Traditions and ceremonies of a Hindu wedding
I’ve attended many gorgeous weddings over the years, and no matter the location or the type of ceremony (non-denominational or not), what I love most about weddings is how each couple makes it their own and how you become part of such a sacred event. Whether it’s a simple ceremony or one full of cultural or religious traditions, no two weddings are ever the same.
I have to admit weddings full of religious or cultural traditions hold a special place in my heart. The symbolism is so beautiful and you get to see, first-hand, centuries-old traditions come to life. It also gives you a chance to learn more about what makes the bride and groom so special. These traditions helped make them who they are, and it takes you into their world, if only for a brief moment.
That’s why I was so excited when my best friend got married. Besides the fact I love her like a sister and was so happy she was going to be spending her life with the one who makes her truly happy, she was having a wedding unlike any I had ever been to before. Her wedding incorporated two ceremonies, one Hindu and one Christian. This was my first Hindu wedding, and I was thrilled to witness first-hand, the rich traditions of her culture.
The only things I knew of Hindu ceremonies prior to the wedding was that they usually last a few days and are very ornate, colorful and full of blessings, traditions, and rituals that signify the sacredness of the marriage. I knew the groom usually enters the ceremony on a white horse, and I also knew as part of the ceremonial rituals take place prior to the wedding, the women received tattoos made from the Henna plant, called Mehndi, and the bride’s Mehndi takes hours of precise designing covering her arms and feet.
While my friend’s wedding ceremony was an abbreviated version lasting only about 45 minutes, it contained 9 beautifully symbolic ceremonies I want to share with you, so you can see the differences, as well as the similarities in weddings that you might be familiar with and with those celebrated in other parts of the world.
The bride and groom exchange flower garlands which signify their acceptance of each other in marriage.
This is an offering of prayer to the Lord Ganesh, who blesses the bride and groom. Ganesh is the Lord of beginnings and removes both material and spiritual obstacles.
In this ceremony, the parents of the bride join the hands of the bride and groom, signifying the handing over of their daughter to the care, love, fidelity and security of the groom. This is similar to what you might be familiar with of the father of the bride (or significant family member if the father is not able to be there) giving the bride away.
A corner of the bride and groom’s garments are tied together symbolizing the bond of marriage.
Agni Pujan and Havan
The ceremonial fire is set up by the priest, or Pundit. The fire is set up in a copper bowl called the Havan Kund and the fire symbolizes the illumination of the mind, knowledge, and happiness.
Once the fire is lit, the bride and groom circle it seven times, with the priest bestowing blessings. The blessings are for eternal happiness and a healthy marriage, and as they circle the fire, the couple seeks four basic goals of life: Righteousness (Dharma), prosperity (Artha), pleasure (Kama), and salvation (Moksha). Each of the seven circles around the fire represents the vows the bride and groom make to one another. They are:
- Promising to nourish each other physically, mentally, and spiritually
- Promising to grow together in strength
- Promising to preserve their wealth
- Promising to share in their joys and sorrows
- Promising to care for their future children
- Promising to be together forever
- Promising to be lifelong best friends
The groom places red powder (Sindoor) on the forehead of the bride signifying she is now a married woman.
Mithai are sweets. In this ceremony, the bride and groom feed each other Mithai as a symbol of sharing whatever they have together in life.
The ceremony has come to an end and the bride and groom bow to the Lord, the Pundit, their parents, and all the elders who offer blessings to the newly married couple.
Can you see how, while different, many of the ceremonies are very similar to what you might be familiar with?
We’d love to know what kind of cultural or religious wedding ceremonies you’ve attended. What similarities or difference did see? What were they like?
Featured Photo: the Mandap, or canopy, where the ceremony takes place. Photo credit WCHV