An Indian wedding is a time for families, friends, loved ones, and even the community to gather and take part in ceremonial activities and have fun with food, music and dancing to honour the couple’s union. Here’s a brief guide to Indian weddings in Singapore.
It is part of Indian customs to celebrate even before the couple is formally married. A point of note is that families who have their roots in North India tend to have livelier celebrations, while celebrations by South Indian families are more moderated.
Mehndi or Bangles Ceremony
In some communities, the married women on the bride’s side will hold the haldi ceremony, a beautification and blessing ceremony for the bride. This is followed by the mehndi ceremony where the groom’s family goes to the bride’s home and presents her with bangles. After this, her hands and feet is decorated with henna in intricate patterns. (It is said that the darker the henna stain is, the deeper the love the groom has for the bride.) This is followed by the sangeet, a lively celebration filled with food and music, and usually features dance performances by the couple’s family and friends.
Engagement and Dedication
A few days before the wedding, the families of the bride and bridegroom have a formal engagement in a ceremony called roka, where each side confirms the proposed marriage in the presence of a priest. During this ceremony, the groom’s family presents the bride’s family with gifts to assure them of his ability to care and provide for his future wife. There will also be a ceremony called puja, conducted at least two weeks before the wedding day, where the couple seeks blessings and protection for their upcoming union. The families may observe vratham or fasting, which is believed to bring more blessings to the couple.
Smelting of Gold
Another custom in Indian weddings is the smelting of gold to be made part of the thali, a pendant that serves as a symbol of marriage. The gold used for the thali is provided by the groom.
Arrivals and Kanyaa Daan
On the day of wedding, the groom is accompanied by his best man and three matrons to the ceremonial venue, while the bride is escorted by the groom’s relatives from her home to the venue. Once the groom is seated, the priest will start the ceremony by chanting and praying, before tying a piece of cord around a finger of the groom. A few minutes later, the bride arrives and her father performs the kanyaa daan or “giving away of the bride”. Before handing his daughter, the bride’s father first asks the groom the promises of dharma (righteousness), artha (wealth), and kama (love). The couple then sits together for the first time.
The Wedding Ceremony
Once the couple is seated together, the priest continues with the ceremony and, later, ties another piece of cord to a finger of the bride to unite her with the groom. He then blesses the sari and thali that was given by the groom. After this, the bride leaves the hall to change into her new sari. During her absence, dates, rock sugar and saffron rice are handed to the guests, and garlands are also passed around for the guests’ blessing. When the bride returns, the groom places the thali around her neck. The musical band then hits a crescendo as the couple places the garlands on each other. This is followed by the guests throwing the saffron rice towards the couple as a sign of their blessing.
Flame and Feast
The final ritual of the wedding is the couple’s walk around the ceremonial fire. To seal their union and to symbolize their love, the couple walks three times around the fire, throwing a handful of grains at it at each round. The couple also recites the seven vows of marriage during this time, and the groom puts toe-rings on the bride’s toes. When the ceremony is done, the guests are invited to enjoy a feast prepared by the couple’s family. During the feast, it is traditional for guests to sit on the floor and eat with their hands, although modern Indian weddings in Singapore normally seat guests at tables and provide cutlery.
At the end of the celebration, the newly-married couple thanks the guests for coming and poses for photographs. And, finally, amidst tears and promises, the former bride says goodbye to her family and goes home with her husband.
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