My Big Fat Punjabi-Sikh Wedding Story: Nicole & Sandeep
Updated: Jan 8
In this series I will share with you stories of other's, who like myself, have married into the Punjabi Culture and celebrated their own Big Fat Punjabi-Sikh Wedding. Though firstly there is some confusion around the difference between a Sikh and Punjabi Wedding merely because many weddings happen to predominately be Punjabi-Sikh Weddings.
Therefore to clarify, Punjab is a state of India in which many different faiths exist not only that of Sikhism. Which means not every Punjabi Wedding will necessarily be of the Sikh Faith, celebrating the same wedding traditions. Sikhism is a religion that originated in the state of Punjab. So whilst majority of Punjabi's are Sikh's, not every Punjabi will be. Hence why many weddings will be Punjabi-Sikh Weddings given they both are of the Sikh Faith and were born a Punjabi. Though even a Punjabi-Sikh Wedding can be referred to as either just a Sikh Wedding or Punjabi Wedding.
Even so, the rituals and traditions of a Punjabi-Sikh Wedding can vary greatly between regions and family. Therefore even the most common traditions can differ in how they are celebrated and is usually a personal preference as to which traditions are participated in. Though for the most part many are quite similar.
My Big Fat Punjabi-Sikh Wedding Story:
Nicole & Sandeep
My husband and I didn't have a seamless fairy tale love story at first, in fact, our relationship required a lot of struggle and sacrifice to get to the point we are at today. Sandeep and I shared mutual friends in college and were aware of each other's existence. However we didn't actually physically meet until we crossed paths while walking down the street one Summer afternoon.
After our encounter, Sandeep sent me a message on Facebook; it was September 3rd, 2014 and our relationship quickly took off. We spent our first Christmas together in Montreal, then spent Valentine's Day during a romantic weekend getaway in Toronto. Then on April 17th, 2015, we went to Niagara Falls for the weekend and Sandeep proposed to me in front of the big ferris wheel.
After getting engaged, Sandeep told his family who lives in India, about the exciting news. His family were really supportive and understanding. Unfortunately my family didn't approve of our engagement or the idea of marriage in the beginning. In May of that year, we held our Western engagement party with friends and family. September 5th, 2015 was the day of our Western wedding, where I got married in a white gown, in a little white church, in Niagara Falls.
Fast Forward to January 2019, during our first trip together and my first time going to India, my husband's family planned a week of Punjabi wedding festivities for our Indian wedding. This was technically our second wedding but I was ecstatic!
What Was Involved In Planning Your Wedding?
My husband's family basically handled all the planning of our wedding, which was held in Amritsar, Punjab. Since we live in Canada, it was difficult for us to do any planning prior to arriving in India. In some ways I felt more like a Barbie doll that showed up and looked pretty. Sandeep's family did take my ideas and suggestions into consideration and I let their expertise handle the booking of our photographer, venues, and all of the traditional details.
Our wedding reception was held separately from our wedding ceremony known as Anand Karaj. Our reception was held in a banquet hall and had approximately 200 guests. Whilst our wedding ceremony was performed in a gurdwara, followed by a smaller reception in a banquet hall with about 100 guests. The biggest challenge of the wedding planning and our entire wedding week was trying to plan things in such a short time frame while being jet-lagged.
We arrived in India on the Tuesday, my Bangle Ceremony, also known as the Choori or Chooda Ceremony, was on Wednesday, followed by my Mehndi Ceremony on Friday, and we were married, again, by Saturday. In a couple of days I shopped for four different outfits, four different sets of jewellery, four pairs of shoes, tasted and chose our wedding cake, and picked out my husband's suits.
I also felt like another challenge in India was shopping for dresses, especially for someone who is picky like me. India doesn't offer a lot of options when it comes to clothing sizes and if you happen to be particular about styles/colours, you might not find a dress in your size.
What Traditional Pre-Wedding Ceremonies Did You Celebrate?
Our week of wedding festivities included a Bangle Ceremony, Mehndi Ceremony, Anand Karaj, and Wedding Reception. Our family were hoping to do more ceremonies, but since we were only in India for a month, we unfortunately were limited.
During all of the festivities we had family members from my mother-in-law's side of the family attend, my father-in-law's family, other close relatives, my sister-in-law's family, my husband's childhood friends, and close neighbours.
For my Bangle Ceremony, I wore a traditional Punjabi Suit that was green, red, and gold. During the Bangle Ceremony, bangles were placed in a round steel tray filled with milk and flowers. As I sat in front of everyone, every lady in the family came up and placed a bangle on each of my arms.
Then for my Mehndi Ceremony, I wore a pink and turquoise Punjabi Suit. On the day of my Mehndi Ceremony, I spent the morning having the mehndi applied to my hands, arms, legs, and feet. We then had a ceremony where my Mamu (mother-in-law's brother) and his wife presented my bridal chooda/choora (bangles). After dipping each bangle in a bowl of milk, they strategically placed them on both of my arms. I had about 30 bangles on each arm which is customary.
Describe Your Wedding Day
The day of our Wedding Ceremony was the day my lifelong dream finally came true. From an early age of 13 I started watching Bollywood movies, after my best friend Priya introduced me to the Indian culture. I instantly fell in love and dreamt that one day I would get my Bollywood fairy tale.
The day of our Wedding Ceremony, I woke up extra early and headed over to the beauty salon, where they did my hair, makeup, and dressed me in my traditional bridal lehengha and dupatta. I am not a big fan of red so I chose a dark burgundy and gold detailed lehengha, paired with a peachy pink blouse and dupatta. Along with all of the traditional bridal accessories and jewellery.
I always envisioned myself in a traditional Indian wedding gown but I wanted to add a modern flair with the two-toned look. My hair was pinned back in a traditional bun to hold my dupatta over my head and was accessorized with pink and red roses. The day of our ceremony I was having a panic attack. I was anxious, nervous, excited, and emotional! Although he was already my husband and it was the second time marrying this man, my nerves were going crazy. I couldn't believe the day was finally here!
Our "Anand Karaj" was held in a gurudwara with a few close family members, which was followed by a small reception at a banquet hall where dinner and sweets were served. Upon leaving our ceremony reception, Sandeep and I walked as a newly married couple, leading our family outside, as I performed Vidaai, also known as The Doli Ceremony. This involved throwing handfuls of rice over my head , symbolizing my good-byes to my family as I depart as a newly wedded bride with my husband's family.
Any Advice For Those In An Interracial Relationship Who Are Planning Their Own Big Fat Punjabi-Sikh Wedding?
The biggest piece of advice I have for anyone in a bicultural relationship is to always follow what is in your heart, have patience, and keep an open-mind. You cannot please everyone in this world but pleasing yourself is most important when it comes to your happiness and mental health. At the end of the day, it's your life, choose the path that will forever make you happy and always trust your gut instinct.
As far as advice on planning a big fat Punjabi-Sikh Wedding, dress-up, glam-up, show-up, and have a blast! Before you know it, the festivities will be over, enjoy every moment, cherish every tradition, and smile for every photo.
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*Images are courtesy of Nicole and are original copyrighted content and cannot be used without the express written consent of Nicole.