Planning a wedding, regardless of your faith and religion is no mean feat and I remember the planning required for my own Sikh wedding. There were so many things that needed to be sorted out to make my day perfect.
The most important part of any wedding planning is sorting out a budget to make sure this is adequate for the wedding you require. Doing this properly will make sure you don’t end up spending more than you can afford.
Giving yourself time to plan the wedding is vitally important, as getting this wrong could end up affecting the wedding, where important aspects of the wedding end up being delayed or don’t happen.
There are a number of required wedding ceremonies that are mandatory to fulfil the requirements of the Sikh wedding being legal under the eyes of the Sikh religion and legal under the laws of where you live. It’s important these wedding ceremonies are planned at the earliest to make sure the wedding is bona fide.
Additional ceremonies before the wedding and after the wedding will also require planning and it’s best to write out a list of the wedding ceremonies that are important to you. Some wedding ceremonies may automatically follow or start before the mandatory wedding ceremonies, like the Mini ceremony before the morning breakfast.
I’ve listed the planning steps below to make sure wedding goes as smoothly as possible, as these are the steps, I took for my own Sikh wedding.
1. Plan your budget
The very first step you should decide upon is your budget. Setting a budget will ensure that you do not overspend and will help you when making those important decisions. Only spend what you can afford and don’t get carried away or let others sway your decision. The last thing newly wed couples need is to be in debt.
Avoid starting your married life together with a huge debt hanging over heads. Depending on your financial circumstances, most couples may also be saving money to get their first house together. These savings could be seriously depleted if the budget planning for the wedding isn’t thorough enough.
My advice to any couple would be to only spend what you can afford and try to prioritize what is most important to you. Don’t get pushed into anything by family or friends. Remember, they will not be aware of your personal financial status and above all, remember it’s your wedding and your big day.
When setting your wedding budget, make sure it is a realistic one. The last thing you want to do is be unrealistic and set yourself a lower budget which will soon run out. The very first thing you should do is to make a list of which rituals you are going to follow. This will give you an idea as to how many venues you may need. Decide if you can have any rituals at home.
Under each ritual make a list of your guests, this will then give you an idea as to the size of venues you may need. Also, this will give you an idea as to the number of guests you will need to cater for. Remember, at each function yours guests will expect food and drinks at all wedding functions. At Sikh weddings both vegetarian and non-vegetarian guests are catered for. Alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are normally also on supply.
List all of the service providers you may need, e.g., live bands, DJ’s, hair and make-up artists, mehndi artist, Cameraman, Videographer, professional dancers etc. Decide if you are going to have any theme nights. This will help you gauge if you need any additional decorations which are not included within the venue. Make a list of when you would require professional make-up and hair stylists’ services, at what function.
Are you going to get married in a Gurdwara and have langar (food for the wedding reception) there too? The cost of holding your wedding in a Gurdwara will be extremely more cost effective then holding this function at a different venue.
The costs of hiring a Gurdwara will vary from location to location. The cost of the langar, will also be a lot more cost affective as you can only have vegetarian food and no alcohol will be allowed. This is a very great way to get married on limited funds.
Once you have decided upon the above, start phoning around and getting an approximate cost. Venues will vary according to the time you get married. Remember, months such as May-August are very popular months for weddings so costs will be higher. May be look at the possibility of getting married at other months, less popular months such as Autumn and Winter times as this will allow you to negotiate a better rate for venues.
Ensure you get at least three different quotes for each service provider. List all your quotes on your spreadsheets and make sure that you physically visit each service provider. This will ensure that they are based where they say, you can check out their premises and meet them face to face. It is very important that you feel comfortable with them and are reassured that they can meet your needs.
Make a note of the amount of deposit, which is required by each service provider, date you have paid this and note the date of when the outstanding amount is to be paid. This way you can track your money at all times.
A spreadsheet will help to keep you on track, this way you should clearly be able to work out what your entire budget for the wedding is. Know what deposits have been paid and what the outstanding balance is. Each service provider should give you some form of confirmation. This should confirm the day, date and time you require their services.
You should also obtain written confirmations for any and all your venues and even your wedding planner, if you’re having one. Allow a small additional amount against hair and beauty as you may need to pay a small amount for a test run. It is imperative that all brides get a taster of your service providers abilities and ensure that they meet your needs.
Ensure they listen to your requirements. Leave nothing to chance. The last thing you want is to look like a clown or feel uncomfortable with the way you look. Hair and beauty are, in my opinion, the most important for any bride. We all want to look and feel the best we can on our big day.
Keep A Record
It is very important that you are aware where your money is being allocated to and how much you are spending. This will keep you on track and hopefully help you to keep you to your budget.
Devise a spreadsheet listing all your requirements for all of your service providers as well as any and all venues. Include a column which clearly lists all your point of contact details. i.e., name, address, telephone number etc. This way, your contact details are on hand for everyone, at any given time. This will ensure that you have all your bases covered and nothing is left to chance.
2. Give yourself time to plan your wedding
Ensure that you allow yourself plenty of time to plan your Sikh wedding. I suggest giving yourself at least a year. This will ensure that you do not rush into any harsh decisions and spend more or unnecessarily.
As having plenty of time will help in ensuring you have enough time to research all aspects of your wedding. There are a lot of things that need to be researched and checked out, all of which will need plenty of time spent on them to ensure they turn out as expected.
The following is a rough guide as to things that you will need to look at and research into it thoroughly
- Wedding Venue
- Venues for various functions (decide which particular rituals you want to hold at venues, which ones have the most importance to you)
- Caterers (ensure you get recommendations and definitely do a food tasting of a sample menu)
- Hair and Make-Up Artists
- Mehndi Specialists
- DJ (decide on which function you’ll need a DJ for)
- Dhol Player (normally couples would have a dhol player when the newly wed make their grand entrance as a married couple)
3. Plan the required Wedding Ceremonies
To be legally married under the eyes of the Sikh religion, only the Anand Karaj, the actual wedding ceremony is required. As well as, depending on where you live, there will also be a minimum requirement to make the wedding legal. This could be some form of civil ceremony.
It’s important to ensure you know which mandatory ceremonies you need for your wedding, to make it legal under the eyes of the Sikh religion as well as legal where you live. I had to perform my civil wedding two days prior to my actual Sikh wedding to make sure my wedding was legal according to UK law.
I really enjoyed the civil wedding as I bought a different outfit for this ceremony, and it was fantastic to see my family, friends and other guests all dressed up for the occasion. I kind of felt partially married after the ceremony but I wouldn’t feel fully married until after the whole of the Sikh wedding ceremonies had been completed.
Anand Karaj (wedding ceremony)
The Anand Karaj is probably the most important ceremony in a Sikh wedding where the couple are married according to the doctrine of the Sikh faith. Making the wedding legal under the eyes of the Sikh religion.
This ceremony usually takes place at the Sikh Temple (Gurdwara), but I decided to have my Anand Karaj at a Manor house I had decided to get married at. This required planning for the Anand Karaj to take place in one of the larger rooms in the Manor house.
The Sikh holy book the Guru Grant Sahib was brough to the Manor house and a Sikh priest, the Granthi conducted the ceremony. When looking back at the pictures of my Anand Karaj, it looks like we are in a Sikh Temple, as the set up in the room followed Sikh practices at the Sikh Temple, even though we are in the Manor house. The popularity of using external venues to the Sikh Temple for the Anand Karaj has become popular.
4. Plan additional pre-Sikh Wedding ceremonies
Choosing which ceremonies to do as part of the wedding is important as couples tend to choose only the most common ceremonies for their Sikh wedding. Remember doing the least number of rituals will greatly reflect on your budget. Less functions equals less venues, and less monetary funds.
Don’t forget another cost saving tip is to see if you can incorporate some functions in one day. That way, it will not only save on time but, would help considerably with regards to catering costs.
Organizing a wedding is very much a personal choice. Depending on your budget, this may also be reflected in the choices you make. Most important thing to bear in mind is to stick to your budget. Don’t let anyone make you spend or sway your decision. Only spend what you can afford. Avoid starting your marriage with a huge debt.
Whilst not exactly required, the engagement ceremony is still done by many Sikh families to show agreement of the proposed union of their children to each other. Sometimes the engagement can morph from a private affair to a full-blown ceremony in a separate venue with many more guests.
The Sangeet night takes place in the event and is normally a few days prior to the actual wedding, sometimes it can take place the night before the wedding. This can be held at the family home of the bride but these days the Sangeet is held in a separate venue, as the number of guests invited can make it impractical to host the Sangeet at the family home.
The Mehndi ceremony is carried out on the bride to be’s side where generally a Mehndi specialist, also known as a Mehndi artist, comes along and draws intricate patterns using henna on the bride’s arms, ankles and sometimes even the face.
Other female members of the bride’s family and her friends also take part in this ceremony and have elaborate henna patterns drawn. Sometimes there maybe a theme in the henna patterns that is shared across all the participants in the Mehndi ceremony.
The Milni is a ceremony that takes place before the Anand Karaj ceremony and involves the male members of each of the respective families exchanging gifts. This happens outside the venue used for the Anand Karaj where the male members of the bride and the groom’s family put garlands on each, hug each other and then exchange gifts. Generally, the corresponding family members do this with each other, with the bride’s fathers interacting with the groom father and so on.
Once the Milni has been completed, the groom’s family are invited inside the venue and offered a breakfast consisting of Indian sweets and savories, rounded of by cups of Indian tea (chai).
Once the morning breakfast has completed, the groom’s family head to the where the Anand Karaj will take place, along with the bride’s family. If this is in the Sikh temple, then this will be where the holy book is kept, if it is outside of the Sikh temple, then a special temporary room will be set up for the Anand Karaj.
5. Plan post Sikh Wedding ceremonies
Once the Anand Karaj ceremony has been completed, the wedding under the eyes of the Sikh faith is legal and complete. The next stage will be the wedding reception, a party to celebrate the holy union of the couple.
The wedding reception can take place either at the Sikh temple or at a separate wedding venue. Wedding receptions taking place at the Sikh temple must adhere to the Sikh temples strict code of not serving alcohol or any meat.
Wedding receptions taking place away from the Sikh temple can serve meat and alcohol, with many Sikh couples electing to have their wedding reception away from the Sikh temple. This allows the bride’s family to be more extravagant, choosing venues such as high-class hotels, specialized wedding venues to elaborate stately homes and manor houses.
6. Don’t forget your Honeymoon
Whilst not an essential part of the overall wedding festivities, the honeymoon can still be an important part of the whole wedding process. Planning for the honeymoon early on, will make sure you can take advantage of any early bird cost savings, especially if you plan to travel to an exotic destination for your honeymoon.
We went to the far east to the island of Bali for our honeymoon and because we’d planned this, months ahead, we managed to get an incredible deal that didn’t eat into our budget. We could have booked this trip later on into the wedding planning process and as such would have had to pay an additional premium for leaving it late, seriously denting our wedding budget.
Planning your wedding is vital as these days wedding can be very complicated and with so many moving parts to think about, planning makes it less stressful. Planning earlier instead of leaving it to the last minute is high recommended as you’re more likely to have the wedding you want with planning early on, instead of having to make compromises that normally come with late planning.