Tag Archives: indian wedding ritual

Indian Wedding Ritual: Sisters Demanding Money

Context: The informant, AV, is an 18 year old student with parents who immigrated from India, specifically Gujarat. She’s been to multiple weddings in India, and observed this at her first cousin’s wedding. She remembers being somewhere around 5th grade-aged, and so she recounted what she remembered, with a general explanation. She doesn’t know if this is an Indian ritual or just a Gujarati one.

Text: AV said “When our cousin got married, he didn’t have any sisters, so me and my sister stood in front of his horse and didn’t let him through until he promised us money and silver chains. We were really young so I don’t remember it as well, but I remember it happening” and explained that essentially, when either your brother or a close cousin who has no sisters is getting married, you’re supposed to stop them from going into the wedding. They usually enter on a horse or in a car and they’re meant to walk into the venue, but before they can, you physically get in front of the horse/car, stop him, and tell him he’s not allowed to pass. He then is supposed to bargain, offering you money or gold or silver to let him pass. When it’s enough, you let him pass — usually now, it’s ritualized in the way that you push back like three times and on the second or third time you let them through.

Analysis: This ritual feels somewhat similar to the pranks traditionally played on couples during weddings, as a way of disrupting that liminality, except it’s specific to the groom and his side of the family. It’s a ritual for the groom to also leave the family; as the groom goes to the bride, the sisters will no longer be the most important women in his life, and they cede that position in a joking ritual that requires the groom to bribe them, proving how much he wants the bride. It’s a wedding ritual that rearranges the structure of the families that will be combining, and visually reorders the groom’s priorities. For the sisters, it’s also a form of letting their brother go, knowing that their relationships will fundamentally change, but disrupting that transition with this joking ritual.


Informant: SK

Ethnicity: Indian

Primary Language: English, Gujarati

Age: 24

Text: [SK] Indian weddings usually last a few days because of all the different ceremonies that take place. One of these rites is the Haldi ceremony, where family and close friends apply turmeric paste or water to the bride and groom to be. At my sister’s Haldi, we used water guns filled with turmeric water to drench her and her husband.

Context: The Haldi ceremony is a pre-wedding ritual practiced across most traditional Indian weddings. The informant noted that he participated in the Haldi ceremony at his sister’s wedding, as well as some of his cousins’ weddings. He mentioned that the ritual felt lighthearted and fun, but also made him emotional because it signaled the start of the wedding.

Analysis: Haldi ceremonies are rooted in the usage of turmeric, which plays an important role in Indian folk medicine. The plant is medicinally used for its antibacterial and antiseptic properties, but in many South Asian cultures, it is also believed to have the ability to cleanse one spiritually. Weddings are a transitory period, marking the shift from single to married life; purifying the bride and groom by applying turmeric paste or dousing them in turmeric water is a cultural practice intended to prepare them for the transition into this new era. Furthermore, the act of applying turmeric to the bride and groom is often turned into a lighthearted, candid act (as mentioned by the informant, who used water guns) as a preclude to the more serious main wedding ceremony. With only family and close friends being invited to take part in this celebration, the ritual also serves to strengthen familial bonds and other social relationships.