You’ve all seen images of magnificently elaborate settings, decor and couples involved in South Asian weddings. You probably thought to yourself “Wow, there must be a lot to consider for wedding attire and decor” thinking (so innocently) that there was only one ceremony and celebration to consider. We hope you’re sitting down…
Depending on the region and religion for a given South Asian wedding celebration, there will be anywhere upwards of sixteen (that’s 16) different rituals and ceremonies involved in one wedding. Many of these will involve completely different attire, location and a range of items, some of which are common among varying regions and religions. These colourful events will usually span across a week.
First, you need to know that South Asian cultures are exuberant, colourful and steeped in ancient ritual and tradition. Then, you need to know that a union between two South Asian individuals is far less about them than it is about family and community. As second and third generation South Asian couples wed in North America, many of their family members travel across the world to be part of the celebrations, which are described below. In our Cabo destination wedding location, ceremonies and rituals that were traditionally held at family homes are done at the venues.
Roka – A gift exchange symbolizing the union between the bride and groom’s families, symbolizing the end of the search.
Chunni Chadana – Similar to an engagement in western culture, the bride is gifted of a red sari or suit and a chunni (scarf).
Sangeet Ceremony – Songs, dances, blessings and some fun teasing of the couple are done at the parent’s homes.
Mehndi Ceremony – The bride, and often her friends and family, have their hands and feet painted in beautiful henna motifs, and the bride is also given gifts.
Jago Ceremnony – Traditionally, maternal family travels and sings noisily at night, inviting awakened neighbours to join the celebration, carrying the Jago, a steel pot holding candles.
THE WEDDING CEREMONY
The previously mentioned activities lead up to the wedding day, at which time the following rituals take place at the side of the couple.
RITUALS AT THE BRIDE’S HOME
Chuda – The first wedding day ritual is the Chuda ceremony, where Chuda, red and cream ivory bangles, are presented to the bride. Later friends and cousins tie “Kaliras,” silver, gold or gold plated traditional ornaments, to a bangle she wears.
Vatna or Maiyan – As a symbol of beauty for the couple, a turmeric based paste is applied to the couple as they sit under a ceremonial red board called a Patri. Later, a red thread is tied around their wrists to ward off the evil eye. Now the bride goes home to get ready.
RITUALS AT THE GROOM’S HOME
Sehrabandi – A Vatna ceremony is also held at the groom’s house, followed by the groom donning his wedding attire. The groom’s sister or older relative then ties a “sehra” on his head, followed by the Sehrabandi ceremony and cash gifts being presented to the groom.
Ghodi Chadna – The groom’s eyes are lined with surma by his sister-in-law, and his cousins feed and adorn his mare so he can climb on the horse and ride to the wedding venue.
“I love designing South Asian weddings! In Mexico, we can totally relate to the bright, colourful customs and designs, as well as the super strong bonds between family and community. And of course, the party! South Asian parties rival Mexican parties and that’s no easy feat!”~ Rocio Villasenor, Del Cabo Event Designer
RITUALS AT THE MARRIAGE VENUE
Milni Ceremony – The “baraat,” or wedding procession, arrives at the venue and is welcomed by the bride’s family, who give “Shagun,” a token of good luck, to the groom’s family, starting with the most elderly.
This is followed by a ribbon cutting ritual, where a ribbon blocks the groom’s entrance, and he must negotiate scissors for a price. After fun and joking the groom cuts the ribbon and offers money or gifts.
Religious wedding ritual – Sacred verses and recited from the holy texts of the couple’s religion. In the Hindu tradition this “Kanyadaan” and “Phere” see the couple make seven rounds along a small fire, symbolic of marriage promises. In the Sikh tradition, this ceremony is called the “Anand Karaj” where the couple, families and relatives go to a “Gurdwara,” recite sacred verses and the couple make four rounds around the holy book, followed by “Ardas.”
At the same time, the bride’s sisters steal the groom’s shoes for cash upon return, involving friendly banter and negotiation.
Bidaai (departure) – As the bride bids farewell to her parents and relatives and departs from their home, she throws a handful of puffed rice as a luck and prosperity token. The couple then leave for the groom’s house where they are welcomed by the groom’s family who pour mustard oil around the door.
Kangna – This ceremonious game involves the couple finding a ring or bangle dropped into milky water, resulting in the winner being said to dominate the married life.
This day-after party is often thrown by the groom’s family, and is a more relaxed celebration of the successful completion of the wedding.
As you can see, this is a lot to learn, especially including the VERY precise specifications of each and every item from decor to linens, from altar to tableware, with some added variations according to region and religion. It has taken Del Cabo Weddings some years to ensure our staff are all trained, certified and experienced in all the subtleties of South Asian destination weddings, and we are thrilled to be working with more and more South Asian destination weddings. After all, we share cultural similarities that put our couples at ease.
Want to know more? Reach out to us and we’ll be delighted to chat with you about your special day, no matter the style or culture!