South Asian Wedding Traditions with the Father of the Bride
Almost every culture celebrates the role of a bride’s father during the wedding day. We’re probably familiar with American customs such as the father daughter dance at the reception, or the father walking his daughter down the aisle. But South Asian weddings have unique traditions that underscore the importance of a father in his daughter’s life. It’s interesting to see how different communities choose to celebrate similar customs, such as the giving away of the bride. We’ve highlighted a few of these traditions below, but will keep adding to this list as we learn about other ones.
Vidaai or Bidaai: giving away of the bride
Vidaai translates to “goodbye” and as the name implies, is a sentimental ritual during a Hindu wedding, where the bride bids farewell to her family. It establishes the bride as a wife and daughter-in-law. Don’t be surprised if you see tears at this ceremony, it is the most emotional part of a South Asian wedding.
The actual ceremony consists of the bride who is led in a procession by her family. She throws three handfuls of rice and coins over her head and into her ancestral home. This act symbolizes paying her dues to her parents, and a way to respect them for all they’ve provided for her.
Photo courtesy of Ramit Batra
Some brides choose to commemorate the significance of the vidaai ceremony by changing into a different outfit. For example, Punjabi brides choose to wear a Salwar Kameez or Anarkali suit for its comfort over a lehenga. PS – check our list of Clothing vendors for inspiration on what to wear at your vidaai!
The timing for a vidaai ceremony can vary – in most Hindu weddings, they occur immediately after the Phera ceremony, but Bengali weddings choose to celebrate the next morning or evening.
And would any desi ceremony be complete without an emotional song to accompany it? Here are some popular Bidaai songs that are played during the ceremony:
Kanyadan / Kanyadaan and Phere: father gives away the bride
A pivotal moment in the Hindu wedding ceremony is the Kanyadan, when the bride is formally given away to the groom. After she is led to the mandap by her brother or uncle, the solemn ritual of the Kanyadan begins. The father of the bride places his daughter’s hands into the groom’s hands to symbolize this important gesture of giving her away. It is only after this point that the pheras begin around the sacred fire called agni.
Photo courtesy of Lin and Jirsa
Punjabi / Sikh Weddings
Roka/ Thaka: Punjabi engagement ceremony
The Roka is an engagement ceremony that is common in the Punjabi community. It is considered one of the most important pre-wedding ceremonies, when parents give consent to the couple. To demonstrate this consent, the bride’s father applies a tilak to the groom’s forehead, almost like a mark. He offers some gifts such as sweets, clothes or even a ring. A similar ritual is performed by the groom’s father for the thaka ceremony.
Roka refers to the bride’s family visiting the groom, and the thaka is the groom’s side meeting the bride’s family.
Some of you may be familiar with the photo below, showing Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas’ solemn Roka ceremony.
This is the official engagement of the bride and groom (yes, another engagement party!) where the bride is gifted, in addition to a sari, an ornate chunni (scarf). This chunni is placed on the bride’s head, covering her face like a veil. But the father has a role to play in this South Asian wedding ceremony as well! The father of the groom plays a key role by placing dry fruit (meva) into the bride’s bag or hands and the parents of the groom also give her a date fruit to eat.
Photo Courtesy of Sikh and Dread
Fathers are not the only ones to be featured in desi weddings – often, the older patriarchs of the family such as grandfathers take part in the festivities. One such example is the milni. The milni is an entertaining start to the Punjabi wedding, when the families of the bride and groom meet prior to the ceremony in the form of a baraat.
While most only know about the festivities of a milni, it is also a formal introduction of the families. The priest formally calls up each side of the family, beginning with the eldest male relative (usually a grandfather of the bride and groom), who meet in the middle and exchange garlands.
Check out this milni from a wedding in New Jersey:
Mangalorean Catholic wedding
opsun divnchen: giving away of the bride
The Mangalorean Catholics have several wedding traditions that are unique to their South Indian culture. One of them is known as opsun divnchen, where the father plays a role in the giving away of the bride by her father or male guardian. The father takes the bride’s hand and addresses the groom’s family in Konkani, the native tongue of Mangalore – a beautiful South Asian tradition. The rough translation in English is as follows:
“Up to this time we have loved this girl. Today we hand her over to you in the hope that you will love her in the same measure”.
In turn, the bridegroom’s father or guardian also plays a role by giving an appropriate reply in Konkani:
“We are happy to receive your daughter and will love her and take care of her even more than you have given her and will look after her just as our own daughter”.