What is a Sikh Wedding?
- Anand Karaj – (the Sikh marriage ceremony) translates into English as ‘Blissful Union’ and describes the joyous union of two souls in an equal partnership.
- Sikh marriages are usually arranged, however the parents act as little more than introduction services with the ultimate choice being left to the son and daughter.
- Sikh weddings are legal under UK law, as long as the building in which the ceremony is held is registered for the solemnisation of marriages. If not, you will need to arrange a civil ceremony beforehand.
- Women will usually wear bright or deep colours, black and white are considered unlucky. Men may wear traditional dress or western suits.
Planning your Sikh wedding
The Reht Maryada or Official Sikh Code of Conduct specifies that there should be no consideration for the caste, race or lineage of any perspective spouse as long as both members of the union profess the Sikh faith and no other. The Reht Maryada also prohibits any dowry arrangement, as marriage is seen as a union of souls rather than a financial transaction. You can choose any day of the year for your wedding, as Sikhs are discouraged from consulting horoscopes or superstitions to determine a suitable wedding date.
The Anand Karaj can be performed in any Gurdwara (a Sikh place of worship) or in any home where Sri Guru Granth Sahib (the Sikh holy book) has been respectfully installed, and can be officiated by any respected Sikh man or woman.
There are no restrictions on what time the religious ceremony should begin or end, however they usually begin in the morning and last for a few hours, followed by feasting and dancing in the afternoon.
An engagement ceremony known as the kurmai is sometimes performed around one week before the wedding ceremony at the Gurdwara or at the home of the groom. If performed in the Gurdwara, the ceremony involves Ardas (the common Sikh prayer), Kirtan (hymns from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib) and langer (a meal). If performed at the groom’s house, the brides’ family will visit bringing a kara (bracelet), kirpan (ceremonial sword) or Indian sweets. The brides’ family are presented with an Indian suit and sweets for the bride.
In the east, Sikh marriages are typically three day affairs, beginning with the Braat (groom’s friends and family) arriving at the bride’s house in the evening of the first day. Following entertainment at the brides house the Braat will usually spend the night. The wedding ceremony will take place the following day, with songs, dancing and feasting for the remainder of the day in celebration. Wedding ceremonies are more commonly shortened to one or two day celebrations in the West owing to time constraints.
Before leaving for the Anand Karaj, the groom will be presented with a ceremonial sword by an elder male in his family, he will also be given sweets by his mother and the entire family will perform Ardas and bow before the Sri Guru Granth Sahib. They may also have tea and snacks before leaving. The Braat then depart together for the Gurdwara. The groom will usually arrive on horseback for the meeting of the families, at which time Ardas will be recited once more to commemorate the ceremonial meeting of the two families. The next stage of the ceremony is known as The Milni in which both families embrace and greet each other one by one, followed by tea and snacks before the main religious ceremony begins.
Musicians perform kirtan (the singing of hymns from Sri Guru Granth Sahib) as the guests enter the Gurdwara. The bride will then make her first public appearance of the day. Men and women are separated in the Gurdwara and will sit on opposite sides of the Gurdwara hall at equal distances from Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Non Sikh male and female visitors and guests can usually sit together if they wish.
The ceremony will begin when the officiate requests that the bride and groom, as well as their parents recite Ardas, this indicates the familial consent of both parties to the marriage. The officiate will then begin a lecture on the importance of marriage and their duties to one another as equal partners. The couple will indicate their agreement with these guidelines by bowing before the Sri Guru Granth Sahib and touching their foreheads to the floor. The father of the bride will then place one end of a scarf or sash worn by the groom into his daughter’s hand, indicating that her care has now passed from the father to the husband.
The officiate will now read the Lavan hymn of Guru Ram Das, a four stanza hymn which charts the progression of love between the husband and wife, comparing it to the love between the soul and God. After each stanza the bride and groom walk in a clockwise circle around the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, whilst the musicians recite the stanza. The bride’s family will often help her to complete her walks around the holy book, to indicate their support for her joining a new family.
Now follows the Anand hymn by Guru Amar Das, and lectures and kirtan, followed by the final Ardas, for which the whole congregation will stand. The Sri Guru Granth Sahib is now opened to any page at random and the hymn is read out as the days order from the Guru for the occasion (hukamnama). Ceremonial pudding called Karah Prashad is then distributed to everyone to mark the formal conclusion of the ceremony.
Following the conclusion of the formal religious ceremony, family members and friends will approach the bride and groom to offer congratulations. At this stage gifts of money can be dropped into the laps of the couple.
Anand Karaj – Sikh wedding ceremony
Ardas – common Sikh prayer
Braat – groom’s friends and family
Gurdwara – Sikh place of worship
Kara – ceremonial bracelet
Karah Prashad – ceremonial pudding
Kirpan – ceremonial sword
Kirtan – hymns from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib
Kurmai – engagement ceremony
Langer – ceremonial meal
Lavan Hymn – a wedding hymn by Guru Ram Das
Reyt Maryada – Official Sikh Code of Conduct
Sri Guru Granth Sahib – Sikh holy book