Prior to the wedding, an Akhand Paath is held at the bride's house in which the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh religious text is read non-stop over three days. At the end of the Paath ardaas (like an arti) is performed and sweets are distributed. For the ardaas, relatives and friends are also invited. Once the ardaas is over and prasad is distributed, a vegetarian feast is laid out for the guests.
At times, instead of an Akhand Paath, Sudharan Paath can be read over a week or 10 days, with intervals, before the wedding.
Shagun/Mangana (Sikh and Punjabi Ritual)
The bride's family goes to the groom's house with all kinds of sweet, fruits and dry fruits and other gifts of clothes and jewellery. A part of the dowry (if any) is also carried on this occasion.
The girl's father (in his absence the brother or any other elderly male member of the family) gives the would be groom a gold ring, a kara(bangle) with a minimum of eleven gold mohra (sovereigns). These are later strung into a black thread and put around the girl's neck after the wedding, but is not worn by the bride around the neck thereafter.
Generally only a few guests are invited on this occasion.
Chunni (Sikh and Punjabi Ritual)
After the shagun, the groom's family (usually close female relatives) comes to the girl's house with the wedding chunni (veil) that is a phulkari(traditional embroidery of Punjab used on all festive occasions). She also puts a bit of mehendi (henna) on the girl's palms.
The groom's mother gives clothes, a ring and other jewelry to the bride. These gifts are part of the wari.
It is a very small ceremony with only the family and closest friends and relatives being present.
Mangni - Engagement Ceremony
Mangni (formal engagement ceremony) precedes the wedding. It is held at the bride's residence, usually one or two days prior to the wedding.
The groom arrives accompanied by his parents, relatives and friends. They are welcomed by the bride's receiving party.
The bride and the groom exchange rings.
The bride's parents arrange a feast on the occasion.
The bride's maternal grandparents and uncles also contribute a good amount on the wedding, in the form of clothes and jewellery, etc . Usually they also host one meal on an occasion.
The ceremony takes place during late hours of the night with only the family and the immediate relatives being present. It can be performed aftersangeet but is normally done before it.
The bride's maternal relatives get together and prepare a copper vessel called gaffar decorated with diyas (lamps) made of atta (dough) and lit with mustard oil wicks. The vessel is decorated and put on the girl's mami's (maternal aunt) head. One of the ladies also carries a long stick withghungroos tied on it and all go singing and dancing to all the relatives in the village. In cities, too, this custom is followed but since the distances are far, they are allowed to move in vehicles. In each house they visit, they are welcomed and they sing and perform the giddha (traditional dance). They are served tea and snacks and the visited family has to put some oil in the diyas as a custom.
Ladies Sangeet (Punjabi Ritual)
This is the last party that the bride to be gives her friends as a maiden.
Women sing special marriage songs and play the dholki. Most of the songs are lively, boisterous and worded for the occasion. The songs range from making light fun of the groom and the in-laws, to advising the bride how to lead her marital life to feeling sad about the girl leaving her parents' home forever.
Mehendi (Sikh and Punjabi Ritual)
The Mehendi ceremony generally takes place one or two days before the wedding. This is also primarily a function for the ladies and is held at the bride's house.
First the girl is cleansed with a paste of turmeric and sandalwood powder from top to toe.
Then the girl's hands and feet are adorned with ornamental mehendi (henna) patterns. Mehendi or henna is a symbol of auspiciousness.
The girl is surrounded by her friends and female relatives who also get their hands adorned with henna.
The batna ceremony is held the morning of the wedding, where the women of the family apply besan to the bride's body while singing traditional songs. The bride then goes for a bath.
The groom too, is supposed to have a batna ceremony.
Chooda Ceremony (Sikh and Punjabi Ritual)
Chooda ceremony is also held on the morning of the wedding.
The bride's maternal uncle and aunt give her a set of choodas (21 bangles in red and white ivory). Nowadays the bride often wears 7 or 9 bangles. As per tradition, the bride should ideally wear the chooda for at least a year. Nowadays the bride wears the chooda for a month and a quarter.
The bangles range in size according to the circumference of the top of the forearm and the wrist end so that the set fits neatly.
Nath (Sikh and Punjabi Ritual)
This is done along with the Chooda ceremony.
The maternal uncles put on the traditional nose ring for the bride.
In the olden days, Shikarpuri naths were popular. These are large nose rings that cover almost the whole face and are decorated with filigreed flowers and intricate motifs.
Sehra Bandhi (Sikh and Punjabi Ritual)
This is a function for the groom, held just before the baraat (wedding party) sets out for the bride's place.
As per Sikh tradition, the groom must wear a turban, sehra and carry a sword. He must also sport a beard, even if he is a clean-shaven Sikh.
The groom's sister ties the sehra on his forehead. He is especially accompanied by sarvala (an unmarried younger brother or friend to 'protect' him). It is said that the tying of sehra confers the status of Vishnu (the creator) on the groom.
The baraat (groom's wedding party) then sets out for the bride's place.
Reception of Baraat and Milni (Sikh and Punjabi Ritual)
The baraat is headed by a deafening display of fireworks and vigorous dancing of the bhangra by the groom's relatives and friends. Accompanied by the rhythm of the north Indian dholak to the brass-bands playing the western tunes the baraat finally reaches the milni or the meeting point.
It is welcomed at the gate by the members of the bride's family and relatives.
Then Milni Ceremony is done. The respective male relatives from the groom's family hug their counterparts from the bride's family and exchange flower garlands. Gifts are given to immediate members of the groom's family by the corresponding kin of the bride (father gives to father-in-law, etc.).
A professional raagi (bard) sings the shabad (holy verse), in particular, hum ghar saajan aaye.
The groom is made to get down from the horse by the bride's brother.
Jaimala (Sikh and Punjabi Ritual)
The groom is taken to a decorated raised platform.
The bride makes an entry accompanied by her sisters/friends/bhabhis. She is taken to the platform where the groom is standing.
Then the bride and the groom exchange flower garlands. Often this ceremony has its lighter moments. As the bride approaches, garland in hand, to place it around the groom's neck, his friends lift him up from the ground and hold him in mid-air, yelling to the bride to place the garland around the neck of the groom. If he bows his head to wear the garland, they insist that he would be bowing to her will for the rest of their lives. Meanwhile the bride's sisters and friends try to ensure that she should not ask the groom to bend, but garland him someway. All this happens in good humour.
All the friends and relatives meet and bless the couple. Gifts are usually given at this time.