Gujarati Wedding Traditions and Customs
Gujarat is the land of colors, riches, culture, and food and their wedding ceremony are one of the most interesting wedding ceremonies in India, with their unique traditions and customs.
The Sagaai is the engagement ceremony and begins when the bride-to-be arrives at the groom-to-be’s place with the matli, a package that represents good luck. The matli is a container that is now often made of steel and contains sweets and gifts for the groom and his family. This symbolizes the bride’s family’s acceptance of the union of their daughter and the groom-to-be. There is then a short ceremony where five women from each side of the family bless the couple-to-be which represents a promise between the two families.
The Garba is usually held the night before the wedding and involves plenty of dancing. It provides the opportunity for each side of the family to meet, greet and have some fun before the wedding begins. The main event is the Raas which is a dance involving pairs of people and dandiya sticks. The dance involves hitting your partner’s sticks while following the rhythm of the music. The Garba is also an ideal place for future couples to meet and begin their own stories.
This is a ceremony where both the bride and groom are covered in a yellow powder that is made into a paste. The bride and groom have their own ceremonies and usually invite their close family and friends. The Pithi is used to cleanse the bride and groom before the wedding day. The paste is said to brighten and soften the skin to produce that healthy glow.
On this occasion, the bride’s hands and feet are adorned with mehndi or henna. Female family and friends are also invited to have their hands adorned.
This is a typical ceremony performed before many auspicious events. The Pundit performs this puja in the bride and groom’s homes a few days before the wedding. The families pray to Lord Ganesh and seek His blessings.
This puja is also conducted by a Pandit and the date and time are chosen by matching the horoscopes of the bride and groom-to-be. This prayer is conducted with the bride and groom’s family members and relatives. This pooja seeks to provide the couple with a happily married life by calling happiness and peace from the stars.
The groom arrives at the wedding ceremony location with his baraat of family and friends. Many grooms choose to arrive on horseback or in a horse and carriage. The Baraat gathers together and everyone dances in celebration. Traditionally Gujarati’s did not marry someone from their own town so the baraat signified the groom entering the bride’s village.
The arrival of the groom, or the Ponkvu, is the official start of the Gujarati wedding. The groom is welcomed by his mother-in-law at the entrance. She will perform the aarti and will playfully try to grab his nose. This tradition reminds the groom that he has come rubbing his nose at their door asking for their daughter’s hand in marriage.
Some Gujaratis will then bring the bride out and she will exchange garlands with her groom-to-be. This is called the Jaimala ceremony. The groom is traditionally lifted higher than the bride during this exchange. In modern times this is done by the groom’s friends to show that the bride cannot take the groom from his friends and family.
The groom is welcomed to the mandap by his future mother-in-law. In the madhuparka the groom’s feet are washed and he is offered honey and milk. It is at this time that the saalis (sister-in-law) will try to steal the groom’s shoes. Traditionally the groom must leave the wedding with the same pair of shoes that he enters with. If his shoes are stolen, he must offer the sisters money in order to get them back.
The bride is led to the mandap by her maternal uncle. When she reaches the mandap, there is an antarpaat (curtain) that separates her from her groom. The acharya begins the ceremony and the antarpaat is lowered and the couple exchanges garlands. The wedding ceremony takes place in front of a sacred fire and is conducted by the pundit.
This ritual is when the bride is given away by her parents and the bride’s hand is placed over the groom’s. The bride’s parents do not eat before the wedding to make themselves pure for the occasion. In essence, the bride’s parents are handing over the Goddess Laxmi (their daughter) to Lord Vishnu (the groom).
The groom’s scarf is tied to the bride’s saree which symbolizes the union of their two souls. The acharya chants mantras to invoke the blessings of Goddess Laxmi and Goddess Parvati for the bride. The relatives also come together to bless the couple and shower grains of rice and rose petals on them.
In this ceremony, a cord is tied around the couple’s necks to protect them from evil. These cords are traditionally tied by the elders of the bride and groom.
The bride and groom circle the sacred fire four times, signifying the four basic human goals of Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha. Meanwhile, the acharya chants mantras and the groom also recited them. As a fun tradition, at the end of the pheras, the bride and groom will run to sit down first. It is said that the one who finds a seat first will rule the house.
The groom helps the bride touch seven betel nuts with her right toe, while they recite the seven vows. With each step, the groom chants mantras in which he requests support from his wife.
In this tradition, seven married women from the bride’s side will pass by the couple at this time and whisper blessings into the bride’s right ear.
Traditionally, when the bride’s mother passes, the groom will tug at her sari as a way of asking the bride’s family for gifts.
The Gujurati wedding concludes with the Ashirwaad in which the couple asks for the blessings of their elders.
This ceremony sees the departure of the newly married couple and involves tears of joy and sadness. The bride is often carried out by her brothers.
Ghar Nu Laxmi
The couple then leaves for the groom’s home. The bride is welcomed into the home as the Goddess Laxmi who will bring good fortune to her new home. The mother-in-law places a vessel filled with rice at the entrance to the home. The bride will then spill the rice from the vessel by touching it with her right foot. This is a symbol of wealth and the bride accepts her responsibilities towards her new home.
The couple will then often play a game called Aeki Beki in which a tray of water is mixed with milk and sindoor (vermilion). In this tray are placed several coins and a ring. It is believed that the person who finds the ring four out of seven times will rule the household. The day is concluded with prayers to God requesting happiness and love for the newly married couple.
Suggested Read: Wedding Tradition in India