Hindu Approach to Weddings

I have been helping Hindu families in and around Connecticut for over a decade when their sons or daughters plan to marry. Very often these ceremonies have involved a Hindu bride and a non-Hindu groom or vice versa. Over the years I have been impressed by the genuine interest on the part of the younger generation in understanding Vedic wedding practices and the philosophy behind them. At the same time it has become clear to me that many parents may lack basic knowledge of the practices although they very much relish the fact that their son or daughter wishes to respect their heritage. There is a very simple explanation to this dilemma. Parents who married in India 20 or 30 years ago went through the motions in front of their own parents and supporting relatives. They were generally not expected to know the meaning of all the rituals. No one, least of all the officiating priests, insisted that they understand before they made the most personal commitment in life. It was even considered fashionable to look down on the rituals and consider the event as a social experience!

When young people approach me now asking me to perform their wedding, I am touched by their desire to understand each of the several steps they will be taking during the ceremony and I am happy to oblige. I first make sure that they want a Hindu wedding and are not doing it to please someone else. Most youngsters are concerned about the time it takes to complete the ceremony. I try and impress upon them the need to retain certain essential steps and that the time involved will depend upon how well they remember and perform what they have learned during the meetings with me. I emphasize the need for a good rehearsal to work out the logistics as well as the ceremonial steps with all the principals attending. We have tried to help families by developing a procedure based on the scriptures, with necessary variations to suit individual family traditions. Through this effort I have been able to convey to the families that the procedures prescribed by our ancestors are full of meaning and beauty as the scriptures charge the couple with responsibilities they inherit by virtue of the union.

The Hindu wedding ceremony is based on Vedic traditions and rituals originating in the Rig Veda, the earliest of the four ancient Sanskrit books of knowledge which form the basis of Hinduism. Conjugal union has always been considered an important religious celebration, defining the beginning of the third stage of earthly existence, the first two being childhood and student life. These rituals, which date back at least 5,000 years, form a significant dramatic sequence.

The format I have developed works well and is tailored to suit individual family traditions. In fact it is so successful that in one wedding between a Hindu bride and a Jewish bridegroom, the entire ceremony consisting of both traditions was blended and performed as a seamless wedding to the utter delight of both families. This was possible because during initial meetings we discovered certain essentially similar steps in both traditions. It takes some effort, some research and some practice but it can be an enjoyable and as well as a spiritual experience that the young people will never forget. It reinforces our belief in our ancestors and their vision. May those who unite under the banner of this great tradition benefit from the beauty, pageantry and depth of the approach that seeks to bring together two families for all time.