PUNJABI SIKH WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY
I love capturing Punjabi Sikh weddings! The rituals and traditions make for such a unique and moving experience that lasts several days and is unforgettable. I work hard to capture every moment, from the pre-wedding events to the ceremony, and I love capturing candid photos of the couple and their family as they celebrate this new marriage!
This is usually the first ritual of a Punjabi Sikh wedding. The relatives of the groom and bride stay up all night and walk around the neighborhood, dancing in the streets with an “earthen pot” on their heads. The pot is filled with candles to let everyone know that a wedding will be happening soon and is passed around to everyone.
The bride and other immediate family members (on the groom’s side as well) and friends get their hands decorated with henna. The bride always gets the most elaborate design—sometimes up to her elbows, and on her feet sometimes up to her shins. This process takes 4-5 hours (for the bride only!). Once the process starts, the bride is generally unable to use her hands or feet until the design dries (another additional 2-3 hours).
VATNA or MAIYAN CEREMONY
This ceremony involves applying a paste made from turmeric powder and mustard oil all over the bride's body by her female friends and relatives. This is also done to the groom. After this ceremony, the bride and groom aren’t allowed to see each other until the wedding ceremony—a practice that is still strongly adhered to.
For the chooda ceremony, the bride’s maternal uncle gifts her with a set of red and white bangles that are first dipped in milk. After this, golden ornaments called Kalires are tied to the bangles. Once on, the bride isn’t allowed to remove any of this stuff! She has to sleep with all of it ON!
The Wedding Day
After the groom is dressed in his Sherwani, his female relatives tie a Sehra (beaded veil) around the front of his head. This is supposed to block off the evil eye! When the groom gets to the Gurdwara (Sikh place of worship), he mounts a horse or some means of transportation, which is usually decorated. The horse is usually white because it’s supposed to represent peace and submissiveness of the horse to the groom! While this is happening, the groom’s family and friends dance around him while the bride’s family and friends wait at the door of the Gurdwara.
After reading prayers from the holy book, the bride's father welcomes the groom and gives him either an envelope of money or gold. The males participate in this exchange first, then the women participate. This exchange usually happens outside the Gurdwara (weather permitting) because it’s a cultural thing and not religious. In the event of inclement weather, it happens inside the Gurdwara but not inside the main room where the actual ceremony occurs.
The officiating custodian brings out a Guru Granth Sahib (holy book) which is always covered with a decorative cloth. All guests in the marriage hall remove their shoes and cover their heads. Guests all bow to the Guru Granth Sahib, and some offer money. The bride's family guides both the groom and then the bride to a cushion or mattress where the ceremonies begin. The groom’s sister or close female relative removes his sehra at this point.
The officiator reads prayers and sings hymns to welcome the blessings of God for the marriage by having both the bride, the groom and their respective parents all stand to pray. This is a VERY important moment, and I make sure to capture photos of all six people. The bride's father helps her tie the groom's shawl (pallu) to her shawl. This represents the official “giving away” of the bride, and it’s usually a very emotional moment. The bride and groom walk around the “stage” 5 times, and they both bow to the Guru Granth Sahib at the beginning and end of each phera (verse) read from the holy book.
After the marriage ceremony, the bride's sisters may tease the groom by stealing his shoes and demanding a bribe of money for their return. This ceremony can be done either before or after the wedding, but it's usually done in jest after the formal rituals are complete.
Resources for Brides
Natasha is a New York City-based wedding photographer who specializes in photographing Punjabi Sikh, Hindu, South Indian Christian and American weddings on the East Coast and beyond. She believes that everyone in love deserves the opportunity to be able to look back with joy at the days when wrinkles were sparing, bones weren't as fragile and the sanctity of marriage was yet to be discovered.
I understand how important it is to capture every moment of your Punjabi Sikh wedding! Do you have specific ideas for your wedding photography? Fill out the form below and let's discuss your big day!