Before His & Her Towels Become Necessary...
While dropping down on one knee with a ring in hand is a beautiful mark of engagement, Punjabi tradition calls for a roka, an intimate gathering of the bride and groom’s families to exchange tokens of confirmation, excitement and union. The groom’s family typically presents auspicious blessings and money to the bride as they welcome her into their family. This small, but charming, ceremony officially bonds the bride and groom, and, of course, the love birds’ respective families. Traditionally, this ceremony gave the green light for couples to go wild with the public hand-holding. Today, it is a beautiful symbol of togetherness.
Part two of the engagement extends invites to the bride and groom’s near and dear (oh and, of course, to anyone either side owes invites to) to celebrate loudly and colorfully. The groom’s family typically hosts this ceremony, while the bride’s family generally presents trinkets to the groom and his kin to welcome him into their family. These offerings range from dried fruits and nuts to jewelry and clothing. Some shaguns will have a bar, others will have a dance floor, but they will all have food!
A week before the wedding date, a tikka ceremony may take place (if not performed during the shagun). The bride’s family will pay a visit to the groom’s family carrying ornately wrapped gifts, and a silver platter adorned with rice grains, saffron, dried dates and a coconut – we implore you to take a moment to picture the Punjabi gift march. In return, the groom’s family gifts baskets of dried fruits to the bride’s family. The bride’s father will draw a tikka on the groom’s forehead and bless him with happiness and prosperity. The bride is then draped in a chunni and given jewelry, which her mother and sister-in-law will help her wear. A drop of mehndi is applied to the bride’s palm for luck and best wishes. It is only after the triple confirmation that a wedding will be taking place does thse groom finally put a ring on it. The single lady is single no more.
Imagine a sweet sixteen, bridal shower and 25th wedding anniversary celebrated in one party. This, folks, we call the sangeet. Hosted by the bride’s family, this ceremony is notoriously a good time. Ladies sit on the floor with a dholki and playfully tease the groom and his family. A DJ will then step in to save the day, and the evening becomes a big dance party for the bride and her bridesmaids.
If ever there were a ceremony to pamper the bride, the mehndi is it. While the masses run circles around the glowing bride, hired mehndi artists ornately decorate the girl’s hands and feet. The mehndi artists will typically tuck the groom’s name in amidst the elaborate design for the groom to find later. A little “Where’s Waldo?”, Punjabi style, if you will. Mehndi artists also dress the hands of the attending female guests. As you can imagine, the bathroom line is anything but breezy. But the mehndi atmosphere is all fun. There’s food, that someone must feed the darling but rather immobile bride, there’s dancing, and there are bhindis and bangles, which get passed around in a basket for guests to have at.
The jaggo is the last hoorah before the day of the wedding. The bride’s family dances and sings during wee hours of the night in her family’s colorfully decorated home. Who needs beauty sleep? Fireworks, bells and candles are all ablaze in anticipation for the wedding day.
The bride’s family kicks off the wedding day with a Chuda ceremony at home. The chuda is characterized by its distinctive red and ivory colors. The bangles, which are typically gifted to the bride by her Mamma are passed around for all present family members to touch. With each pass, best wishes are given to the bride for a happily married life. The bride’s Mamma, Mammi, cousins and friends then tie kaliras to a single bangle worn by the bride. During the entirety of this ritual, the bride does not see the chuda, and will not see it until she is completely ready for the wedding (tough day to host a ceremony that revolves around her hands).
The bridal glow is not just a metaphor in the Punjabi culture. Punjabis go to great lengths to ensure that their bride’s skin looks radiant. They do this with haldi, the queen of spices. Four diyas are lit in front of the bride to reflect a glow on her face. The bride’s female relatives and friends will rub a turmeric-mustard oil paste over the bride’s face, arms and legs. Oftentimes the haldi ceremony will be observed at the Chuda
It’s time to have a bath. Sans the tub and bubbles, this bath is performed by the groom’s bhabi on the bride using a ghadoli. This is the final step before the bride is permitted to step into her wedding attire and primp.
I Hear Wedding Bells
The wedding day is pieced together by a series of distinct rituals, beginning with the milni. The bride’s family greets the groom and his bharat for a garland and money exchange. Both parties then proceed to the mandap, where the bride is walked down the aisle by her father. During the ceremony, pheras are performed around the sacred agni, rings are exchanged, and the groom applies sindoor to his bride’s hair. He then puts a mangalsutra on her neck, and a jaimala battle ensues between the two. It is teasingly said, whoever places the garland on the other first will have the upper hand throughout the marriage. Once the garlands are on, the couple confirms their love, respect and commitment to one another.
Not much longer until the Honeymoon Suite
Kick off your shoes, and hit the bar – let the celebrations begin! The newlyweds are introduced for the first time and Mr. and Mrs. as guests clinks Champagne flutes in hope for some lip action. Speeches are given, dances are sometimes performed, and cake is cut. Once dinner is served, the dance floor belongs to the bride and groom! Oh, and the guests.
The vidaai used to be a sad send-off, as the bride’s family often felt as though they were losing a daughter. Nowadays, the farewell is marked by happiness and positivity. As the bride and groom walk to their “Just Married” clad horse-drawn carriage/limo/scooter, the bride throws phulian over her head, conveying her best wishes and love for her parents. The couple then enters their honeymoon suite, where they will sleep right away, obviously.
It is customary for the newlyweds to visits the bride’s parents on the day after the wedding for some khanna aur ghanna. The bride’s brother typically assumes the role of the couple’s chauffeur for the day.