As I learned the hard way, a Sikh wedding is not the kind of ceremony you bump into without an induction. You need to be familiar with a lot of rituals, processes, and so much more, or else you would be out of place the moment you turn up at the Sikh temple or Gurdwara.
Are there Do’s and Don’ts for a Sikh wedding? Yes, there are. The Sikhs maintain a high standard of conduct that anyone entering the Gurdwara has to abide by. The rules are not for those who follow or believe in the Sikh traditions but for anyone entering the Gurdwara, meaning even guests from other religions.
If you receive an invitation to attend a Sikh wedding, do not let the excitement get over your head to the point you neglect to find out what to expect. As you will find out shortly, your dress code is enough to determine whether you are welcomed in the temple or turned back.
If you do not want to be the odd one out, you should research well before attending a Sikh wedding ceremony. Knowing what to expect will make you comfortable throughout the occasion. However, if you are unaware of what is to expect, you will be confused most of the time because a Sikh wedding is really, really strict and elaborative.
12 Do’s and Don’ts for a Sikh Wedding
So here are the 12 do’s and don’ts you have to observe if you are invited to a Sikh wedding:
1. Wear Appropriate Outfit
How you dress for a Sikh wedding is crucial because a wrong choice of dress could keep you out of the wedding ceremony. The Sikh believes that a wedding is an occasion to be happy; therefore, anyone attending has to be in a celebration mood.
Hence, you have to radiate happiness by the way you dress. There is an official dress code you are expected to comply with. The attendees wear colorful or bright dresses such as pink, orange, or blue, signifying a joyous, relaxed, celebratory atmosphere. The bright, colorful dresses are especially popular with female attendees.
Men can go for darker but attractive colors such as brown or grey. One thing you must never do is to turn up for a Sikh wedding in black or white clothing. According to their customs, the black or white are associated with funerals so if you attend a wedding in them, it shows you are not entirely happy.
They wear white at funerals while the black is for those in mourning.
Moreover, the bright or colorful dress you choose should be decent enough – the Sikh frown at people who enter the temple dressed in revealing dresses that leave nothing to the imagination.
For instance, a dress that leaves your shoulders or much of your legs exposed is not considered appropriate for a Sikh wedding. Avoid fancy jewelry, miniskirts, or too tight clothes.
However, you can wear any dress for the reception ceremony after the formal wedding in the temple. A Sikh wedding is long-winded, so you may need more than two sets of outfits so that you are not out of place at every wedding procedure.
2. Carry a Scarf
Since the less of you seen, the better, you cannot enter the temple with a ‘naked head.’ So, remember to carry with you a scarf that you use to cover your head the moment you step into the Gurdwara.
Women wear long scarves on their heads while men can cover their heads using shorter ones or even handkerchiefs. White headcovers are popular.
There are head coverings in the temple you can be given to save the situation if you didn’t carry yours, but it is best to go with yours. When you turn up for a friend’s or a relative’s wedding, and you start asking for head covers, the impression you create is that you were not prepared for the occasion.
However, when you have it, it is an indication you value and respect the Sikh adherents, therefore you took the time to learn what is required of you.
A scarf can also be of much help if you unknowingly arrived in a shoulder-bare dress. The long scarf will cover your bare shoulders.
Make sure the scarf or dupatta doesn’t slip off your head because it is considered disrespectful. Tie a tight knot so that it remains firmly on your head even when you move around.
3. Take Off Your Shoes in the Gurdwara
There is a designated place for the shoes, so the moment you enter the temple, take off your shoes and place them in the holy area. This practice is not unique to Sikh because many other religions require you to leave your footwear outside the temple.
While all Sikh temples usually require that you walk barefooted inside, others may allow you to wear stockings or socks depending on the circumstances.
When you walk into the temple wearing your shoes, it can be interpreted as arrogance and lack of respect for the Gurdwara. It helps to wear loose sandals that are easy to remove when you visit a Sikh temple so as not to waste time removing them.
Tight-fitting, closed shoes could be hard and uncomfortable to take off, so if possible, avoid wearing them for a Sikh wedding.
4. Leave your luggage at the Luggage Counter
In this era of insecurity, it may not inspire confidence in the other guests if you insist on entering the temple with your luggage, regardless of what you carry inside. People feel more at ease when no one in the Gurdwara carries something that might be mistaken for, say, a grenade or bomb.
There are Sikh temples where no luggage is allowed inside, so you must surrender yours at the luggage counter if need be. If you are coming to a Sikh wedding, do not carry with you anything you may not be willing to surrender until the wedding ceremony is over.
Furthermore, you are likely to focus on and enjoy the wedding if you do not carry luggage. Keeping your luggage away will set you free from the weight.
5. Do not Outshine the Wedding Partners
When you receive an invitation to attend a Sikh wedding, always remember that the occasion is primarily for the two marrying partners. Do not dress to kill, so that you become the center of attention.
Even if you put on the right dress, ensure it is not too bright. Only the bride is supposed to wear a too bright dress to be identified easily.
When it is time to get down to dance at the reception after the formal wedding, do not outshine the close relatives, even if you have the best gifts. Let them feel good. It is one of the unwritten laws that a dignified guest needs to bear in mind.
6. Bring some Gifts
Fortunately, this doesn’t apply only to a Sikh wedding but to many other ceremonies religions. Everyone loves to receive gifts, even those who are not so good at giving them.
A gift is something special you give to someone you care about without expecting anything in return. That is why gifts are so special to those who receive them. They can see you went out of your way to make them feel happy.
At a Sikh wedding, gifts are important. After the formal wedding, there is the Sagaan ceremony for giving the gifts to the newlyweds. The guests queue to present their gifts as the camera flashes.
That is why it could be shameful and rude if you turn up for a Sikh wedding empty-handed. What would you be doing when the rest of the guests line up to give their unique gifts? How would you explain that you were invited, you came, but you overlooked the need to grace the occasion with a present for the marrying lovers?
It could be interpreted that you are a mean guest who is not willing to part with his or her money or that you are not happy for the newlyweds. It can also mean that you didn’t take the time to find out what is expected of you as a guest.
However, note that you are only expected to give a gift if you are a close relative to the couple-to-be. You are exempted from carrying a gift if you are not a close relation. But to be on the safer side, it is better if you have something to give. You can give the gift through whoever invited you to the ceremony.
A new custom taking shape is that you put the money in a congratulation card. In this case, put the money in a nice envelope along with your special wish for the couple. It is better to bring money because there are weddings that do not encourage item gifts these days.
7. Do Not Take Photos without Permission
In this social media generation, you cannot help update your status now and then just to let your followers know where you are or what you are doing at any particular moment.
That is what life has become, not only for the younger generation but even for the older one. Humans are social beings by nature; they long to communicate their joys, sorrows and all.
So, no socialite in his or her right mind would let a grand occasion such as a Sikh wedding pass just like that without letting others know through social media sharing.
While you may be free to share the wedding pictures and videos to your Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat platforms, you need to seek permission before recording videos or taking pictures.
Each wedding has its own set of special rules that go beyond the traditional wedding rules. You may have been invited but not with your camera. Some weddings require more privacy, and you need to respect that.
Certain Sikh rituals are not open for even the official cameraman. So do not start playing paparazzo.
Remember that a Sikh wedding is supposed to be a happy ceremony, especially for the attendees. Do not create the impression you went to seek joy for the absentees.
8. Receive Food with Your Cupped Hands
Every culture has its way of receiving food or a particular item. In a Sikh ceremony, you are to receive the karah prashad food with cupped hands. This is a show of respect and humility.
Karah Prashad is a sacred sweet served to the temple guests after the formal wedding is over. When it is your turn to receive it, do not lift your hand and pick it like you are plucking it off the hands of the giver.
You are expected to turn your hand into cups and open them before the giver. If you are to receive it with one hand for whatever reason, you should then transfer it to your left hand and eat it by taking pieces with your right hand.
When you observe decorum even on these seemingly small affairs, you extremely please whoever had given you an invitation. You also stand a chance to be invited to another ceremony.
However, when you do the opposite at every turn, you injure your friendship with the one who invited you. Nobody wants to be embarrassed by the very guest he invited.
Still about food again, the menu is mostly vegetables, so do not be offended if you are served no meat, as happens with most Western World weddings.
9. Be Patient
You need a ton of patience if you have decided to attend a Sikh wedding because it is not a hit-and-run kind of event. The formal wedding may take about two hours, but the whole process of the Sikh wedding will require at least seven days of your presence.
There are many rituals to be performed before the wedding and still so much after the wedding; therefore, it would be rude if you turned up and vanished the same day. If you receive an invitation, bear in mind you are going to sacrifice your time to be part of all or many of these ceremonies that precede or follow the formal wedding.
All these separate rituals are considered part of the wedding because if one is skipped, then the wedding has not been done properly. So, learn to be patient. Do not act as though you are in a hurry.
Many of these rituals may not seem significant to you, but they mean everything to the families involved. All they require from you is to enjoy the ceremonies with them.
A Christian wedding is mostly a one-day event. After the wedding and reception, the newlyweds head to the honeymoon, and that marks the end of everything. The guests are free to leave the same day after wishing the newlyweds happiness and successful marriage.
Do not attend a Sikh wedding with the same mindset because they will think you are very rude.
Also, remember that a Sikh wedding is more than uniting two individuals into marriage. It is also an opportunity to mingle. The two families use this opportunity to know each other better. It is also at such forums that single men and women meet potential marriage partners.
10. Listen To the Granthi Teachings
Although any temple member can perform Granthi’s role, anyone playing that role should be accorded respect because a Granthi is like a priest.
He should be the center of attention when he rises to read the Guru Granth Sahib or the holy book. It would be best if you listened to the recitations keenly and gladly imitate what others are doing. When the Granthi is passionately reading, yet you seem to be disinterested or out of touch, you send wrong signals to the rest of the congregation.
This is not the time for you to be busy on your Smartphone. Again, if you find yourself attending a Sikh wedding that is not being officiated by a Granthi, you had better know that the wedding is null and void.
11. Don’t Participate in an Underage Wedding Ceremony
Before you accept an invitation to a Sikh wedding function, take the time to do a background check to ensure both the wife and husband-to-be are not minors. There are cases when underage girls are forced into marriage by parents or families hoping to reap from such a union, especially if the potential husband is wealthy.
Note that it is illegal to wed or marry an underage partner. It is also against the Sikh policies. Marriage is between two consenting, reasonable adults who understands what’s at stake.
You also risk criminal proceedings and possible jail term should it be proven that you attended an illegal wedding. As far as the law goes, what you know or ought to know means the same thing so you cannot argue your case that you were not aware that the man or the woman wedding was an underage.
12. Do Not Use Astrology to Set the Wedding Date
Sikh teachings are against all forms of Hindu superstitions that rely on astrology or horoscopes to determine good or bad days in advance. Some families engage in this practice in the belief that they protect the wedding day from evil forces.
If the Sikh temple officials discover that the date of the wedding was arrived at after consulting astrologers, the wedding might be cancelled if it has not occurred or be declared null and void if it is passed.
To be on the safer side, abstain from such rituals before, during or after the wedding.
If you dutifully observe these simple guidelines, you will enjoy a Sikh wedding to the end. You will always want to attend another one.
Old is said to be gold. Sikh wedding is a golden window of opportunity to observe one of the ancient, fascinating, beautiful, time-tested traditions that have defied modernity. It let you see what Indian life was.
A day at a Sikh wedding is a case study into the Hindu culture in its rawest form. You get to appreciate the value of togetherness, love and socializing.
It can also be your opportunity to develop your communication skills as you rub shoulders with various peoples from different walks of life. Do not forget to enjoy yourself through it all. Before you take pictures to send to your social media followers to show them what a wonderful time you are having, make sure you are really having a wonderful time in your heart.