My friend recently shocked us when he proposed to his long time Sikh girlfriend and converted to Sikhism. Therefore, we sought to find out more about Sikh weddings, who officiates them, and whether there are priests and involved. We also got curious if Sikh priests ever marry.
Who officiates a Sikh wedding? An Amritdhari, who is a devout Sikh, officiates Sikh weddings. Notably, an Amritdhari can be a man or a woman. There aren’t stringent requirements on what one needs to qualify as an Amritdhari. As long as one is a devout Sikh, they are eligible to officiate Sikh weddings and other Sikh events.
Many non-Sikhs don’t understand how Sikhs conduct their weddings. The truth is Sikh weddings are simple. However, they feature specific rituals that Sikhs consider sacred.
Who officiates a Sikh wedding?
Any Amritdhari Sikh can officiate a Sikh wedding. The Amritdhari holds a special place in Sikhism for pretty much obvious reasons. For starters, an Amritdhari goes through the Amrit Sanskar, which is an initiation ceremony into Khalsa. Khalsa directly translates to ‘pure,’ so many Sikhs hold Amritdhari Sikhs in high esteem. They take their words very seriously.
Then there is the fact that Sikhs consider marriage ceremonies as sacred. According to Guru Granth Sahib, a bride and bridegroom’s souls unite to become once they marry. It is only after the souls join that the newlyweds can receive blessings.
Because Sikh marriage ceremonies are considered sacred, only ‘pure priests’ can officiate them. That is precisely where Amritdhari Sikhs come into the picture. Without one, a Sikh wedding cannot go on.
One would ask why Sikhs hold Amritdhari Sikhs in high esteem, as noted above. The reason is simple. Amritdhari Sikhs follow the Rahit Maryada, the Sikh Code of Conduct, to the last word. They don’t cut their hair, they don’t gamble, and they don’t drink alcohol. They devote their lives to their religion.
Before an Amritdhari Sikh officiates the wedding ceremony, they first apprise a couple of their duties to each other. They also explain to them what Guru expects of them once they become married.
Do Sikhs have priests?
No, Sikhs don’t have priests. Instead, they have Amritdhari Sikhs. Their duties are more or less like that or priests in other religions. Amritdhari Sikhs follow strict rules of the Rahit Maryada. They must:
- Wear the five Ks all the time – the Kesh, Kanga, Kara, Kachera, and the Kirpan
- Keep their hair clean and not cut it.
- Always wear a turban.
- Pay daswandh
- Not eat ritually slaughtered meat (Such as halal)
- Never drink alcohol or gamble
- Never arrange children marriage
For many Amritdhari Sikhs, living according to the Rahit Maryada is an obligation they have to live with after qualifying into Khalsa. Many don’t consider their lifestyle as a burden. They carry out their duties inside and outside Gurdwaras free of charge and without complaining.
Can Sikh ‘priests’ marry?
Yes, Sikh priests can marry. However, they can only marry fellow Sikh priests. Note that ‘priests’ in this context refers to Amritdhari Sikhs. Note too that Sikhism allows celibacy where an Amritdhari Sikh chooses to remain single solely to focus on their duties.
There is a misconception that Amritdhari Sikhs can marry non- Amritdhari Sikhs who are willing to take the Amrit in the future. The Rahit Maryada prohibits such arrangements. An Amritdhari Sikh can only marry a fellow Amritdhari Sikh.
Sikhs believe that everyone has a Sanjog written on their forehead at the time of birth. Sanjog, which means union of souls, ensures that each living person has a life partner. This contracts what Amritdhari Sikhs who choose to remain celibate. The reasoning here is simple. If everyone has a Sanjog, then no one should remain single.
Sikhs believe that women and men have similar souls. Therefore, they possess equal rights to develop their spirituality. This means that women can take part in all spiritual, physical, and cultural activities in Sikhism. They can also participate in the Akhand Path, which is the Guru Granth Sahib’s continuous recitation.
There is a simple reason why Sikhs have no problem with women being priests, as it is the case in other religions. According to the Guru Granth Sahib, Gur Nanak affirmed the equality of women and men. All the gurus succeeding him also recognized men and women as equals. It’s solely because Guru Nanak recognized what other Gurus before thought of women that Sikhs believe women and men are equal.
Sikh history has recorded a womens role in Sikhism is as equals to men in religion and other aspects of life.
Female Priests In Sikh Weddings
It goes almost without saying that there are more male Amritdhari Sikhs than female Amritdhari Sikhs. No one knows why given that both male and female Amritdhari Sikhs enjoy the same treatment in Sikhism. Either way, female Amritdhari Sikhs can officiate wedding ceremonies as much as their male counterparts do.
In Sikhism, menstruation doesn’t lead to female Amritdhari Sikhs being considered impure. Of course, this is a stark contradiction to what happens in other religions that prohibit women from many activities on account of menstruation. Guru Nanak openly chides and frowns upon those who attribute impurity and pollution to women because of menstruation.
One would ask what menstruation has to do with Sikh weddings. Misconceptions abound, especially amongst those who don’t understand Sikhism on whether menstruating female Amritdhari Sikhs can or should conduct weddings.
Sikh Polygamy and Divorce
These are two new emerging issues in what some people refer to as ‘modern Sikhism.’ Please note that polygamy and divorce are intertwined here for pretty much obvious reasons. As already explained, everyone gets a Sanjog on their forehead once they’re born. To Sikhs, your soul and that of your soulmate become one Sanjog once you marry. The ultimate or the resultant Sanjog can’t be broken. This means you can’t divorce once you marry.
Looking at the Sanjog issue, it is easy to understand why Amritdhari Sikhs can’t officiate weddings where either the bride or the groom is divorced. To Amritdhari Sikhs, officiating such weddings would mean interfering with one’s Sanjog. On polygamy, Sikhism doesn’t allow it as well only because each person has one Sanjog.
Sikhism doesn’t allow child unions in whichever form. Rahid Maryda prohibits such unions. It also forbids Amritdhari Sikhs from officiating weddings where children are involved. According to Amritdhari Sikhs, a wedding should only be between two adults who have chosen to live together out their own accord and because of love.
Sikhism isn’t silent on same-sex unions, as many people allude. As a matter of fact, it prohibits it. In Sikhism, each Sanjog has a corresponding partner of the opposite sex. That is precisely why no same-sex marriage ceremonies ever take place in Gurdwaras.
Sikh weddings and everything that revolves around them seems straightforward to non-Sikhs. A more in-depth look into what goes on before and even after weddings reveal other complex issues. This is especially the case when one examines the role of Amritdhari Sikhs at weddings. You can’t help but notice that Amritdhari Sikhs take their roles seriously.
Like other religions, Sikhism considers marriage sacred. Keep in mind that Sikhs don’t marry non-Sikhs. For such unions to happen, the non-Sikh must first convert to Sikhism. This isn’t usually a long process. Once one has converted, though, they must live the Sikh way of life. This means learning what the Rahid Maryada says about life and living according to each word.
Lastly, Sikhs don’t believe in many gods. This is one of the main reasons why non-Sikhs from religions with many gods usually find it hard to adapt to the Sikh- way of life and vice versa. Notably, though, Sikhism doesn’t advocate for hatred, seclusion, or separation from those who don’t follow the Guru Granth Sahib.