I recently got invited to a Sikh wedding. I kept on wondering whether I’ll be offered alcoholic drinks at the wedding. To satisfy my curiosity, I researched online on the type of drinks guests enjoy at Sikh weddings.
Can you drink at a Sikh wedding? You can drink alcohol at a Sikh wedding only if the ceremony takes place well away from the Gurdwara. Sikhism generally frowns upon alcoholism, with the Sikh holy book the Guru Granth Sahib prohibiting not only the drinking of alcohol but also the consumption of alcohol at any holy places like Gurdwaras.
Sikhism doesn’t expressly prohibit alcohol. Like you are about to find out, though, there’s much more into Sikhism and alcohol consumption than the fact that a Sikh should consume alcohol in moderation.
Is There Alcohol at a Sikh Wedding?
Sikhs shouldn’t drink alcohol at all, and it doesn’t matter whether alcohol is offered at a wedding or any other place. There is a simple reason behind this – Guru Granth Sahib prohibits alcohol. Note that Sikhs consider the Guru Granth Sahib as a holy book. They can’t go against it in theory.
Guru Granth Sahib is clear on the repercussions of drinking alcohol. According to the book, alcohol has the following repercussions:
- It causes misery
- It makes it impossible for an intoxicated person to distinguish a friend from a foe.
- One commits many sins once drunk.
- Drinking wine causes many wicked deeds
That being said, many Sikhs do drink alcohol, especially the Sikh men and Sikh weddings today have become accustomed to serving alcohol at the lavish receptions held in halls, banqueting centers to lavish hotels. Again, these receptions where alcohol is served are never held in Sikh holy places as even Sikhs who drink alcohol, respect the rules of these holy places as laid down by Sikhism.
Sikh Priests And Alcohol
Sikh priests, commonly referred to as Amritdharis, follow strict Sikh rules. Once they take the Amrit and get admitted into Khalsa, they must follow specific strict codes of conduct. For instance, they cannot gamble, conduct child marriages, and notably, drink alcohol.
An Amritdhari should be of noble character, upright enough to be considered flawless. Such high standards often get lowered the moment an Amritdhari officiates a wedding ceremony where alcohol is served. It gets even where an Amritdhari is suspected to be a secret alcoholic.
While the Amritdhari may not be stripped of his status as a priest, they may not be given a chance to officiate weddings in Gurdwaras unless they renounce alcoholism.
Wine is considered an alcoholic drink in Sikhism. Although it features in many events where Sikhs and non-Sikhs converge, it never features (for obvious reasons) in Sikh weddings. It may be served to non-Sikh guests attending a wedding, though. Even where that is the case, wine cannot be served inside the Gurdwara.
Beer is served to guests at Sikh weddings predominantly in the western world, with weddings in the UK, Canada and US having developed this as their own tradition, even where the attending guests are non-Sikhs. Again, like wine, beer cannot be served in any holy places.
In strict Sikh weddings, beer, just like wine and all other alcoholic drinks wouldn’t be served. As strict Sikh interpretations of alcohol consumption from the Guru Granth Sahib prohibits alcohol consumption and makes the person’s body consuming it impure.
Non-Alcoholic Beer and Wine
The market is awash with so many beers and wine brands that are branded ‘non-alcoholic’ or ‘0%’ alcohol. What does this imply to Sikhs? Does it mean they can enjoy such drinks at their weddings? The answer is not as straightforward as one would think.
Certain Sikh factions believe that as long as a drink is marketed and sold as beer or wine, then a Sikh shouldn’t consume it. With others believing as longs as alcohol isn’t consumed in holy places it doesn’t matter the alcoholic drink is. Other sections believe that as long as a drink doesn’t intoxicate, then a Sikh can drink it.
So, what happens when non-alcoholic beer and wine drinks are served at a Sikh wedding? Should you drink them if you’re a Sikh? There’s no definite answer, so it all boils down to logic. Many Amrithdharis are of the view, though, that a Sikh can enjoy non-alcoholic drinks.
There are many Sikhs, especially in the Western world, who operate liquor stores. This then creates the question of whether it is right for them to sell liquor even to non-Sikhs. What does Sikhism say about such Sikhs? Can then sell alcohol to the friends of a Sikh during Sikh pre-wedding and post-wedding activities? No, they can’t.
Devout Sikhs detect alcohol in all its forms. This is usually the case even where a fellow Sikh sells alcohol. The consensus in Sikhism when it comes to the sale of alcohol is that those who do it aren’t walking the Sikhi path and cannot enjoy Sikh spiritual elevation. So serious is this stance that even money derived from alcohol proceeds cannot be accepted when offered as a gift in a Sikh wedding.
There is a general misconception, mostly amongst non-Sikhs, that all Sikhs are vegetarians. The truth is, prohibitions in Sikhism regarding foods and drinks boil down to two categories – alcohol and meat where the animal in question had other religious rituals done before it was slaughtered. Halal meat is a good example of that category, where Sikhs should avoid eating any meat that has been classed as Halal.
Note that even where non-Sikh religious rituals have been performed in preparation for a non-alcoholic drink, some Sikhs wouldn’t consume the drink. In a nutshell, Sikh weddings should follow strict rules on the types of food and drinks guests can enjoy but this isn’t always the case for Sikh wedding outside of India.
Sikhism is stringent on what one drinks and eats. To put this in perspective, Sikhs ensure that the meat they store in their houses is stored well enough to avoid contamination.
Contamination, in this case, means coming in contact with any food that is prohibited in Sikhism. A Sikh will touch, or drink water offered from a beer bottle. To Sikhs, water is contaminated unless the beer bottle is thoroughly washed to obliterate the last alcohol drop.
Sikh Events in Bars
Guru Granth Sahib is clear that Sikhs can mingle with all races and religions. They can also marry whomever they like as long as they denounce their faith and embrace Sikhism. But does this in any way mean Sikh pre-wedding and post-wedding activities can be held in bars and other places where alcohol is sold?
There are two ways to look at this issue. In the west, where Sikh gatherings sometimes prove difficult to convene, rules bend a little. They can hold their pre-wedding and post-wedding events pretty much anywhere. This is hardly the case in India, where Sikh temples abound. As long as the couple professes Sikhism, they have no business intermingling where alcohol is sold. Of course, some oppose this kind of strict doctrine.
Attending a Sikh Wedding While Drunk
Non-Sikhs can get away with this mainly because they know little or, in some cases, nothing about Sikhism and alcoholism. Still, many Sikhs will immediately let you know of their displeasure with such behavior. Some may ask you to politely leave the temple so that they can proceed with the wedding.
Others may leave you alone as long as you remain calm and respectful throughout the whole process. Your best bet is to ask your Sikh friends what is expected of guests at Sikh weddings. Only then can you be 100% sure you’re not offending your hosts.
Sikhs refer to texts of the Guru Granth Sahib as Gurbani. They often quote one of the most popular lines of the Guru Granth Sahib when citing their reasons for loathing alcohol. The line – even if it is made out of pure, sacred water, you must not drink it – appears to be intentional on what Sikhism dictates when it comes to alcohol.
Sacred water in the text mentioned above refers to the water of Ganges, which Sikhs and Hindus consider as the world’s most sacred water. Sikh Guru dictates that even if an alcoholic drink is made from that sacred water, a Sikh cannot, should not, and must never drink it.
It is also very important to note that Sikhs believe that they can attain spiritual elevation. They also believe that they can tread on the path of Sikhi in their quest to attain spiritual elevation. Those who consume alcohol cannot attain spiritual elevation or tread on the Sikhi path.