Celebrating Union of Man and Woman — Marriage Ceremonies Worldwide

TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 19 Feb 2018

Ravi P Bhatia – TRANSCEND Media Service

19 Feb 2018 – Marriages are a source of joy and happiness for all families and continuity of one’s existing family to the next generation.  All communities celebrate marriages in their own individual manner that depends on their cultures, religions, ethnicity and not least, their financial and social status.

In Christian communities, marriages are solemnized in a Church in front of a statue of Christ and Mother Mary by a Priest or a Pastor who after the necessary rituals like readings from the Bible, exchanging of rings, etc., blesses the couple and pronounces them as husband and wife. The significance of this is that the marriage is being solemnized before God. The newly married couple and their families, according to the Bible, are required to eat bread and drink wine, thereby symbolically remembering Jesus Christ’s last meal before he died. The ceremony varies from country to country and also varies somewhat between Protestant and Catholic marriages.

Muslim marriages   called nikah are solemnized before a Muslim Imam or Qazi, who is authorized to perform nikah. The marriage ceremony is fairly simple with the groom and the bride sitting separately and a few persons present as witnesses. The Imam asks the bride if she accepts the groom as her husband. When she says qabool (yes to the marriage proposal), the question is asked from the groom if he accepts the woman sitting separately from him, as his wife. When he replies in the positive, the Imam reads from the Quran and declares the man and woman as husband and wife joined together in holy matrimony. Even if the bride does not concur to the marriage proposal in words, a simple nodding of her head is enough.

Since the Muslims are scattered all over the world there is a great variety of customs in Muslim marriages. Generally, the ceremony should take place in a mosque but in many regions, the venue of the nikah is the bride’s place or someplace arranged by the bride’s family. According to Muslim custom, nikah is a contract with the husband declaring a certain amount of money as mehr to his wife. As per the Quran, there is no music while the nikah ceremony is going on.

A Jewish wedding between the groom and the bride is also a contract called Ketuvah. It is a relatively simple ceremony with exchange of rings and readings from their holy book. The contract lists the duties/obligations of the husband towards his wife, such as providing shelter, food, clothing and taking care of his wife in all situations. The ceremony takes place under a canopy where the bride has to walk around the groom seven times. Again since the Jews are scattered in many countries the ceremony can vary from region to region.

Hindu marriages are usually much more elaborate as well as fairly expensive. The ceremony consists of the groom coming to the bride’s home (usually on horseback) and is welcomed by the parents and elders of the bride’s family and then is escorted to the venue of the marriage ceremony. This consists of a small pit where a fire is lit and a Hindu pundit (priest) is there to conduct the wedding ceremony. He chants relevant Sanskrit mantras and asks the groom and the bride to walk around the fire seven times before they become husband and wife.

Of course, after the ceremonies are over, there is feasting, music and celebration and happiness. As expression of joy and goodwill, the new couple are gifted with presents of money or clothes or jewelry or some other gift.  The presents depend on the economic and social status of the families but are usually expensive. Marriage ceremonies of most religions and countries are usually grand, elaborate and expensive. It depends on the number of guests invited, the menu to be served, the value and number of presents to be exchanged, arrangements of stay for guests coming from outside the town where the marriage is being solemnized and other similar considerations.

How expensive depends again on the status of the family — usually the bride’s family. But even the poorest parent (of the bride) wants that the marriage should be decent and the groom’s family and guests should not have occasion to complain about the food served or the gifts presented. If the family does not have adequate finances, they borrow some money either from a bank or sometimes from a village money-lender at a rather heavy interest.

Sometimes if a family has two sons (or daughters) of marriageable age, they try to find another family who also may have two daughters (or sons) so that the marriages of these two couples could be conducted together. This has several advantages – financial and saving on the organizational efforts of having two separate ceremonies instead of one. This is also advantageous to the guests especially those who may have to come from a different town to attend the marriage ceremony.

A generalization of this two-in-one ceremony is to conduct a marriage ceremony for ten (or more) couples together at the same venue. This occasionally happens in traditional Hindu marriages in Indian villages. Of course each couple is separately married but the expenditure as well as the organizational efforts are shared between the families of the young men and women. Again, the guests who attend the joint ceremony save time and travel attending this community marriage.

Another advantage of this system is that many guests come together and share their feelings, especially if they are meeting each other after a long duration of time. Environmentally also a joint ceremony is better since the amount of garbage produced is reduced. But organizationally it requires better skills to conduct a large ceremony and to ensure that things proceed as per plan and no family or the young couples who are being married face any difficulty or neglect.

However, some of the young men or women feel a little disappointed by this joint ceremony.  They feel that if they were being married separately in an individual ceremony they would be at the center of attention; this joint affair hurts their individuality and to an extent their privacy. Such a joint affair would certainly not be possible if the young man and woman were in love and were marrying without the consent of their respective families.

Economic, social, religious and cultural situations dictate how rituals should take place – marriage or any other type of community ceremony. A joint marriage ceremony has been devised by some intelligent people for families to come to share their joy together in the community; it also helps to economize on expenditure and to reduce environmental pollution.

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Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment, an educationist and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University.  ravipbhatia@gmail.com

 

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 19 Feb 2018.

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