Sikh Wedding Traditions

The Sikh marriage ceremony is referred to as “Anand Karaj,” which translates to “blissful” or “joyful” union. Sikhism is a monotheistic Indian religion that originated in Punjab.

In the interest of giving a brief history lesson, Anand Karaj was initially legalized in 1909 via the Anand Marriage Act. Now, it’s governed by the Sikh Reht Maryada (Sikh code of conduct and conventions). Another interesting fact about Sikh marriage is that they can be arranged by parents, or, boys and girls can meet directly and get married. These unions – as per religious guidelines – shouldn’t have anything to do with social status and should primarily be based on true love.

After the couple decides on getting married both families come together to host a Roka Ceremony which is a pre-engagement ceremony. Let’s delve into some of the integral traditions that make for an authentic, memorable Sikh wedding.

Rituals Before the Wedding

Kurmai: A Kurmai, in layman’s terms, is an engagement ceremony meant to kick off the steady stream of events leading to a Sikh wedding. Throughout the ceremony, both the bride and groom’s families start by reading the whole Guru Granth Sahib. From there, they set the wedding date. When the necessary engagement rituals have reached their conclusion, the two uniting families give each other gifts. The couple also performs a ring exchange.

Chunni Chadai: This ceremony happens soon after the engagement. This is when the groom’s family visits the bride.The mother of the groom uses a chunni to cover the bride’s head as a symbolic gesture. Then, the rest of the family gifts her with clothing and jewelry.

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Chooda Ceremony: The bride’s maternal Mama (uncle) and Mami (aunt) select a set of 21 red, pink, and orange bangles before the Chooda ceremony – where they present the gift. This occurs during the morning of the wedding. Rose petals and milk are used to purify the bangles. They are then placed on the bride’s wrist. The bride is only meant to see the bangles once she’s 100% ready for the wedding ceremony. So, until then, her wrist is covered in white cloth. Lastly, the bride showers bridesmaids with her Kalire, akin to a Christian bouquet toss. Similar to Western traditions, the recipient will be the next woman married.

Gana Ceremony: As to protect the marrying couple from bad omens, during the Gana Ceremony, a red thread is used to tie the groom and bride together. The thread goes on the groom’s left wrist and bride’s right wrist.

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Vatna Ceremony: A turmeric and mustard oil paste is applied to the couple. The Vatna Ceremony is meant to cleanse the bride and groom just before the wedding day.

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Gharoli Ceremony: The Gharoli Ceremony necessitates an earthen pot filled with water from gurdwara by the bride’s sister and other relatives. After the Vatna, the groom uses this to bathe.

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Mehndi: One day before the wedding, there’s a Mehndi celebration where the bride’s hands and feet are decorated in eye-catching henna. The darker the colors used, the more it symbolizes the strength of the couple’s love. Often, this occasion runs in unison with the Chooda ceremony.

RITUALS DURING THE WEDDING

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Milni Ceremony: The Hindi word ‘Milan’ is derived from a Sanskrit expression meaning “a coming together”, giving the Milni Ceremony its definition as a unification of the two families. This tradition occurs in both Hindu and Sikh weddings before the start of the marriage rituals. After the Groom makes his way through the Baraat procession, the Bride’s closest relatives welcome him by sprinkling rose water and offering Shagun, a token of good luck.

Haar Ceremony: Haar is a currency garland that gets tied around the groom’s neck by his sister on the day of his wedding. Furthermore, she also places a flower veil around her brother’s forehead during the ceremony.

Laavaan Phere: The Ardaas (prayer) is recited in the Laavaan Phere, where the bride and groom’s families are present. As the couple moves in a clockwise direction around the Guru Granth Sahib, four payers are chanted. These are referred to as the Laavaan Phere. There are final payers at the end of the ceremony, followed by the handing out of guruprasa (sweet offerings).

RITUALS AFTER THE WEDDING

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Doli: Upon completing the wedding ceremony, the bride dresses in an outfit she’s been given by her in-laws. She then says goodbye to her family.

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Welcome: The newlyweds are welcomed by the groom’s mother, who pours oil at their home’s entrance before the married couple enters. Both families follow suit as they celebrate the bride’s arrival.

 
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Reception: Similar to Western weddings, Sikh wedding ceremonies are followed by a grand wedding reception that takes place the same day or a day after the wedding ceremony. Formal introductions of the happy couple are made to their extended relatives through a reception that the groom’s parents planned

 

Hopefully, if you’re about to attend your first Sikh wedding, this blog has painted a compelling picture and helped you further enjoy the splendid occasion.

Shivani wants to live in a world where laughter is the cure to pretty much everything. Since she can't claim "Serial Bingewatcher" as an occupation, she'll settle for wedding/portrait photographer & marketing coordinator at Wedding Maps. For those rare moments when you won't find a camera in her hand, she will be dancing, eating a donut, or most likely watching Seinfeld.

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