Traditional Indian Weddings – Wedding Day Customs
On the Wedding Day, the Groom’s relatives will go to the Bride’s home and accompany her to the temple. Meanwhile, the Groom arrives with the best man, usually the Bride’s brother, and followed by three matrons, each carrying a tray. One tray contains three coconuts, with their husks removed.
At North Indian-style weddings, the Groom is welcomed into the wedding venue as he rides a heavily decorated horse (usually white) and is led by a crowd of his friends and family dancing around him.
Usually, there is no horse at South Indian weddings, their wedding day customs includes a crowd too. There is a formal welcome party by the Bride’s family outside the venue. In modern Singapore, we can sometimes find South Indian weddings conducted inside Hindu temples.
When the groom and best man are seated, the priest will begin the ceremony with chanting and blessings. A piece of cord is tied round the Groom’s finger. About half an hour after the start of the ceremony, the Bride arrives.
In some regions, the Bride and Groom are separated by a sacred cloth and are not allowed to view each other until they are pronounced as married. At others, they will sit side by side and go through the ceremony together. With the many differences in rituals in the different regions, what’s common is the presence of fire. In Hindu tradition, fire is thought to purify and destroy evil.
The couple sits on a bench with two lamps (kuthu-vilakku), a ceremonial fire and various trays containing fruits and flowers placed in front of them.
At one point during the ceremony, the priest will tie a piece of cord around the Bride’s finger to bring her into the ceremony and to unite her with the Groom. The sari and thali which are given to the Bride by the Groom are blessed. The Bride then leaves the hall to change. Dates, rock sugar and saffron rice are handed round to all the guests during the Bride’s absence.
The garlands that the couple will wear afterwards are also sent around to be blessed by the guests.
When the Bride returns in her new sari, the Groom ties the thali around her neck. The musical instruments hit a crescendo and the saffron rice is thrown at the couple as blessings. The couple then exchange garlands. The couple now walks round the ceremonial fire three times, throwing a handful of grains into the fire at each circling. This keeps the fire burning and is symbolic of the eternal flame of love.
During the circling of the fire, the Groom will place the Bride’s foot on a stone and slip toe-rings onto her toes.
The Bride and Groom will chant Vedic verses after the priest, with fire as a ‘witness’. The havan, located at the center of the dais, receives offerings of ghee (clarified butter) with each chant, emitting thick wood smoke that stings the eyes and lingers in the air long after the ceremony is over. This smoke, filled with good vibrations and prayers, is thought to purify the air around the newlyweds.
The chants are followed by the saptapadi or pheras, which are the seven vows of marriage that the couple take together, while walking around the fire. Something similar to the Christian vows of “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health”, the Bride and Groom promise to cherish each other, grow together and acquire happiness and harmony through mutual respect, understanding and love.
After all the rituals and ceremonies, the wedding guests are gathered for the formal Reception. The couple stand, receiving all the guests and thanking them for their presence.
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