Why I want a Hindu wedding

henna hands
Kentville, Nova Scotia

Coming home to Canada has been adventurous in ways I never thought would happen: polar bears, beluga whales, jazz festivals. I certainly did not think I would learn Hindu wedding traditions in Canada.

 

Silly me.

 

But my sister’s friend was getting married and it is customary to invite the entire family so I jumped at the opportunity to be my mother’s date – even though I’m not a fan of weddings.

I have never wanted to get married. I have never pictured myself in a white wedding dress.

It’s not my dream.

It’s not that I want to become a lonely old maid traveler. I do want a relationship but the thought of love, honour and obey make me flinch and the sentiment of getting married gives me anxiety.

But Hindu weddings seem to be less intimidating.

hindu bride

From the start I was impressed, instead of an unflattering white dress, the bride wore a gorgeous ruby dress adorned with gold. The father did not walk her daughter down the aisle but she was accompanied by her closest friends.

The wedding was held in the backyard of the bride’s family. Some sat in chairs and some on rugs on the ground, which is far more practical if you have dragged offspring there.

Not surprisingly, this was the first non-Christian wedding for the majority of the people attending – including the groom’s family. Instead of performing a ceremony most would not understand or appreciate, the university professor officiating spent time explaining the significance of each element.

It was nearly 2 hours but there was a lot of joking and laughing, making for a really wonderful afternoon.

hindu vows

After the groom placed a necklace on the bride and exchanged rings to symbolize “winning” each other. They exchange vows.

The vows were the most practical I have ever heard.

He asks for her commitment, to value his family and to be his friend always. She asks that he stand by her and consult her in all matters of finance, investment, religion, charity, and buying/selling of items. She also asks that he be her friend and protect her.

Making an agreement not to keep secrets about money? That is something I can understand.

Most importantly she asks that he does not use harsh words or ridicule her in front of others – I have met some married couples that should have taken this vow.

hindu wedding fire

One of the more interesting aspects was the 4 posts of the gazebo were manned by each of the ‘brothers’ of the family to symbolize they still support the bride even after her marriage.

The bride then follows the groom four times around a fire in the center and then he follows her three times – humorously told that in the beginning the groom thinks he leads the marriage but soon realizes he needs to follow whatever his wife says and does.

The upper cloth of their clothing is tied so they stay in step with each other around the fire and in life. If one walks too quickly the other needs to speed up and they need to slow down.

Throughout the ceremony there were elements addressing loyalty to family, remaining friends and to working together. It started to make marriage seem less like a soul-sucking prison sentence.

hindu wedding couple

In the end as the guests threw flower petals on the newlyweds it felt like a celebration of a life partnership instead of the crushing end of youth and isn’t that what it should be?

Maybe I won’t discount getting married after all.

 

Comments

  1. says

    Wow I had no idea ,I like the vows. I know no matter what kind of marriage it is to be I feel no matter how the vow is worded or said I would still commit everything to my partner I mean that’s what a marriage is about and if you aren’t why would you?

    The one thing I like about the vows yo described is so much more simpler than a christian marriage vows.

    I wouldn’t renounce my Christianity but this is a cool way to get married IMO so I’m curious now how a Christian can get married under hindu beliefs? Is that even possible?

    I’d totally get married this way!

    • Ayngelina says

      Considering we’re from a small town on the East Coast I would assume the groom was baptized Christian. So I guess you could be married under Hindu beliefs – although I am sure the people officiating would like you to continue with the Hindu beliefs.

    • Suparna Gibbs says

      Hi Shannon,
      i grew up in India [the brides mom is my aunt] and a few years ago friend of mine from Australia wanted to convert to Hinduism. it came as a shock to know that you cant in fact convert to Hinduism [by default every human being in the world is Hindu] my friend was really keen to formalize the deal so i believe the priest designed a ceremony for him. i dont think you’ll have any trouble at all if you want a Hindu wedding. :-)

      • Ayngelina says

        Thank you so much for commenting as I had a lot of questions about that. Makes me like Hinduism even more that it isn’t divisive.

      • says

        I was married over thirty years ago in Amritsar. I had heard this too, that one couldn’t convert to Hinduism. But my marriage was Arya Samadhj and that ceremony covers mixed marriages, I was told. I consider myself a Hindu Advaitist. I guess the “default’ covered me because I lived for twenty years in Bombay as a Hindu and signed hospital documents as such. And still do in America.

  2. says

    Wow, that is a really beautiful ceremony and equally beautiful sentiments.

    (As an aside, there’s an Indian guy in my office who claims his wife “forced” him to ride an elephant to his Hindu wedding. All the girls in the office think he’s extra-dashing now.)
    Barbara – The Dropout Diaries recently posted..Anchors Aweigh!

  3. says

    I always loved the colors I saw in images of a Hindu wedding. I really like the last shot, they look so happy. I’m glad you got to experience that-because I know you’ll make a great partner to someone someday. And of course the wives run the show,they just let the husband think he does! I love this story!
    Mica recently posted..A Bad Romance over the River Kwai

  4. says

    I wrote an article for bootsnall about wedding traditions of the world, (10 ways to tie the knot)naturally including this one. I love it too, it’s romantic and down to earth at the same time. I once was invited to a very upper class hindu wedding in London, where the groom arrived (veiled) on horseback. It was like a movie. So, Ayngelina, did you get inspired?? Is the wedding bug biting??
    inka recently posted..Biennale Istanbul – more art closer to home

    • Ayngelina says

      Ours arrived on horseback as well, although it looked rather odd in the small town subdivision!

      Even if the wedding bug were biting I’d have to work on the boyfriend bug first!

  5. says

    That’s what I, as foreigner (not anymore I guess but still) in Canada, find amazing about Canadians, still, almost 2 decades later, acceptance, tolerance and understanding.

    With this I’m not only talking about all other guests (Christians) present at the weeding but you as well, the way you write about it is to me “so Canadian” – I see in your words every Canadian I ever meet and spoke to.

    Also, fact that this took place in rural town (if I understood correctly in between lines of one comment above) speaks even more about it, since around the world, in most of the cases, rural equals traditional and conservative (but again, there are always exceptions to the rule, anywhere we go).
    Kristijan recently posted..Lachine photos

    • Ayngelina says

      It was really wonderful to see the neighborhood come together and embrace a new tradition. Those that were close to the family borrowed saris and everyone had a wonderful time.

      And this is a town of 5000 people.

  6. says

    I’ve never felt quite so anti-wedding as you seem, but I have had the same distaste when thinking of wearing a virginal white dress or having my father walk me down the isle and hand me over to my husband to be… I believe weddings, just like love though, are meant to be made our own. Thanks for this post as it gives me more ideas for how to make my idea of a wedding day what I’d like it to be: A celebration of love, the joining of two families, truth and life together… all that mushy stuff :)
    Jackie Rose (@letssitoutside) recently posted..Have Heart

    • Ayngelina says

      I guess I’ve never been drawn to them and once I found out how much my friends paid for them all I could think about was how long I could travel with that money!

  7. says

    I LOVE this! I’m not super keen on marriage (my parents are divorced and thus, I’ve never really seen the point–much more about having healthy and supportive relationships!). Plus, I feel like weddings these days are all about the DAY–not the many days that come after it, aka the marriage! I really like the practical vows and the laid-back nature–and being walked down the aisle by your closest friends. Side note: my mom wore red on her wedding day–it’s common in many Eastern cultures because it symbolizes happiness and prosperity!
    Christine recently posted..Save Caffeine, and supporting small businesses

    • Ayngelina says

      I completely agree with you, there is so much stress about making it a perfect day and everyone forgets what it’s really about.

  8. says

    I’ve been to an Indian wedding in India, it’s 5 days of total craziness, dance, music, food till you can’t manage anymore. The only different thing is that in India is pretty difficult to see the groom (or the bride) that is not Indian :)
    It’s always healthy to see couples from so different backgrounds, I think this way society can only improve :)
    Angela recently posted..In India, country full of contrasts

  9. Jill says

    I wish we had been able to be there but we were in NL. I saw the bride yesterday and she quickly told me how wonderful it was…thank you for sharing the pictures!

  10. says

    I feel exactly the same as you about marriage – which is why Kali and I have made the conscious decision to remain unmarried, even after nine years together. Unless some ridiculous disaster comes up where being married is the only way to solve it (health issues, finances, immigration) we’ll stay unmarried even if/when we have kids.

    And most wedding customs drive me batty — the bride being “given away” from father to husband, the white dress and what it signifies, the rings (traditionally showing ownership or being “taken”), being expected to change your last name, etc etc etc! It’s nice to see some of those things turned on their head, both in a different cultural context and by folks who want to do things differently.
    Christy @ Technosyncratic recently posted..Photo Essay: London

    • Ayngelina says

      I know so many couples who have been together for decades but never married. The commitment is more important than the ceremony.

  11. Liz says

    Great post. Hindu weddings are the best! When I lived in Guyana, I attended a number of them. The seven curries rock. Nom, nom, nom….

  12. says

    Great pics!

    I was a bridesmaid in a friend’s Hindu wedding this past April in Toronto. It was a beautiful 3-day (yes) celebration and I was decked out in a sari, a bindi and had one of my hands decorated with henna.

    I too loved the sentiments expressed between the bride and groom and their families. So lovely!

    Jealous that it was only 2 hours for you and you knew what was going on. Myself and a couple of friends were the only non-Hindus in the audience.
    Cheryl recently posted..Feel The Love In Italy’s Cinque Terre.

  13. says

    Sounds absolutely brilliant! Mulan and I have discussed marriage and our plans definitely follow such sentiments namely a commitment to be friends and always support but none of that obeying malarky – who obeys anything these days anyway?

    So basically how do I qualify? That’s the wedding I want although on a beach somewhere like Zanzibar.

    I hope the happy couple have many years of happiness together as they look properly happy together from your pics.

    Cheers
    Josh
    Josh Aggars recently posted..Crocodile Park, Davao City

    • Ayngelina says

      I wasn’t sure but another reader here commented that everyone is considered Hindu there’s no conversion so I guess all you need to do is find someone to officiate!

    • Ayngelina says

      The saris were so gorgeous, a lot of the family members wore really beautiful jewel toned ones that I would love to have.

  14. says

    “A soul-sucking prison sentence”Now there is a statement I will remember.Loved all the bright colours and the family all around.See, it doesn’t seem to matter what the wedding is like , but it is very important to have your family and friends there to support you!!Life will always be all about family and friends!!.

  15. says

    I went to a Muslim wedding which was actually a 3-day affair. It was amazing! I’m a big fan of incorporating your own culture into your wedding and really making it your own. The traditional white weddings seem so boring after experiencing an event like this, don’t they?

    • Ayngelina says

      I believe the entire Hindu wedding experience is 4 days, my sister is close to the family so she was at their house quite a bit. I would love to attend a Muslim wedding too.

  16. says

    I love hindu weddings too! A colleague of mine is going to get married next year in India (she’s french, he’s indian) – she’s going to have not one but 4 dresses!! I hope I’m invited :)
    Katherina recently posted..I Eat Lausanne.

  17. says

    Beautiful wedding!

    I believe your wedding should reflect you as the couple not just what is culturally expected. I had a Catholic wedding, but I did it that way as they were our values not just our families’. I definitely don’t subscribe to the foolery of wedding mania or the archaic concept of being given away and obeying. As long as your marriage is based on love and respect, any style wedding will be beautiful :)

  18. says

    Great post! Love all the symbolism in this ceremony as well as the very practical vows. Good to keep an open mind about getting married. You never know when it will seem like exactly the right thing to do. Took me a long time to get there — but then I met “Mr. Right”. :-)
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  19. Lois Boudreau says

    I was directed to read your blog by Neera, mother of the bride. I am so happy that you documented the many parts of the ceremony. It brought back why I loved it so much. I tell people it was an “experience” and it is not so easy to explain but you have done a wonderful job for those who did not feel the day!! Thanks for your writings. They brought back the day to me again. My son Justin, is one of Sanjeev’s best friends and so I have been a part of their extended family for years. But, that being said I never truly experienced the Hindu religion until that day. I am a practicing christian and was touched by those vows. They really explain what a successful life as partners really means. I was so honored to be a part of that day.

    • Ayngelina says

      I’m so glad you took the time to stop by. It was such a wonderful day I’m so happy that you think I captured the moment.

  20. says

    This is very practical approach that I agree makes a lot of sense. In the end, though, it’s the love and commitment of the couple that will determine their future happiness.

    Red, symbol of passion. You can’t go wrong with a red wedding dress!

    Wishing the couple much joy and a long future together.

    Thanks for sharing this.
    InsideJourneys recently posted..Friday, 9/9/11

  21. says

    What a beautiful post. Everything about it – there is so much joy in your photos and just, gosh, the colors in every Hindu wedding are just overwhelmingly stunning. And I haven’t even seen one first hand… Hopefully I get to, and soon. :)

  22. says

    This wedding is so beautiful and seems very friendly and more intimate. I have been to Chinese and American style weddings, and gawd they had nice food and dresses, but the whole wedding day rituals and ceremony was very long and really tried my patience.

  23. says

    I don’t want to get married but I love the sound of a Hindu ceremony. I think everyone who wants to get married should have the wedding that’s right for them. :) My cousin got married in December and decided to cut all the traditional hoopla like speeches, etc. because she wanted everyone to feel comfortable. After the photographs were taken, everyone went inside for a round of afternoon tea! Love it.
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  24. Shar says

    It’s brilliant isn’t it.
    I’m a Civil celebrant in Australia, here civil ceremonies differ legally from any where else in the world and I think thats great but the Hindi wedding is just so beautiful. Sadly because Hinduism is not an organised religion their ceremony is not legal in Australia… they must also have a “legal” civil ceremony, thats where I come in and I consider myself so fortunate to be able to attend their traditional ceremony and the perform the legal one.

  25. says

    “In the end as the guests threw flower petals on the newlyweds it felt like a celebration of a life partnership instead of the crushing end of youth and isn’t that what it should be?” It should indeed, that is why for my wedding we rented a party bus and celebrated St. Patty’s day in style. Hope if you ever get there yours can be a celebration too.
    Cornelius Aesop recently posted..New Brew Tuesday: Pillitteri Estates – I Baci

  26. says

    Wow, thanks for this post. It’s not like you can read about an intercultural Hindu wedding through the eyes of a westerner every day! It looks like a great experience and a very meaningful ceremony that is easy to relate to. Great that you got to be part of it.
    Christina recently posted..Exploring Aoraki Mount Cook

  27. says

    I am sure the wedding you are talking about was held during day time but if you are in India whole night the same process continue but yes, few times day time too. Since childhood I have attended many. It was always exciting to receive a marriage card and then on the marriage day visiting and spending whole night there till Shaadi(marriage) is done. Anyways, wonderful and blessings for couple. Thanks for writing and sharing.
    Appu recently posted..Mahtab-Bagh (The Moon Garden): Built by Akbar’s grandson Shah Jehan

    • Ayngelina says

      I heard that two hours was short and that in traditional weddings it is very common for people to get up to eat or even fall asleep!

      • Alejo says

        I have been to quite a lot of Hindu weddings. Actually there are a number of sects in Hinduism and all of them have different rituals for wedding though most of these rituals are common in them. Mostly Hindu weddings happen in night and it’s 4-5 or even more hours long. And the number of days also varies from 3 to 6. And in some sects it goes for even months. Like they will have this ‘saggai’, then ‘chekka’, then ‘sangeet’, then ‘haldi’ ’tilak’, then ‘saadi’ (the actual wedding day/night. And there are different ceremonies/rituals to be performed at the houses of the groom and the bride. And the color and food is just incredible.

        • Ayngelina says

          Yes, I should say that the wedding activities went on for days, my sister was at the house a lot for different things. I’d love to participate in all of it.

  28. says

    Our son is getting married to a wonderful Hindu woman in September. I happened on your site whilst being curious about the Hindu wedding ceremony. It’s very informative and I have sent it to the family for education and insight into this amazing ceremony.

    Thanks for it.

  29. says

    Wonderful account. I was married in this same ceremony almost forty years ago in India. It is Arya Samadhj … a Hindu ceremony used often for mixed marriages when husband and wife are different castes or branches of Hindism. As I sat under the mandal … my sister-in-law translated the ceremony from the Sanscrit to English.

    I was unprepared for the beauty of the ceremony. I had merely asked that the “obey” in the Christian rite be omitted. And my sister-in-law had laughed as she assured me it definitely wouldn’t be there.

    We had 1000 guests and blacked out the suburbs of Amritsar twice as we added more lights. It went on for hours and we celebrated with parties for weeks afterwards.

    My Indian family adopted me as a very cherished youngest member … and today my love for them still gives me goosebumps. My website has many stories of my India years …. with more to come.

    Namaste all …
    Nikki Ty recently posted..Why I Became a Hindu … Beejee’s Mandir

  30. says

    Whether or not someone can convert to Hinduism is hotly debated.

    Some say you must be born Hindu and reincarnation allows for you to be Hindu is you were supposed to be.

    Some say every human being is at their soul already Hindu

    Some say you can convert and declare yourself a Hindu

    Some temples and lineages do have conversion rites.

    I consider myself to be a convert to Hinduism and I find myself in this discussion frequently!

  31. says

    Whether or not someone can convert to Hinduism is hotly debated.

    Some say you must be born Hindu and reincarnation allows for you to be Hindu is you were supposed to be.

    Some say every human being is at their soul already Hindu

    Some say you can convert and declare yourself a Hindu

    Some temples and lineages do have conversion rites.

    I consider myself to be a convert to Hinduism and I find myself in this discussion frequently! I believe anyone can become a Hindu if he or she wants.
    Ambaa recently posted..Meet A God: Ganesha

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