This Is Why Sikh Weddings Are In the Morning

Sikhs waiting outside the Gurdwara for the wedding ceremony

The Sikh weddings normally take place in the morning, so if you are invited to one, do not plan to attend at any other time. If you want to be part of the ceremony from beginning to the end, you need to arrive in the morning. This will give you the opportunity to every part of the interesting function.

But, why do Sikh weddings take place in the morning? The straightforward answer is that they occur in the morning because there are still many other post-wedding ceremonies lined up next, so the earlier the formal wedding happens, the better. The Gurdwara wedding takes roughly 2 hours, which is not that long. But then a Sikh wedding is not one event, but part of a long chain of rituals spread across several days. The formal Gurdwara wedding is only a culmination of the wedding processes.

I already knew that Sikh weddings are in the morning the first time I got an invite, so I arrived early enough. By arriving early, I was able to relax and cool as I waited for the formal wedding to kick off. Arriving early to any event is rewarding because you can later explain everything that took place.

Again, it shows the person who extended the invitation to you that you were eager to attend. Arriving late to an event could send the signal (wrongly or rightly) that the wedding has inconvenienced you in some way.

Even then, it never marks its end. It is hard to tell at what point it is safe to tell that a Sikh wedding is complete. The rituals continue for at least three days after the formal Gurdwara wedding.

The Gurdwara is only open in the daytime; hence no Sikh wedding can take place at night. This is another reason why morning hours is appropriate.

For the record, no Sikh policy explicitly stipulates that a wedding ceremony should take place in the morning, or at what time it should start or end. The main reason why the morning ceremony makes sense is in lieu of the preceding events that also require ample time to execute.

That said, a typical Sikh Gurdwara wedding should end by 11.30 AM.

The Ceremonies and Rituals That Consume Time on the Sikh Wedding Day

The following are the ceremonies and rituals that should happen on the wedding day, necessitating the need for starting the first program early enough in the morning:

1. “No Money, No Entry” Ritual – Bharat

In the morning, the bridegroom’s party (Bharat) arrives in the Gurdwara and is welcomed by the bride’s family. However, a game has to be momentarily played before the Bharat is allowed into the temple.

In the game, the bride’s sisters plus other female attendees tease the groom and his party, asking them to give money before they are allowed into the temple. This is just one of the many pieces of rituals that happen during the wedding. They may not add real value to the marriage, but they have cultural value and add fun. Indeed, fun is an important part of a Sikh wedding.

In the case of this “no money no entry” game, the point is to show that the groom is eager to wed his bride by giving the money. Well, not always do the grooms give money to every girl. Once some of the girls have been given money, the groom and his party would fight their way into the temple without offering any more money to the doorkeepers. It all depends on how rich the groom and his team are, or maybe, how generous and strong.

Once they enter the Gurdwara, the groom and his party are warmly greeted and welcomed by the rest of the bride’s family. They are then served tea in the temple hall.

The formal wedding then takes place, lasting about 2 hours.

2. Sagan

Sagan simply means blessings and is the ceremony that follows immediately after the formal wedding. Lunch is served to the newlyweds in the Gurdwara. The couple is also showered with blessings. Friends, families and guests give them gifts, including money.

However, there is a new trending cropping up whereby the Sagan ceremony is staged at the reception venue.

3. Reception

The reception ceremony is the most liberal part of the wedding proceedings where you get to set yourself free to dance yourself lame. At the reception, you can change from the modest dress you wore for the Gurdwara wedding into something more casual.

It usually takes place in the city where the bride hails from, just as the wedding itself, so it should not be too far from the Gurdwara.

There are more songs and dances at the reception; the merrymakers dance in turns.

In the olden times, the reception was always at the Gurdwara but perhaps to dodge the temple restrictions, the new generation prefers a different location for the reception. A neutral, commercial venue like a hotel is booked where the guests head to after the wedding.

At the Gurdwara, no alcohol or meat can be served because only a vegetable menu is permitted. In some reception events, even strong drinks are served. Not all Sikhs are vegetarians. They are also not so strict about alcohol as the Muslims or Hindu, but no alcohol should find its way into the Gurdwara.

Another reason why it is best to have the reception away from the Gurdwara is that the guests may be too many for the Gurdwara room capacity.

Apart from joining the two souls into one, Sikh weddings are also about having fun. The socialization moments are believed to great harmony in the communities as people get to meet to laugh and eat together. The reception party should be livelier and exciting than the previous wedding, so every new wedding has to beat the last one.

That is why the stakes are higher with every Sikh wedding. People want more food that is more delicious than that at the last wedding they attended. The music and the dances should also be better than the previous ones.

There should be plenty of food and drinks here. The bride’s father serves the couple food before everyone else is served.

4. Sadaa Suhagan

Once the formal wedding is dispensed with, the bride can change from her wedding attire into an attire of jewelry the groom’s family has gifted her. She then receives money gifts and best wishes from the family elders. The main wish is that she never be a widow.

5. Stealing the Shoe

Throughout the day, there will be a game going on behind the scenes. The bride’s family will be trying to steal the bride’s shoes while the groom’s side will be trying to protect the shoes.

So as other rituals take place, thieves are looking for an opportunity to grab the bride’s shoes.

There are instances where this cat and mouse game is played openly, and the groom’s party has to defend the bride’s shoes from the unrelenting thieves. It becomes a catfight, and some of the bridesmaids have to reapply the make-ups after that.

Some unlucky bridesmaids have come from a wedding with their clothes torn and ruffled as they were trying to steal the bride’s shoes.

It is an outrageous irony that the bridesmaids should want to steal the bride’s shoes, but then a tradition is a tradition. If the game makes people happy, let it be. Perhaps this custom was designed to teach the groom’s family that it is now their responsibility to protect the bride because she is coming to stay in their community.

If the bride’s family manages to steal the bride’s shoes, it is a sign that the groom’s family is not ready to protect their daughter-in-law.

Whatever its worth, it is one of the rituals that gobble time, especially if the two parties find it irresistible. Of course, it is not always practiced; some families do not give it serious thought, but this depends on the region. A dyed-in-the-wool Sikhs would want to carry out every ritual come rain or shine.

6. Doli

Once the reception party is done with, the close relatives and friends from both sides head to the bride’s family home for the Doli ceremony.

This ceremony occurs at the bride’s family home. It can be termed as a farewell party, for she bids her family goodbye as she leaves for her matrimonial home.

At this ceremony, the bride can also be given a spiritual Sikh name.

There is another little drama again, similar to the one at Gurdwara when the groom arrived. Again here, the groom is blocked from entering the bride’s parental house until he parts with some fee.

He has to use his negotiating skills to buy his way into the house through the blockade mounted by the bride’s aunts, sisters, cousins, and other female members of the family.

Once he has paid up the required amount, he proceeds to cut the ribbon then enters the house.

In the house, the newlyweds sit side by side and then showered with more gifts.

In ancient times, Doli was a wooden palanquin that was used to carry women around. In the modern dispensation, it symbolizes the bride’s final departure from her parent’s home for her husband’s home.

She scoops a handful of grains of rice from a bowl and throws over her shoulders towards her mother’s open and outstretched hands. She actually throws it to the four corners of the house.

With this, she wishes her parents endless prosperity. After this, she walks into the waiting car with her husband in tow, and she is driven away. It is an emotional departure, as expected. There are hugging, embracing, crying, more hugging, and more embracing. Her mother would be weeping while seeing her off.

The bride would also be in a flood of tears, as she sees her parents weeping as though they shall never see her again. A courteous groom will console his bride at such a moment while the uncouth one will give her more tissue.

As these happen, the groom and the bride are now in the car, which is pushed by the bride’s brothers for a while. The groom’s father throws some money at this point ahead of the car. Children happily pick the money. The children’s happiness is believed to foreshadow the happiness of the couple once in marriage.

The groom’s mother is usually absent from the Doli ceremony because she is on the other side preparing to receive the bride.

7. Welcoming Ceremony/Paani Vaar

Upon arriving at the groom’s home, she is warmly welcomed and showered with sweets and flowers by the groom’s family and neighbors. It is because of this welcoming ceremony that the groom’s mother usually misses the Doli ceremony. She is expected to be readying things to welcome the newlyweds, especially her daughter-in-law.

As the newlyweds enter, the groom’s mother stands by the door and blesses them, holding a garvi, which is a glass full of diluted milk. As she attempts to drink the garvi, her son the groom would stop her from drinking.

In the house, the newlyweds are served one glass of milk, which they share. The act of sharing nurtures and multiplies the love between the two. It is one gesture they are supposed to maintain for the rest of their marriage life. Unfortunately, some selfish couples later forget to share their concerns; hence love waxes cold.

After the couple has drunk milk from the same glass, the rest of the guests are served drinks and foods as another round of party begins. The party favors the bride’s neighbors and friends who, for whatever reason, did not attend the Gurdwara ceremony. They can now share in the happiness of the day.

This ceremony marks the end of the day, but not the end of the ceremonies because, in the coming days, there will be more rituals.

Important Facts about Sikh Wedding

A Sikh wedding is known as Anand Karaj, which translates to “Blissful Union” to signify that the ceremony has joy and happiness as its primary themes. The atmosphere should be informal even during the formal proceedings because joy is better expressed in an informal setting. Every segment of the ceremonies is a joyous festivity.

But the matter at hand is a serious one, and nobody should assume a Sikh wedding is purely fun. They take marriage seriously. In the Sikh community, marriage is not left to the marrying individuals to run. It is a family affair; in fact, the marriages are supposed to be arranged by the families. Parents can select partners for their children even when the children are still young.

However, these days the partners choose each other in most cases then seek their parents’ approval. Whichever the case, they are made to understand that marriage is no gambling, so they have to be ready to commit themselves to each other.

God watches every wedding ceremony, so it is not just an ordinary event where two individuals get a legal contract to live under one roof. God merges the two souls into one. God then joins Himself to them, so the union becomes sacred. That’s why anyone intending to marry should deeply consider the implications.

The two individuals being joined in marriage also become equal, so none is above the other. A Sikh wedding is also not a business transaction, so no dowry payment is allowed. This helps to drive home the point that the two partners are equal.

In certain societies, men are installed as the matrimonial home’s head with his wife as his assistant. The Sikhs tend to give the couple equal power over each other so that no one overrates the other.

The husband is admonished to always love and respect his wife and recognize that she is a different person with her individuality. He should always encourage her with kind words, guiding her but as an equal.

The wife should also show him love and respect in equal measure, plus loyalty. She should be part of her husband’s well-meaning plans, helping him meet his objectives.

They are to share their happiness and sorrows.

In choosing a marriage partner, it is against the Sikh policy to consider the prospective partner’s race, caste, financial status, or lineage. The important part is that the partner should profess Sikhism because it is against the Sikh faith to marry a non-Sikh partner. Such a wedding is null and void, whether it takes place in the Gurdwara or away.

For the avoidance of doubt, anyone who professes Sikhism together with another faith is considered a non-Sikh. There are cases a non-Sikh suddenly claims to be a Sikh to marry a Sikh partner.

Wrap Up

Western civilization has gradually watered down many cultures. However, some such as the Sikh wedding ceremonies are still intact, standing firm like the Rock of Gibraltar. If you are a Sikh, your role is to ensure the customs passed down to you from the past generations are observed because they give your community a distinct identity. Once a community loses its identity, anything goes.

With more than 30 million Sikhs in the world today, the Sikh has enough force enough to point the world to the right ways of life that ensure there are fewer divorce cases and more harmony in the families. A generation begins at the level of two individuals coming together to live as one. But how do they stay together for the rest of their lifetime? It is this question the long-winded Sikh ceremony tries to answer.

Photo credits:

Main image – A Sikh wedding party at the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara
cc-by-sa/2.0 – ©

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