Like in all cultures, the start of the wedding preparation is with the official engagement of the future groom and the future bride.According to Hindu traditions, the initial match making was primarily done by the parents or the elders in the immediate family, taking into considerations compatibility and practical aspects for a successful married life. These would include family backgrounds, financial, educational and physical compatibility, and yes, horoscope matching too! It is important to understand that the Hindu marriage is not just between a bride and the groom but the two respective families as well. As such, the parents tend to drive the engagement ceremony, a few months before the marriage. This ceremony is a formal announcement of the impending marriage to all friends and relatives and the start of the planning for the big event.
This should be a fun filled event at either bride's or groom's place.In India, this is the formal verification of all the background work that the parents did before this date. In the US, both families probably know each other for quiet some time; so it is an announcement to the friends and relatives.
According to Indian customs, the father of the groom requests the father of the bride for the bride’s hand in marriage with his son. The bride’s father wants to make sure that the groom has no skeletons in his closet! Having confirmed that, the bride’s father also tells the groom’s father to make sure that his daughter is also as good, if not better than the groom! Thus after mutual satisfaction and “Wagdaan”, and a promise for the marriage, the bride’s father tells all that he will plan the ceremony at an appropriate date in the future. The couple exchanges the wedding rings and the ceremony ends with best wishes and blessings from all the attendees. In some customs, they prepare a "Lagna Patrika", a written promise to each other to perform the ceremony at a future date.
The engaged couple will be referred here as bride and groom, although they do not become so until the pre wedding ceremony a day or two before the actual wedding.
Hindu Engagement Steps:
Sankalpa and Poonyahvachanam
Request by the Groom’s father for the bride’s hand for his son. Bride’s father’s approval ·
Bride’s father and his daughter propose the marriage at the appropriate Muhurtam. ·
Groom’s father and his son reconfirm the proposal.
Bride worships Shachi for the success of the future marriage ·
Mangal Aarati of the bride by 5 women
Bride and the Groom exchange the rings.
Formal engagement Announcement, Ashirvad, Congratulations.
The ceremony should last about 45 minutes.
7 Chairs , Coffee table for the Pooja, Shri Ganesh Idol, Kalash, Beetle leaves(10), Halad/Kunku, Gandha or Chandan, Bell, Candles, Neeranjan, Aarati( oil lamp), Flowers, Udbatti, Supaari (10), Coconuts(2), Naivaidhya, Whole Haladi ( Halkunda)
Graha Shanti / Grahamakha or Grahyadnya or Devak
As in many cultures, our ancestors believed in the horoscopes, the planetary arrangement at the time of your birth.
Secondly, your wedding day, typically Saturday if you are in the USA, may not be auspicious per Hindu Panchang. So, the religious part of the wedding is done to remove any bad planetary influences in bride's or groom' future married life as well as to pray to major deities for an auspicious start and avoid any potential difficulties during the wedding celebrations. Please see more on horoscopes, planetary influences in FAQs.
The Graha Shanti is typically done a day before the formal marriage ceremony so that maximum number of outside guests can attend the function. The primary purpose of the pre wedding rituals is to kick off the religious and social festivities leading to the marriage ceremony. These rituals are known by various names such as Devak, Grahamakha, Graha Shanti etc. These rituals are done separately by the boy’s and girl’s parents in their own homes. However, they can also be done together, if necessary, especially if non Indian parents are interested. It takes about an hour to set up and one hour to do these rituals.
We start the ceremony with Muhurta Medha -pooja of a Mango or similar tree branch and Toran at the house entrance, followed by these steps.
The bride or groom is gently massaged with Halad and fragrant oil and then they take a purification bath.
2. Muhurtamedha & Sankalpa:
Muhurtamedha is a formal declaration of the impending wedding, symbolically demonstrated by an auspicious yellow cloth, tied to an outside tree with a short pooja. Then, parents of the bride or groom officially declare that they will be starting today the pre marriage ceremonies for their daughter / son and pray to various Gods for their blessings.
3. Ganesh / Kuldevata Pooja and Poonyahvachanam:
Ganesh is the revered son of Shiva and Parvati. He is known as Vighnaharta, the Lord of Success and Destroyer of evils and obstacles. We do the Ganesh Pooja so that all the wedding ceremonies will be successful. We also solicit the blessings from our forefathers and all the elders so that all the planned activities are successful and fruitful in every way.
4. Kalash Pooja:
The Kalasha or kumbha emerged when the demons and Gods churned the Milk Ocean to retrieve the nectar of immortality. Symbolically, the Kalasha represents the whole of the universe and our Hindu Culture and Heritage. We believe in the Trinity of Gods - Brahma is the God of creation, Vishnu is the God of Preservation and Shiva is the God of Destruction. The seat of Vishnu is located in Kalasha's mouth; Shiva is in the neck, mother Goddess in the center and Brahma in the root. The holy water from this Kalash is used for Kannyadaan.
5. Navagraha Pooja (Graha Shanti)
Since many natural calamities come from various directions, it was customary to ask for protection from the guardians of the ten directions. Our forefathers also believed that the nine heavenly bodies, the Navagrahas, affect our lives, our desires and their outcomes. Each of them, Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn and mythological planets Rahu and Ketu, are essential for our existence. We do Yagnya or Homa to please these heavenly bodies and pray to remove any negative influences in the bride’s or groom’s path by singing their praise and offering ahuti to the Agni Lord.
6. Mandap Devata Pooja:
We pray to the Mandap Devatas to assure success in building the auspicious Mandap and to pray that all rituals in the Mandap happen successfully without any mishaps.
7. Gouri Har Pooja (Bride Only):
The bride worships Gouri and Shankar for an eternal marriage in spite of the various ups and downs that may occur throughout their married life.
After these rituals, we call the engaged girl Soubhgya Kankshini – Expecting her to bring good fortunes to all. (After marriage, she become Soubhagyavati – the one who brings good fortune)
8. Samavartan (Groom Only):
Upanayan (Janovi or Vratabandha)) is the beginning whereas Samavartan is the formal exit for the groom from Brahmacharyashrama, the first phase of life in which he needed to pursue education and follow a strict code of conduct. I have been asked to do Upanayan of the groom just before the marriage! Well, it is better late than never as some of the key rules are essential theought the life.
The Samavartan or Sodmunj ritual involves a releasing the groom from the strict code of the Brahmachari, atonement for any misdeeds and commitments for his new married life. Then, he becomes a “Snatak” until the actual marriage ceremony after which he becomes “Grahastha”, ready to pursue Dharma, Artha and Kama.
In some communities, the groom pretends that he does not want to marry and wants to go to Kashi Yatra as a Sannyasi, only to be brought back by the girl’s family after reminding of his duties according to our four ashramas.
9. Aarati and Prarthana :
We offer Naivaidhya to all the Gods and do Aarati and Prarthana. After these rituals, the engaged couple formally becomes “the bride and the groom”.
Items for Graha Shanti:
- Three low profile pedestals called Bajat or Chowrang or platforms (~ 2x2-ft Square each (or One 2X 5 ft) for the Homa, Ganesh and Kalash) about 6-8 Inch high. If we are sitting on chairs for the pooja, we can use coffee table or pedestals of that height.
- Toran for entrance door, An outdoor tree or a plant for Muhurta Medha
- Small Towels, 6 bowls (cereal bowl size),6 plates ( about 8-10 inches in diameter), 3 spoons, 3 glasses : Plates/glasses/bowls should be copper, silver or stainless steel.
- Loose Flowers and flower petals in a basket
- Rice and Akshata (rice grains with Kumkum / Halad) about one pound each.
- Udbatti and Udbatti holder ( cut potato works well), Coconuts(3), Halad, (5-6 spoons) Kunku( 5-6 spoons) , Niranjan(aarati)
- Gandha( Chandan), 10 good size candles ( 2-3 inches high, 1 inch diameter), 50 Supaari (beetle Nut), a few Coins , 30 beetle leaves and 20 leaves from a tree like mango\ or any fruit tree in your backyard or from Red Fontana
- Bananas (8), Sheera , various fruits etc for Naivaidhya
- Shri Ganesh Idol and Kalash (3)
- Water Jug , Sutra ( a bundle of soft cotton thread)
- Agni Kund and Fire material (I will provide),
- Matches, Ghee ( half a cup)
- Shankar-Parvati Idols or photo – for Bride’s only
- Symbolic Mandap ( I will bring)
If you have any further questions or comments, please send me an email at email@example.com.