Who Pays For A Sikh Wedding? And Why?

Sikh groom and Sikh bride posing for photos

You must have heard before that in Sikh weddings, the bride’s family pays for everything. But is this true? I sought to find out the truth.

Who pays for a Sikh wedding? And why? Traditionally, it was the bride and her family who would pay for the Sikh wedding, mostly because the husband was considered the crown. That’s not the case anymore. Things have changed. The bride and the groom can now pay for a wedding. They can agree to split the costs.

Many misconceptions abound today about Sikh weddings. The truth often comes as somewhat shocking once one finds out that couples consider so many factors before getting married. The cost of the wedding, as you are about to find out, is not a one-sided affair.

Pre-Wedding Activities

Sikhs refer to it as Sagan, which loosely translates to a formal engagement. Traditionally, the bride’s family gave ‘shagun’ blessings to the groom’s family. This is often done in a Gurdwara. Later a feast must be organized by the groom’s family. They must then reciprocate the bride’s family favor by also offering ‘shagun’ blessings, mostly in the form of gifts. Only immediate family members are allowed to attend the feast. So, who pays for the feast?

Strict Sikhism dictates that the bride’s family should cater for a significant portion of the wedding. This creates a problem where the couple chooses to have extensive pre-and post-wedding activities.

It is essential to consider the significance of Sikh pre and post-wedding activities. Only then can one determine which party should pay for a given event and why. Many couples today choose to split the bills. This may not be popular in India, but it is becoming increasingly popular in the West.

Notably, pre-wedding activities are meant to bring two families together. There is an exception, though. Where a feast is held at the bride’s family, as it is always the case in Sikhism, then it follows that the bride’s family must foot the feast’s expenses.  The groom’s family traditionally doesn’t hold or even organize for a pre-wedding feast.

The Ring Ceremony

Sikhs refer to the ring ceremony as the Mehndi. It is all about tattoos on hands and legs and extensive henna decoration. It is all about the bride, which is why it is a women’s only affair. Strangely, the Mehndi is held separately on the groom’s as well as the bride’s side. To that extent, expenses are usually handled separately depending on where the Mehndi is held.

There is also the Ladies Sangeet, which is usually held on the same night as the Mehndi. It is a night of merrymaking where women sing and dance. Like the Mehndi, the Sangeet is held on both the bride’s and the groom’s side. This means that Sangeet’s expenses go either way, depending on where it is stored. Out of courtesy, though (or maybe love, the groom can pay for the event on both sides, though this is extremely rare). 

The Wedding

Sikh wedding ceremonies are held at Gurdwara (Sikh temples). The ceremony usually begins with receiving the groom’s procession at the wedding halls. The bride welcomes the groom to the temple, and the ceremony starts. 

Refreshments precede the wedding. The main ceremony is usually a short event where the couple recites specific stanzas of the Guru Granth Sahib four times. A feast is then held where all the guests share a meal, music, and dance. The expenses here are solely on the bride’s family. 

The Post-wedding

Unlike the main wedding ceremony where the bride’s family foots everything, the groom’s family now foot all bills for nearly all post-wedding activities. There are exceptions, though. The groom is unable to organize for post-wedding activities, so he is not bound to have one. He can choose not to have it. By this time, they are a married couple, so the post-wedding event would only be to thank all the friends and family members who made the event possible.

The bride may want to chip in something to make the post-wedding event a success. There is nothing wrong with this. She can chip in or even pay for the whole event. Again, there are exceptions here. If the post-wedding feast is held at the groom’s home, then the bride can’t chip in. Logic plays a huge role here.

Small Budget Weddings

In traditional Sikh culture, the groom can welcome the bride into their family with whatever they have. That’s why Sikhs shun the idea of dowry. To them, it creates a form of imbalance. The privileged can marry because they can afford dowry while the poor can’t. This, according to Sikhs, reduces marriage into a commercial transaction.  That is why dowry doesn’t ever cross the mind of a Sikh.

The concept of a small budget wedding is common in Sikhism. It is referred to as ‘Chunni Chandana.’ It is where the bride and the groom to choose to celebrate the wedding ceremony with only their immediate family members in attendance.

This is usually done in a Gurdwara or wherever the Guru Granth Sahib is installed. Chunni Chadana is then solemnized with only the formal engagement. Since it is all about cutting expenses, pre-wedding and post-wedding feasts are skipped. 

Notable Events

Whichever way a couple decides to have their wedding, there are special events that highlight Sikh weddings. In other words, a Sikh wedding isn’t considered complete without the key events. The most notable ones include:

  • Roka – It is the first step of a Sikh wedding. Two families meet for a feast at the bride’s home. Special gifts are then exchanged between two families at the bride’s home. Sweets are distributed, and people get to know each other. The bride’s family pays for Roka.
  • Doli – It is, without a doubt, one of the most colorful Sikh post-wedding events. The bride wears traditional Sikh clothes and exceptional jewelry given to her by her in-laws. She must then feed all the male members of her own family, starting with her father with cooked rice. She does this as a symbol of the last meal with her family.

To symbolize blessings, the bride throws puffed rice at her family. She does this as they leave. This doesn’t just symbolize blessings for her own family but also prosperity. Note that this is isn’t the only pre-wedding symbolism in a Sikh wedding.

Once the bride arrives at the groom’s home, her mother in law must welcome her by pouring some oil at the doorstep. The mother-in-law then attempts to drink water from a jar, but the groom must prevent her. There have to be three attempts to drink the water before the groom can relent and allow his mother to drink the water. This act is usually repeated with six other female relatives from the groom’s relatives. Doli feasts are usually held at the bride’s home, so her family caters to the expenses. 

Other Factors

Traditionally, Sikh weddings lasted for as long as three days. That’s not the case anymore, particularly in the West, where convening friends and family to celebrate a ceremony is usually a big challenge. Modern Sikh weddings in the West last for a couple of hours. This is generally in a bid to save time and reduce expenses.

There are so many expenses involved in Sikh weddings. The exchange of gifts, for instance, is one factor that matters a lot when one takes into account the costs involved in Sikh weddings. The question of who pays for what event is, without a doubt, a pertinent one. Traditionally, the bride’s family used to pay for nearly everything. That has changed in recent times. Today, it all boils down to which family hosts a pre-wedding or post-wedding event.

Lastly, there is a misconception that Sikh weddings are usually costly. That is not the case. As already explained, Sikh weddings can also be on a budget. Nothing prevents a couple from planning for a Grande wedding and splitting the costs into two.

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