SELECTION OF THE COUPLE In arranged marriages, the bride and bridegroom are generally selected and chosen by parents or the elders. Being experienced and elderly people, they can perhaps better evaluate the merits of the partners.
THE BETROTHAL When the selection of the boy for a bridegroom and of the girl for the bride have been investigated and the betrothal decided on, an auspicious day is fixed for its celebration. This should not normally take place in the month of Posh (December), Kartik(October) or Chetna (March), when Venus and Jupiter are on the wane, during the shhradas, annual or general, interrelated months or when the Venus and the Jupiter are in the same rasa. Sundays, Tuesdays and Saturdays are also avoided at times. The ideal time for betrothal is during the following Nakshatras(asterisms): Phalgun (January-February), Bhadrapada(August-September) and June-August.
PRE-MARRIAGE CEREMONIES After betrothal, before a marriage takes place and is given legal effect, certain ceremonies are required to be observed. These ceremonies differ from community to community and from place to place. These are purely social and are meant to increase intimacy between the two families. The boy’s father sends sweets etc. for the girl on festivals. These she returns with some money. Later the boy’s father sends her ornaments; these too are returned with some cash and clothes, only three or four trinkletsare retained.
MILNI CEREMONY A few days before the wedding, on an auspicious day, the milni ceremony is performed. Girl’s people send trays of sweets to the boy’s house. Females do not go with these gifts, only males. They are received by the boy’s relatives, assembled for the purpose. The Milni (to meet) is then performed, the girl’s party standing on one side and the boy’s on the other. The girl’s people present money, ornaments to the boy’s people and Salami (token money) are offered. The counterparts of both sides meet, embrace and offer token money. Nowadays, this ceremony is performed just before the marriage party enters the wedding hall.
MAHENDI AND PEETHI A day before the wedding the palm and feet of the bride are decorated with "Mahendi". A canopy or mandapa decorated with flowers is erected at the place of wedding. On the wedding morning, various ablutionary rituals are performed on both the bride and the groom in their own homes. Their bodies are anointed with turmeric, sandalwood paste and oils, which cleanse the body, soften the skin, and make it aromatic. They are then bathed to the chanting of Vedic mantras.
GHODI CEREMONY Before the marriage party proceeds to the girl’s house, a mare is sent to the boys house. The bridegroom rides the mare and a small younger brother/ cousin sits behind the bridegroom. The women and relatives in the boy’s house, bless the boy and give him and the younger one money. After this ceremony at the boy’s house is over, the boy, accompanied by relatives and friends , proceed to the girl’s house singing and dancing to the tunes of the band, under the shade of glittering lights.
THE MARRIAGE CEREMONY In a mandapa - canopy or marriage stage decorated with flowers and with a fire as witness the Hindu Marriage Ceremony begins. It is a long and elaborate ceremony , with every step rooted in vedic tradition, signifying various aspects of live that is to follow after the marriage.
THE MARRIAGE SYMBOLS The bride applies sandlewood paste to the grooms forehead, the groom then applies a red mark on the brides forehead to display for as long as they are married.Then puffed rice and purified butter from the hands of the bride and groom are thrown into the fire.This represents the radiant one. Then the darkness is removed by the priest chanting matras, which are blessings.
VOWS The vows are made before the fire that represent the diety. The groom vows to alwaysincludehis wife and consult her. The groom takes his brides hand and leads her around the fire he steps closer to her they walk along where rice is heaped to one side. Holding hands they take the saptapadi... a seven step symbolic journey through life.
ENTERING THE HOME The couple depart from the girl’s house after the vidai, for the groom’s house.They carry behind the couple the sacred fire in a vessel.Theyshould keep the re constantly alight. When they reach his house, he says:"Enter with your right foot. Do not remain outside.“The bride enters the home placing the right foot - considered auspicious, first. When the bride and the groom enter the groom's house, the mother of the groom welcomes the bride by doing an aarati.Theysit in silence until thestarsare visible.