One Soul in Two Bodies
They are not said to be husband and wife, who merely sit together. Rather they alone are called husband and wife, who have one soul in two bodies."
(Guru Amar Das, Pauri, pg. 788 Sri Guru Granth Sahib)
Background information on a Sikh Wedding
The Sikh wedding ceremony is known as "Anand Karaj" which means 'Blissful Union". The Sikh marriage is a very colourful and unique ceremony in which two individuals are joined in a partnership of two equals. It is not merely a physical and legal contract but a sacrament - a holy union between two souls. The spiritual goal of any Sikh is to merge his or her soul with God and in marriage, the couple vow to help each other towards this goal.
The Wedding Day Protocol
The day usually starts early for the "Barat" which is the term used for the Groom’s side or the party of people accompanying the Groom.
Arrival at Gurdwara
1. Departure of Barat: (Barat is "the Grooms side") The Barat will leave from the Groom's house to go to the Gurdwara usually near the Bride's house, where the actual wedding will take place. The arrangements for the rest of the day are normally made entirely by the Bride's family. However, some of this is now changing. If the groom lives far from the bride's house, the Barat may depart early in the morning. It is common for the Barat to set off from the groom's house at 8am. The Barat will then travel to the local area where the bride lives.
2. Reception of Barat: The Groom's party is "received" by the Bride's party at the Gurdwara. This usually takes place at about 9.30am.
3. Milnea: (means "Introductions") The Ardas will be performed by the priest (Giani) followed by the formal introductions of the main male players in the families. This will include the bride's & groom's father, grandfather and Mama - (mother's brother). They will formally meet, exchange garlands (and gifts) and have their photographs taken. This normally takes place in the foyer area of the Gurdwara at about 10am.
4. Tea: Tea with savouries (normally samosa, pakoras) and sweets (generally jalebis, ladoos and barfi) will be served and are normally taken standing at tables in the Langar hall at the Gurdwara. Both the Groom's side and Bride's sides will take tea in turn and this should be concluded at about 10.30am. The Groom usually is present at this time and the bride is not.
5. Main Wedding Ceremony (Anand Karaj): This is the formal part of the ceremony which almost always takes place in a Gurdwara. After tea, by about 11am, everyone proceeds into the Darbar Sahib or main prayer hall. Also described here is the type of clothing that should be worn. Please note that you will be required to remove your shoes and cover your head in an appropriate manner before entering the main hall. Proceed into the darbar sahib paying attention to and observing the etiquette appropriate in the Darbar Hall. Always show respect to the Guru Granth Sahib as the Guru is held in high esteem by the Sikhs. Once in the main hall, you will be expected to sit on the carpeted floor for at least 45 minutes. It is essential that suitable clothing be worn. The formal part of the wedding ceremony normally starts at about 11am and ends at about 1pm and comprises of the following functions:
a. Kirtan - The singing of the Holy Hymns - Gurbani. As you enter the darbar hall, musical singing of sacred hymns from the Holy Scriptures will already be taking place. The Kirtaini jatha (religious singers) will be seated on a stage in front of the hall next to the central stage of the Guru. The Guru Granth Sahib will be attended by a Sewadar (volunteer Sikh) or Giani (priest) who will be waving a Chaur over the Guru. After several Shabads (hymns) have been sang, the priest (Giani) or the stage secretary will
b. Ardas– Key People (Bride, groom, both parents of bride and groom) will stand straight with folded hands and join in this prayer.
c. Palla - The bride's father will formally hand the end of the sash, which the bridegroom wears over his shoulder into the hands of the bride. At the same time the shabad "Palla tanda lagee" is sung by the Kirtania jatha (musicians).
d. Laava – The Bride and Groom will walk in tow around the Sri Guru Granth Sahib four times at the set intervals. First the priest will read a Laav (one of four) from the Guru Granth Sahib; then the musicians will sing the same laav while the Bride and Groom will circle the Guru in a clockwise direction.
e. Ardas – All the congregation will stand and join in the Ardas followed by Hukamnama (sikh prayer)announce the timetable for the formal part of the Anand Karaj ceremony
f. Sagaan – The parents of the Bride and Groom, followed by key people and the congregation will bless the newly wedded and give gifts or money and have photos taken.
g. Kara Parshad – Blessed "Sweet pudding" is served.
This ends the formal part of the Sikh wedding ceremony that should be concluded before noon.
The Party and Closing
6. Lunch: Langar at the Gurdwara is served
7. Departure of Doli: The bride departs from her parent's house (a very sad and touching occasion).
8. Reception: (Optional) This may be held on the same day or on another day and is an evening "dinner and dance" type occasion, where only invited guests from both families can attend.