Since we wanted our guests to be actively involved in the ceremony and understand what was happening, we provided each of them with a printout of the program. The printout looked like this:
In case the text on the photos is not easily readable, here it is again:
The traditional Hindu wedding is a deeply meaningful and symbolic combination of rituals and traditions. The ceremony is about 4000 years old and traditionally it is performed in Sanskrit, which is the language of ancient India and Hinduism.
The Sanskrit word for marriage is vivaha, which literally means "what supports or carries." The Vivaha ceremony is therefore a sacred ceremony meant to create a union that supports and carries a man and woman throughout their married life in the pursuit of righteousness (dharma).
The witnesses to the marriage are the Gods above and the five elements of the nature around: Fire, Air, Water, Earth, Sky. Fire – the great purifier – plays a significant role in all Hindu ceremonies. The basics of the marriage ceremony are augmented and modified differently in each section of Hindu society by additional rituals suiting local conditions and needs. Thus the style and detail can change from wedding to wedding.
Our wedding ceremony will consists of the following parts:
1. Ganapathy (Ganesh) Pooja (Prayer to Ganesh, the Remover of Obstacles)
The wedding ceremony begins with the worship of Lord Ganesha, the remover of all obstacles and the provider of good luck. His presence is invoked to insure the successful completion of the wedding ceremony. Other pujas are also performed to invoke the presence of other forms of God to preside over the wedding ceremony.
2. Kankana Dhaarana
A sacred thread is placed around the bride and groom to protect them from evil spirits. This thread is then folded and tied on their wrists to signify that they are prepared to take the vows of marriage.
3. Kanya Daanam (Giving of the Bride)
The parents of the bride place hands of their daughter into the hands of the groom. The bride's parents ask the groom to except their daughter as his equal partner throughout life. A coconut is placed on top of their palms. The bride’s mother pours holy water from the river Ganga on the coconut while the priest invokes the blessings of the gods.
4. Mangalya Dharanam (Tying of Matrimonial Necklace)/Ring Exchange
The groom gives the bride a mangala sutra, a necklace made of gold that includes two talis or emblems representing each family. The mangala sutra identifies a lady as a married woman. The mangala sutra is the equivalent of the wedding rings, which may also be exchanged at this time.
5. Muhurtham (The Sacred Moment)
The bride and groom each place a paste made of cumin seeds and jaggery on each other's head with their right hands. After some prayers the cloth is removed and the bride and groom see each other for the first-time.
6. Paani Grahanam (Holding Hands)
The bride and groom hold hands as a symbol of their union.
7. Pradhaana Homam (Sacred Ceremonial Fire)
The bride and groom offer prayer to Agni (the God of Fire) and then walk around the holy fire four times, symbolizing the walk of life. Human life is seen to have four great goals called purusharthas: Dharma (righteous conduct and the fulfillment of civic and religious responsibilities), Artha (accumulation of wealth and prosperity by honest means), Kama (enjoyment in life) and Moksha (liberation).
8. Laaja Homam (Offering Puffed Rice to Sacred Ceremonial Fire)
The priest chants an ancient hymn of praise to the God of Fire (Agni) while the couple places offerings of rice into the fire. By this offering, the bride and groom pray to Agni, the ultimate witness to the marriage, for happiness and prosperity in their life together.
9. Saptapadi (Seven Steps)
The bride and groom take seven steps together, symbolizing the beginning of their journey through life as partners. These seven steps reflect their guiding principles in life. As they take each step, the bride and groom exchange the following vows:
Together we will:
• Support each other
• Fill our hearts with strength and courage
• Prosper and share our worldly goods
• Fill our hearts with love, peace, happiness, and spiritual values
• Strive to create a happy, healthy, and strong family together
• Live a long life in a loving harmony with each other
• Respect each other, be best friends and eternal partners
Upon the completion of the seven steps and the declaration, the bride and groom are officially considered husband and wife.
10. Aashirvaadam (Showering of Blessings)
The priest gives blessings to the couple. The newly married couple then seeks the blessings of the priest, family and friends. The family and friends bestow their blessings by showering them with flower petals.