Mark

and

Selina

Indian Ceremony Details

We are grateful and excited to have you with us at our Anand Karaj (joyful union). The ceremony will take place at the Escondido Gurdwara (pictured above), where you can experience first-hand the religious & cultural traditions of the Sikhs.

Following our ceremony and luncheon in Escondido, we encourage you to check out the beautiful city of La Jolla during the day!

Customs & Attire

There are two important tenets of the Anand Karaj that resonate with us, and we wanted to share them with you:
  1. Marriage is a partnership of equals
  2. No consideration is to be given to caste, social status, race or lineage
The Anand Karaj itself takes place in the Gurdwara darbar, or main hall. The Gurdwara is the place of worship for Sikhs, and everyone, faithful or otherwise, is welcome. At the Gurdwara, Sikhs gather to listen to verses from the the holy scriptures of the Guru Granth Sahib, which contains hymns, traditions, and teachings from the ten Sikh Gurus.

There are a few customs to keep in mind when planning to visit the Gurdwara:
  • Each person’s head must be covered before entering the Gurdwara. Women wear long scarves to cover their heads, and men wear kerchief-style scarves.
  • Please dress comfortably and modestly. As you will be sitting cross-legged on the floor for up to an hour, we recommend loose and comfortable clothing.
  • Shoes must be removed before entering the Gurdwara. There will be a designated place outside of the Gurdwara to stow all shoes and footwear.
We absolutely invite you to partake in Sikh culture by wearing traditional Indian attire. For more information on Indian wedding clothing and where to find it, please see the Frequently Asked Questions section below.

Baraat (the "Groom's Parade")

During the Baraat, family and friends from the groom's side will meet outside of the Gurdwara and then walk in together to meet the bride's family & friends, who will be waiting in the foyer of the Gurdwara. Part of the reason for this tradition is that in Northern India, the groom would typically travel with family members to the wedding venue (often the bride's house) by horse (yes, there will be a horse for the groom).

Thankfully, we don't have to go too far!

Milni (Introductions)

The formal introductions of the families to one another occurs in the foyer of the Gurdwara. During the Milni, different members of the family will come together to exchange gifts, garlands, and take photographs (for example, Selina's mom, Jane, will greet Mark's mom, Nita).

Once the Milni has concluded, tea and snacks are served until everyone is ushered into the Gurdwara for the ceremony.

The Ceremony

Entering the Gurdwara

The ceremony will take place indoors, inside of the main hall where the Guru Granth Sahib resides. When entering the Gurdwara, you will see a long aisle running up the center of the room At the end of the aisle will be a short raised altar upon which the Guru Granth Sahib is placed, as well as where the Granthi (priest) will perform the wedding ceremony.

Men and women are often seated on opposite sides of the hall: men sit on the left side of the altar and women sit on the right side of the altar. Specific family members and the bridal party make up the first few rows.

To follow the Sikh custom: upon entering the Gurdwara, walk down the aisle and place a small donation on the altar. Next, bow to the Guru Granth Sahib by lowering down onto your knees and pressing your forearms and forehead to the floor. After holding this position for a few seconds, calmly arise and make your way to the right or left of the altar, where you should sit cross-legged. Note: you will see Sikh guests participating in this custom -- feel free to look to them for an example!

It is also customary for all visitors to the Gurdwara to sit on the floor as a sign of humility before the holy scripture, and because it gives everyone a place of equal status to sit. Each person sits cross-legged on the carpeted floor inside of the Gurdwara. Feet should be pointed away from the altar inside the Gurdwara. Some chairs are available towards the back for those unable to sit cross-legged / on the floor.

Kirtan and Laavan

Kirtan (devotional hymns) will be sung as friends and family enter the Gurdwara, followed by Ardaas (prayer) and some words by the Granthi. You will notice that during Ardaas, members of the faith will rise and bow several times – at these times everyone should stand. Should you choose not to bow, please keep your hands respectfully folded until we return to a seated position.

The main part of the Anand Karaj are the Laavan (marriage hymns), where four sacred hymns are read by the Granthi and then sung by the accompanying Kirtaneeas. As each verse is sung, Selina & Mark will complete a circle around the altar containing the Guru Granth Sahib.

After the bride and groom complete each laavan, they take a seat and the priest recites the next hymn for the corresponding laavan.

Final Ardaas and the Kara Prashad

Once each verse of the Laavan has been sung, there will be additional Kirtan and Ardaas with the entire congregation to bring the ceremony to a close.

Finally, kara prashad (a sacred sweet) will be served to everyone. It’s a warm, soft mixture of flour, sugar and butter that has been blessed. Simply cup your hands together and you will be served some prashad along with a napkin to wipe your hands after eating it.

At the conclusion of the Anand Karaj the parents of the bride & groom congratulate them, followed by family & friends.

Langar

Following the Anand Karaj ceremony, we invite you to join us for a traditional vegetarian Indian luncheon, called langar. Langar is the community kitchen inside of a Gurdwara where a free vegetarian meal is served to all, regardless of faith, ethnicity, gender or economic status. Lunch will be served right outside of the main hall.

Please note that consumption of alcohol, tobacco, or non-vegetarian (meat) items is not permissible on the Gurdwara premises.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I wear? Do you have any recommendations on where to shop?

You are welcome to wear semi-formal western-style wedding clothing that you would typically wear to an American wedding (such as a suit or dress) or to wear traditional Indian wedding guest attire. It is a tradition in Sikh culture to wear vibrant and joyous colours to such occasions, and the bride usually wears bright red. In general, both men & women should feel free to dress comfortably.

Women
Most Punjabi women wear the traditional Punjabi "suit" or "sawlar suit"which is a long tunic over leggings/pants and a long scarf. This matching headscarf or "dupatta" is important to bring to cover your head while you are inside the gurdwara. Here is a link to examples of these suits online.

Another traditional option is to wear a lehengha (skirt) and choli (shirt/top) as well as the dupatta (head scarf). If you decide to wear a lehengha and choli, it is important to ensure that it is modest and no midrift is showing.

While saris are also a bright and fun clothing option, the sari itself is one long piece of fabric that is wrapped and knotted by the wearer. As saris can be challenging to tie without experience, we recommend wearing a salwar suit for comfort and ease (or a lot of practice with the sari beforehand!)

If you plan to wear western-style clothing, please avoid any dresses or skirts that would make it uncomfortable to sit on the ground either cross-legged or with your legs to one side. In lieu of the dupatta, we recommend bringing a scarf from home to cover your head while you are inside the gurdwara (we will also have extra scarfs available if needed). Please note that shoes will be removed before entering the gurdwara.

Men
Men typically wear a western-style suit or are welcome to wear a more traditional Punjabi "kurta pyjama". Mark's Dad gave the following advice for men who would like to wear a kurta pyjama:
  • Try not pick anything that prominently features bright red, as that is for the bride.
  • Pick a color or combination of colors that you think suits you well!
    • Here is a link to a gallery which features different colors and skin tones for inspiration
If you opt to wear western clothing, semi-formal attire is encouraged. Please note that a hankerchief to wear inside will be provided, and shoes will be removed before entering the gurdwara.

Where do I purchase clothing?
Mark's parents recommend going in person to an Indian clothing store and informing the sales people that you are attending an Indian or Punjabi wedding. They will know exactly how to help you! If you would like to search online for clothing, this website has been recommended to us (search for "Salwar" or "Churidar Kameez" for women's options and "Kurta Pajama" for men's options).

Why do women and men sit on the opposite side of the temple?
Men and women do not generally sit together but on separate sides of the room, both at an equal distance from the Guru Granth Sahib, as a sign of equality. However, this is not a religious requirement but done to honor tradition.

Am I allowed to take pictures and/or videos inside the temple?
Yes, pictures and videos are permitted inside the Gurdwara. As always, please be sure to be respectful of the religious setting and ceremony.

How long does the Sikh ceremony last?
The ceremony will last about an hour. Please be prepared to sit down on the carpet for about 45 minutes.

How can I learn more about the Sikh Wedding Ceremony?
There are some great resources online that provide more information about the Anand Karaj and Sikh wedding traditions. We have selected just a few of many in case they are helpful to you:

Alethea and Ruth