Punjabi Sikh weddings are as much about celebrating culture as religion. There are many traditions that are followed – some weddings may follow all traditions, while some do not. The celebrations usually begin a couple of days before the wedding ceremony itself with the Maiya – a symbolic cleansing of the bride and groom by their family. This is done separately, and repeated the following day. The Maiya involves family members taking turns to rub a mixture of flour and spices over the person getting married.
For the wedding ceremony itself – the Anand Karaj – The man traditionally wears a turban, while the woman wears colourful jewel covered outfits and mehndi – henna designs on her hands and feet.
The wedding ceremony can be performed by any Sikh who can read the Guru Granth Sahib (written in Punjabi and Sanskrit) but is usually performed by an elder who runs the Gurdwara (Sikh temple).
Before the ceremony begins, there is Milni – this is where the groom introduces his family to the brides family.
This is followed by Saggan where the bride and groom are fed by various family members.
Sometime before the wedding ceremony – in my case just minutes, but usually weeks or months before – the engagement ceremony or Karmai is performed. The groom is given gifts by the brides male family members and fed Saggan.
For the ceremony itself, the bride and groom sit on the floor in front of the Guru Granth Sahib, with their guests sitting behind them, men on the right and women on the left. A number of readings and poems are spoken from the book and hymns are sung. The final part of the ceremony involves the groom leading the bride around the Guru Granth Sahib four times, while being passed between her brothers – this was traditionally done because the bride could not reveal her face before Anand Karaj was complete, so she couldn’t see where she was walking without her brothers guiding her!
The wedding is followed by the Langar or communal meal.
After the ceremony, the couple return to the home of the bride’s family, where she gets a farewell from her family. Before the groom can enter the house however, the brides sisters try to stop him getting in the door until they are bribed with money or jewellery. Once in the house, the sisters play tricks on the groom and his best man such as pouring ice down their back or salting their drinks (Doli)!
The newlywed couple then leave by car (which is pushed away by the brides brothers) to be welcomed into the grooms house by his family.