Behind The Scenes Of A Real Punjabi Wedding
Wedding Season sadly is drawing closer and closer to an end. Which is the cooler months from November to February. A Punjabi Wedding is an auspicious occasion and is always a vibrant and flamboyant celebration. It is full of food, traditional entertainment, colourful silks, loud music with lots of dancing and singing. Those jubilant Bollywood dance numbers are the very essence of being a Punjabi. They celebrate every occasion with enthusiasm and gusto. I have had the pleasure of attending a few weddings this time around. Hopefully there will be many more to come.
Anand Karaj which is the Sikh equivalent to marriage, is performed before the reception at a Sikh Temple. This is where the couple perform Lavaan. The bride and groom walk in tow around The Guru Granth Sahib four times signifying that they accept each other as one soul in two bodies with the Guru at the centre of the marriage. Only close family and friends will attend the temple. However the reception is usually open to everyone who received an invitation along with any family or friends they wish to bring along. All are welcome to attend from the young to the elderly, there is no age restriction. Guests will dress extravagantly wearing their most colourful embroidered and embellished traditional attire, which can consist of a Lehanga, Kurti or Punjabi Suit for women. Whilst men will usually wear western attire consisting of blazers and tailored pants with matching ties. Although there are some who still choose to wear traditional attire of a kurta and turban. You can expect hundreds if not thousands of guests at a Punjabi Wedding. It is a community affair to bless the newly wedded couple for their life together as husband and wife.
Reception's are held at Wedding Palace's which is not dissimilar to a Palace in its layout. Majority of Wedding Palace's are surprisingly rundown and in dire need of a renovation yet they are not short of business. Before I attended a wedding I imagined these palaces to be extravagant and beautiful. But the reality is no one can afford to hire a fancy palace so many owners just don't bother to put any money into them to refurbish them. The entryway is usually draped with silks in contrasting colours and adorned with plastic flowers in an array of colours. A red carpet is usually rolled out although it generally isn't as glamorous as it sounds with the carpet dusty and worn from several years use. There will be large columns surrounding the entrance to the indoor hall where rows and rows of seats are arranged in preparation for guests to watch the traditional entertainment on the front stage. To one side of the front stage is another smaller stage set up for photographs where the bride and groom will be seated for most of the day. This is where they accept gifts from their guests, usually in the form of cash to help start their life together as husband and wife. Then each guest takes a photo with the couple for their wedding album.
Wedding Palace entryway
There is also an outdoor area which will usually have silk draped over large marquees for guests to sit. Fast food vendors are all situated in the outdoor venue such as popcorn, fresh fruits and juices, stir fried noodles, grilled cheese, and satay goods. The indoor venue will be set up with a buffet for entrees, main course and dessert. Guests tend to arrive before the bride and groom and await eagerly in anticipation for their arrival.
Wedding Palace outdoor reception area
Buffet indoors at the Wedding Palace
Crowds will congregate at the entrance when the arrival of the bride and groom are announced. The bride will already be inside the reception hall waiting for the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony. This is a fun tradition whereby the bride and her sisters will request money from the Groom and his brothers before allowing them into the reception hall by cutting the ribbon. Traditional sweets are fed to both the bride and groom. The brothers of the bride and groom will then make their way down the isle of the reception hall following drummers and dancing to the beat of the dhol. The bride and groom follow in tow under a red veil held by their sisters. Once they arrive at the front stage they stand beside a may pole. The drummers will take one ribbon each which is attached to the may pole and dance around the couple, twining the ribbon around the pole. Confetti and cash are thrown in the air and it is a festive occasion. The bride and groom eventually make their way to the photo booth stage where they take a seat and will be seated for at least a few hours.
The Ribbon Cutting Ceremony
A Punjabi Bride is a vision of beauty adorned in her heavily embellished and embroidered lehanga choli and matching dupatta. She will usually require assistance walking given that her attire can easily weigh 15kg in total. She will be adorned in as much jewellery as possible. She will have mehndi designs intricately decorated on her arms, hands, feet and legs. The Punjabi Groom can either wear traditional attire of a Punjabi Suit however most opt for a tailored suit with matching tie and turban.
Traditional dancers will continue to dance on the stage and entertain the guests. By this point many men have consumed much alcohol and are on the dance floor situated below the stage. Men and women are seated separately within the reception hall as women are not permitted to consume alcohol. So they will tend to be seated on one side of the hall with men on the other side where alcohol is served by wait staff. Wait staff will be roaming the hall offering guests food and beverages from the buffet. The music from the speakers are blaring loudly indoors yet none of the guests seem to mind.
The entertainment stage & photobooth stage
Festivities go long through the day till the evening, eating, dancing and just generally enjoying one's self. The celebrations will continue long into the evening at the grooms house with close family and friends joining in the celebrations. A Punjabi Wedding is one of the most colourful and vibrant weddings that I have ever had the pleasure of attending. It is full of meaningful traditions pre and post wedding day.
You can read more about pre and post wedding traditions via the following articles: