A Sikh wedding, or Anand Karaj, is a very family-oriented event with a festive atmosphere. Marriages are usually arranged by the families, in agreement with the bride and groom. Increasingly the couple choose each other and then seek the approval of their families.
The Official Sikh Code of Conduct expressly forbids any sort of dowry arrangement, and any two Sikhs may be joined in matrimony regardless of caste, race or lineage. The ceremony can be performed in any Gurdwara (temple), or in a home where the Sikh Holy Scripture has been respectfully installed, but may not be performed in a hotel or banqueting hall. Anand Karaj is not restricted to certain dates or times, but is usually conducted in the mornings and takes several hours at most.
The Kurmai is the traditional Sikh engagement ceremony, sometimes performed a weekend before the wedding. If it takes place in the Gurdwara it will involve prayer, hymns and a meal, but if it is held at the groom's home the bride's family visit for a short time and present the groom with Indian sweets. In return the groom's family present the bride with an Indian suit and some sweets.
Guests should never wear white (it is deemed unlucky), but instead wear deep, vibrant colours such as red and purple pashmina; men and women must wear a head covering. Shoes are removed at the venue's entrance.
Variations in the Anand Karaj ceremony tend to be minimal. In the West, weddings are usually a one- or two-day affair; the wedding either occurs in the morning followed by a dinner and dance, or the religious ceremony and banquet take place on consecutive days.
On the day, the bride's family wait in the venue and the groom arrives with his family in procession, traditionally on horseback. There may be a light meal before the ceremony, and garlands are exchanged. Male and female guests are normally seated separately, though non-Sikh men and women may be seated together.
The religious ceremony is conducted by the Pathi (any respected Sikh man or woman) and begins after the officiant has ascertained that both bride and groom are Sikh and has asked for public consent to the union. Every time the bride or groom stand or sit during the ceremony, they bow down to the Sikh Holy Scripture to show respect, with their foreheads touching the ground. The father of the bride makes a symbolic gesture that his daughter is leaving his care for that of her husband by placing one end of a sash worn by the groom in his daughter's hand.