The customs that Sikhs follow during their wedding ceremonies are more or less similar to those of the Hindus.
Rituals before the wedding
As with any other wedding, shopping is an integral part of a Sikh marriage. Sikhs begin their wedding shopping by purchasing Rumalla Sahib – a set of four pieces of fabric that are beautifully embroidered and used to cover the Granth Sahib. At a Sikh wedding, the maternal grandparents and uncles of the bride spend a lot of money on clothing and jewelry. They also host a meal during the wedding ceremonies.
Kurmai or engagement:
The engagement ceremony, or kurmai, is usually a family affair. The bride’s family visits the groom’s home with gifts such as candy, clothes, and jewelry. The bride’s father gives the groom a gold ring, a gold kara (bracelet) and a gold carrot (coins). Later these coins are strung into a black thread and given to the bride. She wears this around her neck and it is similar to the Mangal Sutra worn by Hindu women. But among Sikhs, this thread is only worn by brides on special occasions.
Chunni ceremony or the wedding veil:
After the engagement, it is time for the groom’s family to visit the bride’s house. Only close relatives and friends of the bride and groom are invited to this ceremony. The groom’s mother and aunts give the bride a phulkari chunni (traditional Punjab embroidery). During this ceremony, the groom’s mother applies mehendi, or henna, to the bride’s palms. She also gets jewelry and clothes. Until recently, Sikh weddings were a lengthy affair, and after the engagement or Kurmai, the bride and groom were locked in the house until the actual wedding. However, the trend has now changed and this time of restriction is only one day. Maiyan (when the bride and groom wear normal clothes on the wedding day to look lighter) signals the beginning of the delivery among the ladies of the household who sing songs to the beat of dholkis (drums).
The Vatna ceremony takes place a few days before the wedding. During this ceremony, a paste made from turmeric, sandal, cream, and rose water called ubatan is applied to the bride’s body. In the shade of a bagh (a piece of hand-made cloth with Phulkari embroidery) the bride is scrubbed clean. Bagh is a piece of handmade cotton cloth with phulkari work. A similar ceremony also takes place in the groom’s house.
After that, mehendi is applied to the bride’s hands and other girls in the family also apply mehendi, followed by singing and dancing.
The wedding day:
A Sikh wedding usually takes place before noon.
On the wedding day, the groom’s sister-in-law (bhabhi) and other female relatives go to a gurduwara and fill a gharoli (earthen jar) with water. The groom uses this water to take a bath. A similar ritual is performed in the bride’s house. After bathing, she wears the chura, which consists of 21 red and white bracelets. Then she adorns her bridal clothing, which is a heavily embroidered salwar kameez or lehenga chunni
Meanwhile, the groom’s side gets ready to go to his bride’s house or where the marriage ceremony must take place. He usually wears a brocade ashtray (long coat) or a suit. When everyone is ready to leave, the groom’s sister-in-law (bhabhi) wears surma (cabbage) in his eyes and the groom gives her money as a token of love.
The baraat arrives at the bride’s house or at the wedding location amidst the singing and dancing. The bride’s family members greet the baraat. This little reception is called Milni. A raagi (professional bard) recites the sacred verse. Gifts are exchanged between members of both families. After that, the groom is brought in and this is the time for the bride’s sisters and friends to engage him in a session of teasing.
Then the actual wedding ceremony takes place. The families of the bride and groom gather in Gurudwara. Raagis (professional bards) sing asa di var or the morning anthem. The couple are supposed to sit in front of the Guru Granth Sahib. The priest first recites the various obligations of married life. Then he sings the hymns of marriage from the holy book. During the lawaan, the groom and bride each hold one end of the scarf, which is usually pink. The bride is led around the Granth Sahib by the groom. After the fourth round, the groom and bride are pronounced husband and wife. All those gathered bless the couple and give them gifts and shagun. A great and lavish festival follows the Lawaan ceremony.