Punjabi Wedding Rituals

A traditional Punjabi wedding is an event to look forward to, whether you are involved in it as a bride, a groom, or as a guest. The ceremonies and rituals are lavish, and each is a sweet excuse for fun, frolic and festivity.

Be warned: The merry-making is absolutely infectious. On the flip side, if you're used to being a wall-flower at weddings, go ahead and attend a Punjabi one. You just might emerge a flamboyant person.

Roka Seharabandi
Sagan and Chunni Chadana Ghodi, Vag Goodti and Duppata Varna
Sangeet Milni
Mehandi Varmala
Chuda Ceremony The Wedding Puja
Ghara Ghardoli and Vatna Vidaai
Bridal Dress Reception at The Boy's House
Bridegroom's Attire Phera Dalna
Roka
The Roka ceremony is conducted after the prospective bride and groom have met and approved each other. The significance of the ceremony is akin to an engagement where the boy and girl give their commitment to get married to each other. After this ceremony they are free to court each other. The Roka is performed at the house of the bride-to-be. So the family and relatives of the prospective groom must go to her house for the ceremony. The ceremony consists of a simple puja that is conducted by a purohit, followed by an exchange of gifts between the two families.
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Sagan and Chunni Chadana
The wedding celebrations begin with the tikka or sagan ceremony, held a week to ten days before the wedding (depending on the number of functions to follow) in which the family of the girl visits that of the boy's carrying beautifully wrapped gifts and the tikka material: a silver tray with a few grains of rice and saffron in a tiny silver bowl, 14 chuharey (dried dates) covered with silver foil and a coconut wrapped in a gold leaf. The father of the girl applies 'tikka' on his son-in-law's forehead and gives him his blessings and some money. In return, the girl's family receives baskets of seven dried fruits: almonds, cashewnuts, chuahara, coconut pieces, raisins, khurman (dried apricots) and phoolmakhana, at the kudmai (sagai or engagement). Nowadays the tikka ceremony is usually combined with the engagement. First, the girl is draped with a chunni (stole), which is usually very ornate. In some families this chunni is a family heirloom, passed down from generation to generation.She is also presented with jewellery, which her mother and sister-in-law help her wear. A tiny dot of mehendi is applied to her palm for good luck, and the function is sealed with the exchange of rings. Everyone present congratulates the couple by feeding them sweet.
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Sangeet
Besides the festivity and frolic that mark the days leading up to the wedding, the families of the prospective bride and groom hold a special sangeet (singing) session. Friends and close family members are invited and traditional wedding songs are sung. Sometimes professional dholwalis (female musicians who play the traditional drum) are invited for a special touch. Both the sides exchange gifts and sweets.
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Mehandi
It is mandatory for the bride-to-be to have henna on her hands and feet. The henna is sent by the future mother-in-law of the bride-to-be. A relative, friend or a professional mehandiwali (henna artist) applies henna for the bride-to-be. The ritual is marked by festivity. The girl friends and close female relatives of the bride-to-be sing and dance joyously while the mehandi is being applied to her. The henna is usually left on overnight so that it leaves behind a rich dark hue. After the application ceremony, delicious snacks and meals are served to all present.
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Chuda Ceremony
The maternal uncle of the bride-to-be plays an important role in this ceremony. The oldest maternal uncle and aunt as well as the girl's parents usually fast throughout the day, or at least until the completion of this ceremony. The purohit performs a havan. After the puja, the chuda (a set of red and cream ivory bangles) are touched by all present to signify their blessings and good wishes for the bride-to-be. The bride must slip the chuda on her wrist. This is followed by an iron bangle (for good luck) with shells and beads, and a mauli that the pandit ties around her wrist. Flower petals are showered on the girl after the ceremony and prasad (food that has been offered to God or blessed during a puja) is distributed among all. The girl's maternal uncle and aunt, friends and cousins tie kaliras (silver, gold or gold plated traditional ornaments that are tied to the chuda). Before departing for her husband's home, the bride must tap one of her unwed female friends or cousins with her kaliras. According to popular belief, the one who is tapped thus will be the next one to marry.
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Ghara Ghardoli and Vatna
This ritual demands that the bride-to-be stay at home in her old clothes for a couple of days before her wedding. She must sit in the vicinity of four lit diyas or oil lamps so that the glow from them is reflected on her face. All these measures are believed to contribute to a beautiful glowing look on her wedding day. A sibling and the sibling's spouse usually fill a pitcher of water from a nearby temple and this water is added to the bath of the bride-to-be. Before her bath, vatna or uptan (a paste of powdered turmeric and mustard oil) is applied on her body by female relatives and friends. The uptan is believed to have purifying properties. She is given a bath after this ritual and her old garments are given away to a poor person. Both, the ghara ghardoli and the vatna ceremonies are also performed for the groom at his house. Here the pitcher of water is brought for his bath by his bhabi (elder brother's wife). 
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Bridal Dress
The bride is dressed by her mother, female relatives and friends amid much gaiety. She may wear a sari or a lehenga in traditional colours like red, orange or magenta. She is adorned with traditional gold jewellery like a nose ring, etc.
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Bridegroom's Attire
The groom dresses in formal attire, which may be traditional or western. A young nephew or cousin also dons similar attire. He is called the sarbala (caretaker of the groom) and accompanies him on his mare or in his car.
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Seharabandi
A puja is performed after the groom dons his wedding attire. His sehra or turban is blessed by his relatives, as is the silver mukut or crown that goes on top of the turban. At the end of the ceremony, those present bless the groom and give him gifts or, more commonly, cash.
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Ghodi, Vag Goodti and Duppata Varna
The groom's bhabi lines his eyes with surma (kohl). After this, the groom's sisters and cousins feed and decorate his mare. If the groom chooses to use a car for the occasion, then the car is decorated. His relatives use cash for the varna, a ceremony that is supposed to ward off the evil eye. The cash is given away to the poor.
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Milni
The milni ceremony takes place when the groom's procession reaches the wedding venue. The groom and his relatives are welcomed with flower garlands by the bride's close relatives. The chief aim of this ceremony is to help both sides to get acquainted with each other. The girl's relatives give shagoon to the groom's close relatives, beginning with his grandfather, father, uncles and brothers. The shagoon usually consists of cash and is given to honour the relatives.
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Varmala
The bride and groom exchange garlands during this ceremony. Those present indulge in much teasing and festivity to mark this happy occasion. Often, this ceremony acts as an effective ice-breaker for the nervous bride and her groom.
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The Wedding Puja
The mahurat or auspicious time for the wedding ceremony is usually set after dinner. When the mahurat approaches, the purohit first performs a puja for the groom. The groom chants a few mantras. This is when the girl's young relatives grab the groom's untended shoes and hide it away to be returned after the ceremony for a fee. The fee - kalecharis - gold for the bride's sisters and silver for her cousins. Once the groom's puja is over, the purohit performs another puja with the couple and their parents. The bride is given away by her father in a ceremony called the kanyadaan. This is followed by another ceremony - the pheras (rounds). The bride and groom go around the sacred fire with the bride's sari tied to the groom's pagdi with the help of the red chunni used in the ghara ghardoli ceremony. At the end of the ceremony, the newly-weds touch the feet of the groom's parents and the elders present to take their blessings. The bride changes into the clothes presented by her in-laws, while her relatives apply tilak on the groom's forehead.
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Vidaai
This ceremony marks the departure of the bride from her parental house. She throws phulian or puffed rice over her head. She conveys her good wishes for her parents through this gesture. A beautifully decorated palanquin or car takes her to her new home. She is usually accompanied by her brother. Her relatives throw coins in the wake of this procession.
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Reception at The Boy's House
The newly weds are welcomed in a ceremony called the pani bharna. The groom's mother performs the traditional aarti (puja) with a pitcher of water. She makes seven attempts to drink the water from the pitcher. The groom must allow her to succeed only at the seventh attempt. The bride must, with her right foot, kick the sarson ka tel (mustard oil) that is put on the sides of the entrance door before she enters the house. Along with her husband, she must offer puja in their room. Then they must touch the feet of the elders in a ceremony called matha tekna. The rest of the evening is spent in playing enjoyable traditional game.
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Phera Dalna
This ceremony demands that the newly weds visit the bride's parents on the day after the wedding. They are usually fetched by the bride's brother. The bride's parents host a lunch to mark the occasion. They also give a lot of gifts to the newly weds.
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