• The White Punjabi Bride

My Big Fat Punjabi-Sikh Wedding Story: Marisa & Pawan

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:

Marisa & Pawan

Introduce Yourself

Hi! My name is Marisa and my husband’s name is Pawandeep and also known as Pawan. I’m Hispanic (Mexican) and was raised Catholic. Pawan is Punjabi and was raised Sikh. Believe it or not, Pawan and I actually met on Tinder back in September 2016! I lived in Auburn, Alabama and he lived in Columbus, Georgia. We were about a 50-minute drive away from each other and would have never met if it weren’t for both of us being on a dating app.

The first message he ever sent me was asking about my dog, Lulu, who was in one of my pictures. Pawan and I dated for a year before getting engaged. I told my family about Pawan a couple of months into our relationship, but Pawan explained to me that dating isn’t really “allowed” in his culture so he wanted to be certain that I was the person he wanted to marry before telling his parents.

Marisa & Pawan Dressed For Jaago Celebrations

Almost exactly one year into dating, Pawan’s mom asked him if he was dating anyone. She said she wanted to see a picture of me and meet me and my parents. So the next time Pawan came over to visit, he told me the news and explained to me that if his parents met me and my parents and liked us, they would start pressuring him to get married. This was a little shocking to me since we had only been dating for one year and I hadn’t met his family and he hadn’t met mine.

But we discussed it and agreed that this is where we were wanting our relationship to go anyways, so we started the process of meeting one another’s families. After the families met and felt comfortable, we started planning our engagement ceremony. It all went very fast to me and was shocking to my much more Western family, but now I know this is pretty typical of Punjabi families. We got engaged on December 9, 2017.

The Choora/Chooda Ceremony

What Was Involved In Planning Your Wedding?

To be completely honest, I hated my entire wedding planning process. Although I did some research on the Internet to learn about Punjabi weddings as I was wedding planning, I pretty much knew nothing compared to what I know now. I wish I could go back and plan my entire wedding all over again because I would do so many things differently.

One of my biggest pieces of advice would be to try to attend some Punjabi weddings before you start planning your own. You will understand everything so much better. I got so overwhelmed by all the traditions that were foreign to me and didn’t appreciate them for how great they are. In my experience, the bride doesn’t really have much say over her wedding date.

The Haldi/Vatna Ceremony

Punjabi people like to plan their weddings the following summer or holiday season (November-January) following their engagement. This allows for more of their families to attend the wedding because of summer vacation and the holiday season. In my experience, Punjabi people also don’t really do RSVP’s so it can be near impossible to get an exact head count which makes finding a venue very difficult.

To be completely honest, I hated my entire wedding planning process. Although I did some research on the Internet to learn about Punjabi weddings as I was wedding planning, I pretty much knew nothing compared to what I know now. I wish I could go back and plan my entire wedding all over again because I would do so many things differently.

Setting the date and finding a venue big enough and available on our date was the most stressful part of the wedding planning process for me. My mother-in-law was in charge of getting all my outfits and jewelry from India for the ceremony and reception. Luckily, she has very good taste and I was very pleased with my outfits.

But, it would have been nice to have some input and help pick out my outfits, jewelry, and other details. I also found it very difficult to find vendors that did specifically Indian weddings. Instagram was my best friend for this and I’m actually very pleased with the vendors I chose. It was just so much more difficult than hopping on The Knot and finding a million makeup artists I could choose from.

Aunties Applying Turmeric Paste

What Traditional Pre-Wedding Ceremonies Did You Celebrate?

The main parts of our wedding consisted of a Jaggo, Anand Karaj (ceremony) and Wedding Reception. My husband’s family also celebrated a pre-wedding prayer and ladies sangeet on their own. We celebrated our Jaggo on Thursday evening in Columbus, Georgia. If both partners are Punjabi, typically your Jaggo would be celebrated separately. Since I am not Punjabi, my husband and I got to celebrate together and it was so much fun! The Anand Karaj was on Saturday morning and the reception was held on Saturday evening in Atlanta, Georgia.

We had about 100 guests at our Jaggo and Anand Karaj, with about 250 guests at our Wedding Reception. We had our wedding in the Atlanta, Georgia area because the larger and more beautiful Gurudwara in our area is located there. I’m not sure if a pre-wedding prayer is typical everywhere, however it was held a couple of weeks before our wedding and close family and friends came over for the day. Including some Sikh priests to do a prayer in preparation for our wedding day.

Anand Karaj

The ladies Sangeet is an evening event where close female family and friends come over for food, dancing and singing. This event was also held a few weeks before the wedding. At my Jaggo, we celebrated the Choora Ceremony (red bangles) and the Haldi Ceremony. The Choora Ceremony is when your maternal uncle puts your bridal choora set on you for the first time. Once they are on the bride isn't supposed to take it off until after the wedding. The Haldi Ceremony is when loved ones come and rub a tumeric paste on your skin before the wedding. It’s supposed to brighten your skin before the big day.

My paternal uncle did my Choora Ceremony since my maternal uncle was not in town yet. Unfortunately, I was not as well versed in these traditions when I got married as I am now, so I did not keep my choora on until my wedding day. I actually took it off in the car going home that night because my choora was about two sizes too small for me!

This is one of the bigger regrets I have. I wish I would have known the significance and meaning behind wearing your choora throughout the entire wedding process. I would have liked to have picked out my choora set myself, had a set that fit better and known to not take it off.

Lavaan During Anand Karaj

Describe Your Wedding Day

Since I chose to celebrate both my ceremony and reception on the same day, my wedding day was jam-packed. If you can, I would definitely recommend splitting your ceremony and reception across two days - ceremony on Friday and reception on Saturday. My day started very early for hair and makeup. My hair and makeup artists were both white, but have done predominately Indian weddings for the past 7 years so they definitely knew exactly what I needed, which was super helpful.

For example, my hairstylist knew I needed my hair to be up in a bun for the ceremony in order to support the weight of my dupatta. She also recommended I purchase a comb on Amazon that I sewed into the inside of my dupatta so that the comb could slide right into my hair and help the dupatta stay better. I would have never known to do these things! I was super happy with how my hair and makeup turned out for both the ceremony and reception.

Exchanging Rings

I wore a traditional red lehengha for my reception. It was BEAUTIFUL and handmade in India. But it was very heavy. Almost 15 pounds! Some aunties (friends/family on my husband’s side) created some “suspenders” out of red fabric and sewed them into my skirt so that I could wear the makeshift suspenders over my shoulders (but under my top) to help me manage the weight of my skirt.

Again, very helpful and something I would have never thought of! At our ceremony, we did a Milni Ceremony and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony outside the Gurudwara. The Milni Ceremony is where a few of the important men on my side (dad, uncles, cousins) are matched up with a few important men on my husband’s side and they come into the middle of the circle and put necklaces around each other’s neck as a way to symbolize them welcoming each other into the family.

The Punjabi Bride

The Ribbon Cutting Ceremony was for the ladies (my sister, cousins, aunts, etc.). My sister and cousins stood on one side of the ribbon (closest to the doors of the Gurdwara) and my husband stood on the other side of the ribbon. They had to come to an agreement (which usually involves money, dancing, singing, etc.) before my sister would “allow” my husband to cut the ribbon and come inside the Gurudwara to marry me.

After these ceremonies, our guests had breakfast in the langar hall (kitchen/dining room) and then it was time for the ceremony. Something important to note here is that the ceremony is supposed to start before noon. After the ceremony, we took some pictures outside the Gurudwara. This is another thing that I regret a lot. I didn’t designate any time for my husband and me to go to a nice location with our photographers to take photos in our ceremony outfits.

The Punjabi Bride & Groom

We took photos outside the Gurudwara in the parking lot. Some of the photos came out good because of the angles the photographers used, but I really wish I would have carved out some time after our ceremony to go to a park or somewhere nice to have a photoshoot. This is when breaking up our ceremony and reception on to two separate days would have been helpful.

After our ceremony, we headed back to my hotel room for some more traditional Punjabi rituals. There are many rituals that a Punjabi mother-in-law will perform when her new daughter-in-law enters her house for the first time as a married woman. Because we chose to have our ceremony and reception on the same day, we didn’t have time to travel back to my in-law’s house since it was 2 hours away. Therefore we had to do these rituals in my hotel room.

The Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

This was another instance when splitting up our ceremony and reception on two separate days would have been helpful. After these rituals were done, it was time for hair and makeup again and an outfit change. Then my husband and I headed to our reception hall to take some photos before everyone started to arrive for the cocktail hour. Then we headed back to the hotel which was right next door, to hang out until it was time to make our entrance into our reception.

One thing to note about Punjabi Culture is that events always start LATE. I’m talking like 2 hours late! So be prepared and make sure to prepare your family if they aren’t familiar with the Punjabi ways! Another thing to note about Punjabi events is that there is always food out either when you get there/right after you get there. This food is only the appetizer! A lot of my guests went to town on the appetizer and they were too full to enjoy the dinner when it came out like two hours in our reception!

The Wedding Reception Venue. The Ornate Couch Is Where The Bride & Groom Will Be Seated.

We had an open bar at our wedding but almost all Punjabi women don’t drink. Since my guests were not Punjabi they didn’t know this. However my female guests drank and everything was fine. But I did not drink, nor would I drink in front of my in-laws at any event. It’s frowned upon by most people so I just avoid it.

I did another outfit change halfway into my reception and changed into an American (white) wedding dress. This is something I really wanted at the beginning of my wedding planning. However, now that I look back on it, the American wedding dress although beautiful, really didn’t end up being that special to me. I wish I would have saved my money and just done everything Indian.

Any Advice For Those In An Interracial Relationship Who Are Planning Their Own Big Fat Punjabi-Sikh Wedding Story?

Do as much research as you can, and, if possible, try to attend some Punjabi events such as parties, engagements, weddings and so on. Therefore you can get a good feel for what it’s like before you start planning your own. Anticipate that your spouse’s family is going to want to have a lot more say in the process than you expect.

A Punjabi Wedding Isn't Complete Without Money Thrown About In The Air

If you’re a controlling person, you might have to let it go and pick a few of the things that you won’t compromise on and stand your ground on those, but be flexible in other things. Prepare for people to be late. Punjabi people are always late so don’t be surprised when people don’t start showing up to your reception until 1.5 hours after the invitation stated.

It’s also not uncommon for your spouse’s family to be running behind even when it’s their child getting married. Become familiar with Punjabi music before your wedding. I didn’t start listening to Punjabi music regularly until after my husband and I were married. I absolutely love it! But it would have been more helpful to have been familiar to it before the wedding because it would have given me more confidence on the dance floor, and Punjabi’s love to dance!

The Bride Dancing The Night Away


Instagram: @marisarsingh

The Groom Dancing The Night Away

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*Images are courtesy of Marisa and are original copyrighted content and cannot be used without the express written consent of Marisa


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