How to Plan a Bengali Wedding

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The Bengali wedding planning centers around the traditions and family customs that represent the culture of the South Asia Bengals. The celebration is elaborate with pre-wedding, wedding and post-wedding rituals. Each step of the symbolic planning process involves family members who help the bride and groom prepare for the wedding day.

The Engagement

The custom of Adan Pradan, or give and take, begins the engagement ceremony. According to Mislav Popovic, once the Bengali couple expresses their intent to wed, the family priest, or purohit, studies the ancestral lines to make sure the marriage is not between close relatives. After the couple is approved, the groom’s family visits the bride’s family in a custom called Paka-Dekha to finalize the marriage date according to the Indian calendar.

Pre-Wedding Rituals

Before the wedding takes place, many pre-wedding traditions are followed. The first ritual is Vridhi Puja, in which the bride and groom remember their ancestors. The couple is then given a bath in a pond by 10 married women where they invite the Goddess Ganga to the wedding as part of the Dodhi Mangal ceremony. While seated on wooden stools, or piris, both families exchange gifts. This ceremony includes the bride receiving presents from her in-laws in a Gae Halud Tattva ritual. Married women then apply turmeric and oil to the wedding couple as part of the Snan ceremony. The bride is next adorned in a new sari and conch shell bangles that have been dipped in turmeric water. Sandalwood paste is also placed on her face. The couple is then led to the mandap, the wedding ceremony destination, where they plant two banana trees and make alpana, sacred art, with rice paste.

Wedding Customs

The wedding ceremony begins at the bride’s house with her family welcoming the groom and his family by ringing bells, blowing conch shells and ululation. An elderly female relative holds a baran dala, a plate, and touches the groom’s forehead, then the ground and then his forehead again as a blessing. He is offered sweets and sherbet. The bride and groom see each other for the first time in a Shubho Drishti ritual. This is followed by the Mala Badal ceremony where they exchange garlands. Saat Paak is the next custom, in which the bride is seated on a wooden plank and is lifted by her brothers. She is taken around the groom seven times, which now signifies they are married. As a final symbol to represent the union of the couple, the paternal and maternal uncles of the bride give her away to the groom in the Sampradhan ritual.

Post-Wedding Traditions

The morning after the wedding, the married couple takes part in the Bashi Biye ritual in which the groom places vermilion, a red powder, on his wife’s forehead. The newlyweds then leave for their new home in a Bidaai ceremony. To welcome the bride to his house, the husband conducts a Bou Baran ritual. The wife of the groom’s elder brother holds a plate with lac dye and milk under the bride’s feet. She is then led into the new home. The final ceremony, Bou Bhat, celebrates the new wife preparing her first meal, called bahubhat, for her husband.