How to Perform a Sikh Wedding
The Sikh wedding ceremony is properly called Anand Karaj, meaning “Blissful Union.” The ceremony was developed by Guru Amar Das and Guru Ram Das and legalized in India in 1909.
- A Sikh wedding is a marriage of equals. Race or social status plays no part in the marriage. Cost should be shared as equally as possible.
- Dowry is forbidden and no day is better than any other for the ceremony.
- The ceremony must be performed either in a Sikh church, a Gurdwara, or in the presence of the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib.
- The ceremony is usually held in the morning but can last all day and into the next.
A formal engagement ceremony may be asked for before the official Sikh wedding takes place. It is not necessary but if called for, the engagement usually takes place at the home of the groom. It can be directly before the regular ceremony or several days prior. Gifts are exchanged at the engagement. A Seikh sword, Kirpan, and some amount of money are given by the bride’s parents to the groom. A wedding dress and a gold ornament are given by the groom’s parents to the bride. After the exchange, an official announcement of the Sikh wedding is made. The couple will then face the family and guests and groom’s family will make ritual red marks on the bride’s forehead and palms. Dinner, songs, and dancing are the usual cap to the event.
After the engagement, the Sikh couple may also ask for Akhaand Paath, a pre-wedding ceremony that takes place three days before the wedding. The three-day long event is an occasion of prayer for the bride and groom. As scriptures are read, guests are free to come and leave any time during the three days. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are provided to guests depending on the time of day they are in attendance.
There may also be one or more other rituals before the Sikh wedding. Mendhi is a bride event with singing and dancing for women of both sides of the family. The bride’s hands and feet are stained in ritual designs. Sangeet is like a bridal shower. It is also only for women and the occasion is marked by dinner, singing, and dancing. Chunni may occur where the groom’s family presents a veil and gold jewelry to the bride. The day before the wedding may also feature one or more of several rituals.
The main Sikh wedding ceremony begins with all guests seated and awaiting the groom as hymns are sung. The groom arrives and sits before the Guru Granth Sahib. The bride then enters, escorted by male family members and sometimes friends. As the bride and groom sit, the wedding official offers prayers to the couple’s parents. The Palaa ceremony begins after the blessing. One end of a shawl is draped over the shoulder of the groom as he holds the other end. The bride’s father then removes the end from the groom’s hands and places it in the hands of the bride. A series of four prayers called the Laavan then begins. During the prayers, the groom leads the bride around the Guru Granth Sahib.
After the ceremony, a lunch with music and dancing is provided and after this, the Departure of Doli occurs where the bride officially moves from her parent’s home to her new home. A reception may take place for dinner and dancing. Before the bride first enters her new home, she must kick over two jars of mustard oil on either side of the door. The Sikh wedding is completed the next day with dinner at the home of the bride’s parents.