Hindu Engagement and Pre-Wedding Ceremonies, Explained

Updated 10/23/16

Mark Eric Photography

From food to entertainment, from clothing to flowers, there's much preparation and anticipation that revolves around a couple's wedding day. In Hindu culture, however, some couples put just as much effort into their engagement and pre-wedding ceremonies as they do for the wedding itself.

Note that not all Hindu couples participate in the same traditions — it's a matter of personal beliefs and preferences. For those that do, however, it's an elaborate, ritual-rich celebration that takes place before the wedding itself. Sometimes it's a large celebration with family and friends, while other times it is a small and intimate gathering.

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Wagdaan & Lagna Patrika

After the groom's father gets permission from the bride's father to go forward with the wedding, the "Wagdaan" ritual may be performed. The couple also participates in "Lagna Patrika," which is a written vow to each other that the wedding will take place at a later date. These two are considered a formal announcement of the wedding, which will typically take place months later.

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Graha Shanti

Days before the wedding, the couple will participate in a pre-wedding ceremony called the "Graha Shanti." This ceremony begins with "Haladi," a purification ritual that involves massaging the bride and groom with fragrant oils and halad. Next is the "Muhurtamedha" a ritual in which the upcoming wedding day is formally declared, and "Sankalpa," which involves praying for blessings.

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Puja

"Most auspicious Hindu ceremonies involves a 'puja,' which is a ritual performed in praise of deities," explains Thusali Kashyap, who's from South India and was married in 2015. "Both families are present and there is usually an exchange of various items and gifts, such as outfits and accessories."

There are numerous pujas completed, and each have their own meaning and purpose. After the pujas, the couple is officially pronounced bride and groom, though they will not be married until several days later.

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Minnukettu

On the actual wedding day, the "Minnukettu" or "tying the knot," ritual occurs. This is the Hindu equivalent of a Western ring exchange.

"The 'tying of the knot' in a Hindu wedding is literally the groom tying several knots on a necklace tied around the bride's neck," explains Kashyap. "The necklace is then worn all the time and symbolizes a married woman. Married women also wear toe rings — on the second toes of each foot — that the groom places during the wedding. These two things are considered typical for a married woman."

Again, like Western weddings, each Hindu couple and their families celebrate their own way, so they may not do everything — or anything, for that matter — listed above. What can be said for certain, though, is that whatever the exchanges and rituals, it is a beautiful display of love.

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