You're Invited! A Guide to Sikh Weddings
Beautiful people, crowded dance floors, great food, and an open bar - typically, these are all on the menu for many Punjabi weddings. However, there is much more than that. In this post, we are going to break down the Sikh wedding week, event by event.
Keep reading, if you want to learn more!
If you find yourself at Mayian ceremony, consider yourself lucky! You’re officially a part of the pre-wedding ceremony! Starting from day one, the bride and groom both have Mayian at their own homes. The Mayian is a process where family members apply Haldi (a yellow paste) to the skin. This Haldi is believed to have beautifying effects on the skin, and is usually applied some days before the wedding. The haldi process is intentionally messy!
On the same day you might have dancing (e.g. Bhangra) with drums such as the Dhol playing, depending on the family. Women on the other hand, might be singing and dancing to some folk songs.
So, get ready to make a yellow mess of the bride or groom, jam out to the folk tunes, and enjoy a pakora (a fried fritter) while you’re there.
Typically, after the Mayian, there is a Jago event. The Jago is a pre-wedding event, which generally happens the night before the wedding. For context, Jago literally transparent to “Wake up!”. Traditionally, the Jago would consist of the bride or groom’s family lighting oil lamps, singing folk songs, all while traveling from house to house within their respective villages. The event is done at night, and intended to wake up neighbors, with the intent of sharing the celebration with them! In North America, many Punjabis have adapted the event to an American environment. Therefore, if you find yourself at a Jago, it’s more likely to feel or be like a party at someone’s home or in a banquet hall. You’ll find members of the family getting on the dance floor, using a variety of props (e.g. Jago sticks, pots, etc.).
As alluded to earlier in this post, food and dance are typically on the agenda for this event, so come hungry and excited!
Another pre-wedding ceremony is the Choora ceremony. This ceremony is more intimate, and certainly much more mellow than the Jago event. Furthermore, it is done either at the bride’s home, or wherever she may be residing (e.g. an AirBnB) uring the event. For context, choora is a Punjabi word for bangles. The ceremony is typically done the morning of the wedding ceremony, or the night before.
In terms of the ceremony’s customary traditions , the mama (the maternal uncle of the bride) brings red bangles and other gifts and put them on to the bride. Sometimes if a mama is unavailable, the bride’s family may choose another close male, to play the mama’s role.
The Morning Before The Wedding Ceremony
For the bride and groom, their days start early. The bride will wake up around 3:00 AM, so that her makeup artist can start beautifying her.
While she's getting ready, the groom will also wake up around 4am at his home. He will have his uncle, father, and grandfather helping him tie his turban and get him dress. Once both the bride and groom are ready, they'll start taking pictures with their family members.
After the bride and groom finish their preparations at their respective homes, they head over to the Gurdwara. Once both reach the outside of the Gurdwara, there is a grand procession referred to as the Baraat. The procession will consist of the bride and groom’s families walking toward each other. The groom’s side may be accompanied by a Dholi(s), along with friends and family who are dancing along to the drum’s beat.
The Bharaat will conclude with both families meeting in the middle, where the bride’s side will accept and welcome the groom's the groom's family. This marks the beginning of the Milni event, which typically happens right in front of the Gurdwara. For context, Milni roughly translates into the word, “Introductions”. Therefore, the event is meant to be a formal and loving introduction of family members from both sides. The event is kicked off with a collective Ardaas (a Sikh prayer). Following the prayer, there is a lot of fun happening here where each respective member of the family from both sides will put a garland on each other, hug it out and try to lift each other to see who would come out on top. Depending on how large the families are, the Milni could last anywhere from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours.
Entering the Gurdwara
Once they're all done, the couple and everyone else gets ready to enter the Gurdwara. If you’re unclear about the general protocol for entering the Gurdwara, here are some quick tips.
Cover your head with a ramaal, before entering. Typically the host of the event will have these available, or the Gurdwara will.
Take off your shoes.
Enter the prayer area, slowly walk towards the Guru Granth Sahib, prostrate in front of it, and leave some money in the trough in front of you. If you’re not sure how to go about this, ask someone at the event and they’ll be happy to guide you.
After finishing step 3, sit on the floor, on appropriate side of the Gurdwara (seating is typically divided by gender).
The Anand Karaj
The Anand Karaj is the Sikh wedding ceremony. Before the bride and groom take a seat at the front of the Gurdwara, Kirtan (devotional Sikh music) is recited.Once the couple is sitting in front of the Guru Granth Sahib, the ceremony begins shortly after.
Typically this lasts between 1-1.5 hours, and looks like the following.
Kirtan, Ardas, and Palaa - These series of recitations are completed, before the 4 Laava are recited. The next section explains the 4 Laava in greater detail.
4 Laava - The 4 Laava refer to 4 sacred hymns that are read and/or sang, as a part of the ceremony. After each Laav (singular for Laava), the bride and groom slowly walk a full circle around the Guru Granth Sahib, and then sit back down.
Kirtan, Ardas - After all 4 Laava are completed, a series of hymns and prayers (Kirtan and Ardas) are recited.
Shagun - After step 3, the couple is congratulated by attendees of the ceremony. Friends and family are now free to approach the couple, gift them money, and take pictures with them.
Kara Parshad - This concludes the main part of the ceremony, where “sweet pudding” is hand served to attendees.
Shoutout to Sikhi Wiki, for providing the helpful information above.
This marks the completion of the Anand Karaj!
The Sikh faith has a deep tradition in Langar, which refers to a free community kitchen. The kitchen is open to all, regardless of their background. While Langar is a regular occurrence in Sikh worship, it is also an essential component of the Sikh wedding. Following the completion of the wedding ceremony, everyone goes to the Langar hall, to enjoy a vegetarian meal. Typically, the Langar hall is in the same complex as the Gurdwara.
After eating in the Langar Hall, the Doli event is carried out.The Doli is the ceremony where the bride’s family sends the bride off, where she is escorted to a cot or carriage. Back in the day, this may have looked like a bride being sent off on a cot, and walked to her matrimonial home in another part of Punjab. In 2021, it may be more common for the bride to be sent off in a car, and taken to the hotel where she and her husband are staying. After all, there is still the reception!
We won’t spend too much time on this. Just know that bhangra, popping bottles, delicious food, and a long night of dancing, is likely what the reception will look like!
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