white horse – decorated with colorful adornments as well – to the pandal. Many modern Sikh grooms only ride a short distance to the wedding hall, or arrive in a flower-decorated car instead. He is accompanied by close family and friends singing and dancing. After the groom dismounts, he is welcomed by the bride’s family with prayers, sweets, and cheers.
What is Milni?
The milni is the official meeting of both families. After reading the prayers from the Ardas, the bride’s father welcomes the groom. Key male family members from both sides exchange garlands and greet each other, symbolizing the acceptance of two families into one.
What is Anand Karaj?
The officiating custodian brings out a Guru Granth Sahib decorated in beautiful cloth. All guests in the marriage hall remove their shoes and cover their heads. Guests will all bow to the Guru Granth Sahib, and some offer token money.
The bride’s family guides both the groom and then the bride to a cushion, mattress, or raised platform where the ceremonies will begin. Traditionally, the bride has her face covered by a veil to protect her from the evil eye, but the groom removes his sehra at this point.
What is Lavan Pheras?
The officiator reads prayers and sings hymns to welcome the blessings of God for the marriage. The bride and groom will both bow to the Guru Granth Sahib at the beginning and end of each phera read from the holy book.
The bride’s father helps her tie the groom’s dupatta or free-flowing cloth to her pallu, as a symbol of unity. After the reading, the bride and groom walk around the Guru Granth Sahib, joined together by the tied cloth as the laavan is chanted. The four lavans explain the four stages of married life. The first verse is about the performance of duty towards family and community; the second verse acknowledges mutual love between the bride and groom; the third verse celebrates detachment together in the midst of hectic family life; and the fourth verse speaks of the final stage of harmony, where human love translates into love for God.
The couple may then exchange rings. The groom’s father then puts a garland of flowers on the couple, followed by the groom’s mother, and then the bride’s parents. After this, the couple are considered married.
What is Anand Sahib?
The ceremony concludes with singing the Song of Bliss, Anand Sahib. It takes about an hour to complete, and karah prasad is eaten immediately afterward.
The post-wedding formalities vary by modernity and preference but generally begin after the official rituals are completed and the couple is legally wed.
What is Joota Chupai?
After the marriage ceremony, the bride’s sisters may tease the groom by stealing his shoes and demand a bribe of money for their return. This ceremony can be done either before or after the wedding, but is usually done in jest after the formal rituals are complete.
What is Bhangra?
Sikh weddings are all about close-knit communities and having fun. Everyone eats, drinks and dances to bhangra (a genre of Punjabi music) together. Sikh weddings are also very large and average around 600 to 1,000 guests.
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