When it comes to getting hitched in Nepal, they don’t joke around!
Full of color, culture, and traditions, Nepali weddings can last up to four days! In Nepal, there are various castes, groups, and tribes so marriage rituals and customs will differ from one caste to another. For the sake of this article (and your sanity!), we will look at only the general customs that are performed in most Nepali weddings over the course of the two main days.
It’s also important to highlight that there are two main religions in Nepal - Hinduism, and Buddhism. Again for the sake of this article, we will be focusing on Hindu Nepali weddings.
Arranged marriages are still prevalent and common in Nepal, with the parents taking on the responsibility of choosing a suitor - normally within the same caste system. However, love marriages are on the rise amongst modern city dwellers with parents allowing their children to choose their own spouses.
But, before the couple can send out their ‘Save the Date’ stickers or invitations, they must consult a Nepali astrologer who will consult the stars and give them a date from them to wed. Marrying on a date given to them by the stars (or ‘the Gods’) ensures that their wedding will be blessed.
Now, onto the main wedding day!
The day kicks off with a ritual called the Janti which is a loud and cheerful entrance of the groom’s party. They will dance, shout, and sing along with traditional instruments as a celebration of ‘gaining’ a new family member (the bride). As tempting as it can be, the bridal party has to remain still and sullen during this ceremony as they are supposed to ‘mourning’ the loss of the bride from their family.
If the groom wants to be really fancy, he can rock up on a horse or a carriage, but nowadays, they choose to play this down and come by car. Once the groom has arrived, the bridal party must walk around the groom and his relatives three times while throwing lawa-aksat (popped rice) and flower petals as a greeting.
Tika is then applied to the groom’s forehead by the bride’s father and welcomed inside to sit on a wooden chair called the ‘pida’. The bride’s father then presents the groom with a kalash (pot) as a symbol of giving away his daughter to him.
This is when the bride appears. But there’s no waltzing down the aisle to her favorite love song. Instead, she is brought to the stage by her maternal uncle and hidden by a fabric cloth. Once she sits, this cloth is held up in between the bride and groom.
After rituals are spoken and songs are sung, the fabric is removed and the bride sees her husband for the first time (if the marriage is arranged). Then, the bride and groom exchange flower garlands as a symbol of consent and acceptance of the marriage. The bride and groom can have a little fun here as they compete to put the garland around the other's neck first. The winner of this contest will be seen as the more ‘dominant’ one of the marriage.
Next, the bride and groom sit close to one another as their hands are bound together with a cloth as the bride’s relatives wash their feet using a copper bowl. This ritual is called Godadhuwa.
Then comes the exchanging of malas in a ritual called Dubo Ko Mala. A mala is pretty much a grass garland. Rings are also sometimes exchanged. Finally, the groom applies a form of vermillion powder to the bride’s hair parting. Now, the couple is officially married!
In Western weddings, this is the part when the bride and groom run off into the sunset together under a rainfall of confetti. But in Nepali Hindu weddings, the bidai (goodbye ceremony) is extremely emotional. The bridal party starts to cry, sob and wail as they say their goodbyes to their beloved daughter (back in the day, this would be the last time they would see her) while the groom’s side celebrates the new addition to their family.