Thanks to our multicultural society, you may find yourself at a wedding that celebrates in ways you aren’t familiar with.
If you’re attending a Sikh wedding (an anand karaj) anytime soon, all the attention is focused around the main ceremony.
“When attending a wedding from a different culture, it’s important to understand the customs and traditions that need to be followed,” says Raana Chaudhry, a wedding consultant at South Asian wedding planning company Sapna Wedding based in Toronto. Chaudhry adds it’s not just the guests’ job to do their research, but the couple should also inform people about certain customs, like colours to avoid, or which type of gift is acceptable.
A Sikh wedding ceremony, often held at a Sikh place of worship, is less than an hour. During this time, the bride and groom are asked to bow in front of a holy scripture text called the Guru Granth, while members of the wedding party sing hymns to seek God’s blessings.
Because this is a holy portion of the wedding, the marriage official reads the couple their marital obligations as the couple walks around the holy scripture four times. After the end of each circle, the couple bows down to agree.
Chaudhry adds that the reception portion, which is during the evening, is full of dancing, buffet-style food and lots and lots of people — so wear comfortable shoes.
Here are Chaudhry’s 11 etiquette tips for attending a Sikh wedding:
- The Baraat is the groom’s procession: A portion of singing and dancing that happens right before the wedding ceremony. At this time, the groom — often decked out in gold and sometimes in a luxury car or on a horse — is followed by his closest friends and family.
- The milni is the official meeting of both families. Key male family members from both sides exchange garlands and greet each other, symbolizing the acceptance of two families into one.
- Before you enter the main hall of the Gurdwara (a Sikh place of worship), take off your shoes.
- When you’re at the wedding ceremony, cover your head with a head scarf if you’re a woman, or a bandana if you’re a man. The Gurdwara or the couples’ family will provide you with head coverings.. Also, if you’re not wearing an Indian suit or saree, dress conservatively — avoid low-cut tops or short skirts and dresses.
- You may see some of the guests walk up to the front of the hall and bow their heads in front of the Guru Granth Sahib, a religious text of holy scriptures. For non-Sikh guests, this is not mandatory.
- Men and women are often seated on opposite sides of the hall. Close family members or the bridal party make up the first few rows.
- At a Sikh wedding ceremony, guests are expected to sit on the floor. You can sit comfortably with your legs crossed but do not point your feet in the direction of the holy scriptures book located in the front.
- A Sikh wedding ceremony usually last 45 minutes and wraps up before noon. During this time, guests should not be chit-chatting or talking in the hall.
- At the end of the ceremony, a sweet pudding called kara parshad is passed around to all of the guests. This dessert is made with whole wheat flour, butter and sugar.
- After the ceremony is complete and the bride and the groom are officially married, guests are invited to congratulate the couple and take pictures.
- Sikh weddings are all about close-knit communities and having fun. Everyone eats, drinks and dances to bhangra (a genre of Punjabi music) together. Sikh weddings are also very large and average around 600 to 1,000 guests.
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