wedding traditions & symbols

Traditions and symbols vary throughout countries and cultures and India has many unique ones of its own. Here you will find some of the more traditional and well- known ones and some extra ones with that distinctive Indian touch.

Hindu Wedding Traditions

Flowers:

Different flowers have different meanings at weddings. Traditionally, the marigold is included in many Indian weddings as they are considered to represent blessings for the newlywed couple. Orchids, tulips, roses and lilies are also popular and meaningful blooms.

Color:

Indian weddings are very colorful affairs, and every color has a reason as to why it’s included. Red is the color most associated with the Hindu goddess Durga, and is representative of power and strength. The color also represents prosperity, good fortune and fertility due to its associations with the red planet and with good quality soil. Yellow and gold symbolise prosperity and opulence. Green is a popular color due to its connotations of new life and prosperity.

Saat Phere:

The saat phere is the seven rounds of the holy fire the bride and groom do during the wedding ceremony. Whilst there is much chanting going on around them, the couple promise to be each other’s lifelong companions. The groom’s scarf and bride’s dupatta are knotted together before they move clockwise around the flames. The bride leads for the first four rounds, before the groom takes over. The fire is considered to represent the god Vishnu, so the couple are making their vows in front of him.

Kanyadaan

:

This part of the traditional Hindu ceremony refers to when the parents of the bride give her away to the groom. The father of the bride covers the groom’s right hand with his daughter’s, and the mother of the bride pours water over their hands whilst reciting sacred verses.

Mangalsutra:

The mangalsutra is a pendant the groom ties around his bride’s neck on their wedding day. The mangalsutra is symbolic of the couple’s lifelong bond, and should be tied in three knots, to represent the bride’s dedication to her husband, her new family and the divine lord.

Haldi:

The haldi is a ritual which takes place the day before the wedding. The haldi paste, made from turmeric, sandalwood and rosewater, is applied to the hands, face and feet of the bride and groom as a beautification process to hide blemishes and refresh skin. The bride and groom should wear yellow when the haldi is applied.

Sindoor:

The sindoor is the red vermillion powder a Hindu bride places in her parting to symbolise her married status. The groom traditionally applies it to his bride as a way of seeking blessings from Parvati and Sati for their married lives.

Mendhi:

The application of mendhi is one of the most important rituals in Indian weddings. Traditionally, the mendhi should include the initials of the groom for him to find somewhere! It is said the darker the mendhi and the longer it lasts, the more the bride will be loved by her husband and his family. Traditionally the bride was adorned with mendhi as a way of boosting her health.

Saptapadi:

The saptapadi is the seven steps the bride and groom take in front of the holy fire – not to be confused with the saat phere. With every step taken, a pledge is made.
- Step one – the groom pledges to support his wife and future family, whilst she submits to him.
- Step two – the groom promises to protect his wife and future family, with her support. She promises to make him happy, and seeks reassurance of his unconditional love.
- Step three – the bride and groom promise to be loyal to each other and consider all others as brothers and sisters. He also pledges to provide wealth and prosperity for his family.
- Step four – he praises his bride and prays for noble, obedient children. She promises to always beautify herself.
- Fifth step – the groom expresses his delight for his wife’s presence. He asks for god to bless her, whilst she pledges to share all of his good and bad times in life.
- Sixth step – the bride promises to be at the groom’s side as he prays for a prosperous, peaceful and joy-filled future.
- Seventh step – the groom prays for an eternal friendship with his wife, and they promise to be true to each other, with a lifelong bond.

Muslim Wedding Traditions

Istikhara:

The first ritual of a traditional Muslim wedding consists of the priest offering prayers to god, to gain his approval to conduct the wedding.

Imam Zamin:

Once the prayers have been offered, the mother of the groom visits the home of the bride with gifts of sweets and coins wrapped in silk.

Mangni:

The groom’s family visit the bride’s house, where they exchange fruit and sweets. The betrothed couple also exchange rings and formally announce their engagement.

Manjha:

Everyone is required to wear yellow as the bride is covered in turmeric paste to give her a glow for her wedding. Once this has happened, the bride is not permitted to leave the house until her wedding.

Mehendi:

The bride’s hands and feet are decorated with beautiful patterns ready for the wedding. If there is any leftover mendhi, the bride’s cousins can visit the groom and place a dot of mendhi on his palms for good luck.

Mahr:

The groom is welcomed at the wedding venue by traditional music, where he will share a drink with the bride’s brother. The bride’s sisters traditionally play pranks before they greet guests with armfuls of flowers.

Nikaah:

This is the wedding ceremony. It can be held at the home of either the bride or groom, or at a wedding venue. In an orthodox Muslim ceremony, men and women are seated separately. The maulvi conducts the ceremony and reads out verses from the holy Quran. A proposal takes place between the bride and groom, and the bride’s side and groom’s side must mutually decide to accept. Then the marriage is legal. Finally, the mehar, or wedding gift, is decided on by the elders of both families, which is then given by the groom’s family to the bride during the nikaah.

Nikaahnama:

This is the name of the document in which the marriage is legally registered. It sets out the terms of the marriage, and grants the bride the right to divorce her groom, should she wish. It is valid once it’s signed by the bride, the groom, their fathers, and the maulvi.

Blessing the Groom:

Following the nikaah and the nikaahnama, the groom asks for blessings from all the older women present. In return for these blessings, he offers them his salaam. All the guests then pray for the newlyweds.

Aarsimashaf:

The wedding is followed by a decadent dinner where traditionally men and women dine separately, and the newlyweds sit together for the first time. They cover their heads with a dupatta as the maulvi reads out prayers. The Quran is placed between the couple and they are allowed to look at each other through mirrors. After this, sweet dishes and dates are served to the guests.

Rukshat:

The bride says goodbye to her family before she leaves for her new home. Her father gives her hand to the groom, and he promises to take care of her.

Welcoming the Bride:

The bride is given a warm welcome by her new mother-in-law, and she holds the Quran over her new daughter-in-law’s head.

Chauthi:

This takes place on the fourth day following the wedding, when she visits her home for the first time in her new role as a wife.

Valimah:

The valimah is an elaborate reception hosted by the groom’s family where the families get together to celebrate the wedding.

Sikh Wedding Traditions

Roka/Thaka:

The Sikh wedding ceremony begins with the thaka to announce the engagement, where it is agreed on by their families. The groom’s mother gives her future daughter-in-law gifts, whilst the bride’s parents present the groom with a gift in the form of cash and sweets.

Kudmai/Mangni/Sagai:

This part of the Sikh wedding process refers to the formal engagement announcement. The groom and his family go to the bride’s home, where they prayer and sing in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib. The mothers of the bride and groom give gifts to their new son and daughter in-laws, and the couple exchange promise rings.

Maiya:

During the maiya part of the Sikh wedding process, the bride and groom are confined to their respective homes and are not permitted to change clothes for a few days.

Sangeet:

The sangeet is a fun filled event where everyone gathers to dance to music and drink to celebrate the upcoming wedding.

Mehendi:

Traditionally the bride’s hands are smeared with mehendi and she will leave an imprint of her palms on the wall of her family home. It’s then washed off and a professional mehendi artist creates the intricate and beautiful patterns on her skin.

Gana:

A red thread is tied around the right wrist of the groom and the left wrist of the bride. Other items are also tied, such as a small bundle of sugar, pearls and shells.

Vatna:

Just before the wedding day, an aromatic paste of turmeric, barley flour and mustard oil is applied to the bodies of the bride and groom. They then have a ritual bath.

Milni:

This is when the bride’s family formally receives the groom’s relatives. They sing a hymn and the fathers of the bride and groom exchange garlands. The male relatives of the bride’s family then lead the groom’s family into the gurudwara. Ardaas is said and the ceremony begins.

Anand Karaj:

This takes place early in the morning, traditionally, as it must be completed before noon. The bride is escorted to the gurudwara by her father, sisters and friends and is seated to the left of her groom. A respected member of the community would typically conduct the service, as there is no ordained clergy, and then everyone stands for the ardaas, before bowing below the holy book. The bride’s father ties his daughter’s veil to the groom’s stole, and the groom leads her four times around the Guru Granth Sahib. More hymns are sung, and this is followed by another ardaas. A random verse is read out from the right of the holy book, and then holy food is distributed and the couple are presented with garlands.

Doli:

After the wedding, the bride changes into clothes and jewellery given to her by the groom’s family. She feeds the male members of her own family with cooked rice, before saying goodbye, ready to live with her new family. Her father takes her to the car, where her brother will escort her to her new family. Here she is received by the groom’s mother, who pours oil on the doorstep. She attempts to drink from a lota, but the groom stops her three times before allowing her to drink. This is repeated with six other of the groom’s female family members.

Doli Dinner:

This is a quiet meal with friends and family members to celebrate the bride’s arrival.

Reception:

Hosted by the groom’s parents, this is where the newlyweds are formally introduced as husband and wife to friends and family members.

Phere Pauna:

This is the traditional first visit from the bride to her old family home, where she is showered with gifts and blessings. This tradition marks the end of the traditional Sikh wedding.

Christian Wedding Traditions

Preparatory Course:

Christians planning to get married will usually attend a meeting with their vicar to ensure they’re prepared for the commitment marriage entails. Paperwork is filled in, baptism certificates are produced and an oath is made on the Bible. This is a nice way for the vicar to get to know the couple he is marrying.

Bridal Shower:

Although not a traditional ritual in the religious sense, many Christian brides will celebrate their upcoming wedding and the end of their single life with a party for the female members of the bridal party, which can include some risqué games.

Bachelor’s Party:

Again, not a religious ritual, but traditional nonetheless, the groom will celebrate with the male members of the bridal party and enjoy his last big party as a single man, often with a lot of drink.

Rehearsal Dinner:

This is a chance for the whole wedding party and the families of both bride and groom to gather ahead of the wedding for a meal. This is traditionally hosted by the groom’s family. The bride and groom then spend their last night apart before married life begins.

Getting to the Wedding:

The bride will get ready on the morning of her wedding with her bridesmaids and mother. She will then travel to the ceremony in a car sent for her by the groom. Once she arrives the best man greets the bride with a kiss on both cheeks and a bunch of flowers.

Wedding Mass:

The bride and her father walk down the aisle together, to where the groom is waiting. Mass begins with hymns and selected Bible passages.

Liturgy:

The bride and groom and their close relatives read out selected Bible passages.

Homily:

The homily is the speech the priest gives to the congregation about the sanctity of marriage. He can include personal touches that relate to the couple in this.

Nuptials:

These are the questions the priest asks the couple, where they agree they are marrying out of choice, and will love and honor each other. They also promise to accept children from God and to bring them up with love and care.

Solemn Promise and Vows:

The couple join hands and repeat their vows to each other in the presence of God and the church. After promises to love, honor and respect each other through good times and bad, and in sickness and in health, the couple are declared married.

Rings:

The couple exchange rings which have been blessed by the priest, with a promise of eternal love and faithfulness.

Penitential Rite:

The congregation confess their sins to God and one another.

Prayer of the Faithful:

After the penitential rite is complete, the priest blesses the just married couple so their love may grow stronger and become a blessing in itself to others. He also calls upon the lord to bless the friends, family and departed loved ones of the newlyweds.

Offertory Procession:

In this ritual, the newlywed couple make offerings of items, such as a Bible, to the lord. After the offerings are made, the couple take communion, which involves eating blessed bread and wine, which represents the body and blood of Jesus. The choir then sing offertory hymns.

Communion:

The congregation now all receive communion together, before reciting the Lord’s Prayer.

Nuptial Blessing:

The bride and groom pray to God to offer their thanks, and the priest performs a final blessing before a last prayer. Everyone joins together to bless the newlyweds, and the priest and the couple sign the marriage register. This is then sent to the registrar of marriages as proof of the wedding.

Recessional:

The bride and groom exit the church together, followed by everyone else as a recessional song is played.

Reception:

This is the only post-wedding ritual in the Christian faith. The friends and family of the couple greet the newlyweds at the wedding venue, where they shower them with confetti. A meal is enjoyed, with speeches, and the couple cut a wedding cake, which is served to their guests. There is then a first dance for the bride and groom, followed by the bride dancing with her father and the groom dancing with his mother. At the end of the night, the couple leave for their honeymoon, but not before the bride tosses her bouquet behind her. Whichever girl catches it is said to be the next to marry!