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a short primer on hindu weddings [Page 1 of 1]

Hindu weddings may be very novel compared to weddings in "western" religions. While traditional Catholic and Protestant weddings are relatively short, and often solemn affairs, a traditional Hindu wedding is a joyous occasion that can go on for days.   Although the precise details of the ceremony can differ greatly depending on the regional background of the Hindu family, there are some aspects that are common to any traditional Hindu wedding.

Several pre-wedding ceremonies are customary, including the engagement, which is different than what most Westerners think of when the term is invoked.   In Hindu tradition, the engagement is when the bride and groom pledge themselves to one another through a vagdana, or oral agreement, and a lagna-patra, or written contract, similar to the Ketubah in Jewish traditions.   Other typical aspects of the pre-wedding celebration involve the wedding party arriving at the bride's home (often in parade-like fashion).   The groom may be expected to go through trials to prove his devotion to the bride.   These trials are often concocted by the bride's friends and family, and are performed in good fun.   We have heard of instances of grooms who have had to do push-ups, identify their bride's hand from a group of girls while blindfolded, and a number of other fun and creative challenges.

The fun and good humor of many of the rituals involved in Hindu weddings should in no way be taken as an implication that Hindus do not take their weddings seriously, though.   The wedding ceremony is extremely important to Hindu culture, and even the most lighthearted rituals carry with them a deep religious significance.  

The wedding itself, like any other part of the extended ceremony, can vary in specifics from family to family, but some parts are common to all.   An invocation to Lord Ganesh, a sacred fire around which the bride and groom must walk seven times, the formal giving away of the bride to the groom, and the mandap, or four-pillared canopy under which the marriage is performed, are just a few of the traditions that have endured throughout the centuries to the modern day.  

Because of all of the variations and practices involved, if you are planning on a Hindu wedding, but are not familiar with the traditions yourself, you should take the time to ask questions and do the research to discover which rituals are important to your bride's family and why.
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