The Sikh Anand Karaj (Ceremony of Bliss) is conducted in the Gurdwara (Sikh temple). The Baraat arrives at the Gurdwara with the groom traditionally on horseback along with a young boy. The close family and friends from the bride and groom’s side meet to perform the Ardaas (Sikh Prayer). This is followed by the Milni ceremony where members of both sides meet and exchange hugs, garlands and well wishes.
All guests then share tea and breakfast before assembling inside the main hall of the Gurdwara. As guests enter, Ragis sing hymns from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh Holy Scripture). Men and woman sit on opposite sides of the Gurdwara hall, equal distance from the Ragis and the Sri Guru Granth Sahib. After all guests have been seated, the bride enters followed by close friends and family members. The bride and groom are then seated in front of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
The ceremony officially begins with the Granthi (Sikh priest) asking the couple, as well as their parents, to stand up for Ardaas. This family Ardaas indicates the public consent of the marriage taking place. Out of respect, every time the bride and groom stand up or sit down during the ceremony, they bow down to Sri Guru Granth Sahib by touching their foreheads to the ground.
One end of the scarf that is worn on the groom’s shoulder is placed in the bride’s hand by her father, signifying that she is now leaving his care to join her husband’s. This is called the Palla ceremony.
The Granthi now reads the Lavan hymn of Guru Ram Das, which is composed of four stanzas. The four stanzas of the hymn describe the progression of love between a husband and wife, which is analogous to that between the soul (the wife) and God (the husband). After reciting the stanza, the groom followed by the bride holding the end of the scarf, walk around Sri Guru Granth Sahib in a clockwise direction while the Ragis sing out the recited Laava stanza. After each round, the couple sits down and listens while the Granthi reads the next stanza. The couple may also choose to stand between stanzas, as per the Rehat Maryada. The Ragis then sing the stanza, while the couple completes another walk around Sri Guru Granth Sahib. This process is repeated a total of four times.
After the Laavan, the Anand hymn by Guru Amar Das is recited, and is followed by lectures and Kirtan (singing of Sikh hymns). The entire congregation stands as the religious ceremony is formally concluded by the final Ardaas of the marriage. After this, Sri Guru Granth Sahib is opened to a random page and the hymn is read out as the day’s order by the Guru for the occasion (Hukamnama). Karah Prashad, the ceremonial sacramental pudding, is then distributed to everyone to mark the formal conclusion of the ceremony.
Following the ceremony, everyone walks out of the Gurdwara hall and is seated together and served Langar (a community meal).
Tips for non-Sikhs
Always remove your shoes and cover your head when inside the Gurdwara
Dress conservatively; for women, a salvar kameez is ideal if available. If not, a pant suit or long skirt is acceptable.
Breakfast will be provided before the ceremony and lunch will be provided afterwards
Ceremonies can last anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours so be prepared!
You will be expected to sit on the ground with the rest of the congregation.
Out of respect, guests are expected to not talk excessively amongst themselves during the ceremony.