I was fortunate to have the opportunity to give an explanation of the Sikh Wedding Ceremony, Anand Karaj, at my cousin’s wedding this just-passed weekend. The first thing I did when I opened my laptop to start writing was type “Sikh wedding speech” into Google to see if I could find inspiration. When nothing came up, I realized I was on my own. Not really, though, because my wife helped me a great deal. In the interest of helping anyone out in the future who may be in a similar situation, I offer here a slightly modified (to remove personal quips and mentions) version of my speech.
Vaahiguroo Jee Kaa Khalsa, Vaahiguroo Jee Kee Fateh
Dearest family and friends,
We are gathered today for an auspicious occasion. It is one that will forever bind the lives of two individuals.
It’s my honour to have been blessed with the privilege of giving a brief explanation of the Sikh marriage ceremony, which is called Anand Kaaraj and translated as the ceremony of bliss. It’s a beautiful representation of elegance, purity, and serenity.
These days, weddings in Sikh families can be a week-long affair or more, and that’s usually from events borrowed from other cultures to bulk that up. Now, those events are actually a lot of fun and quite wonderful in their own right. Relatives come from afar and close bonds are made as time is spent with one another. There’s much laughter and everything is busy with much movement.
Ultimately, the culmination of all that is what takes place here. We pause, take a moment, and in the tranquility of the Guru’s presence, come together to bestow love and blessings upon this beautiful couple. Anything or everything else can be stripped away, but this here is where the miracle takes place.
The ceremony itself is actually quite simple. Firstly, the scripture is our Guru, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, whom we hold in our devotion as a living being. And so, we seek permission from Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji by means of a standing supplication to begin the ceremony, and the Guru gives a Hukam, or blessed order. In this case, it is the blessings to begin.
Following this, the groom’s Pallaa - scarf - is given to the bride by her relative, which is usually her father. This affirms to everyone that the wedding is mutually agreed upon by both families.
There is a scripture written by our Guru in the 4th human form, Sri Guru Ram Das Ji, which is the Chaar Laavaa(n) - four rounds. These are four hymns that describe the progression of love between a soul – Aatmaa(n) - and the Eternal Soul – Parmaatmaa(n) – God.
The first Laav focuses on the instructions for a pious married life and there are three basic instructions: To embrace Dharam – Sikhi, meditate on Vaahiguroo – embrace and practice Simran (meditation), and to worship and adore the Perfect True Guru. With this, celestial bliss is attained.
The second Laav illustrates the vastness of Vaahiguroo, permeating all that is. This cleanses the mind of ego.
In the third Laav, now that the mind is cleansed of ego and there is an appreciation and awe of Vaahiguroo’s greatness, the heart’s filled with love and there is a longing to be One with Vaahiguroo and it’s by keeping company with saintly people that the path to Vaahiguroo is found.
The fourth Laav, Vaahiguroo Jee is attained, and there is peace and harmony. Night and day, consciousness is focused on Vaahiguroo. This is the ultimate destination for us, and Guru Jee lays it out in these four steps.
The Laavaa(n) are also representative of the progression of love between spouses. For each of these Laavaa(n), the Granthi, who is the one who recites and explains the scriptures, reads a Laav and the Raagees – musicians – then sing the same verse while the couple circumambulates Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. This affirms their acceptance and resolve to keep the Guru as their guide in embarking on their journey.
On the completion of these, a few more hymns may be sung, finishing with Anand Sahib, which is the Ballad of Bliss. It’s generally at this point that we all get very excited and the volume in the Darbar Hall starts escalating with the sound of us giving congratulations to the family and comparing notes on how beautiful the bride is and how oddly the groom walked. What’s important to note here is that the ceremony is actually still ongoing at that point, and we need to maintain the respect and stillness to allow this lovely couple to keep their focus, because what follows is vital.
Another supplication is made to give thanks to Guru Jee and ask for a blessing to begin the new journey, and it is with this Hukam that the ceremony is officially complete and couple begins their new journey.
What Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji says about husband and wife is beautiful:
ਧਨ ਪਿਰੁ ਏਹਿ ਨ ਆਖੀਅਨਿ ਬਹਨਿ ਇਕਠੇ ਹੋਇ ।।
ਏਕ ਜੋਤ ਦੁਇ ਮੂਰਤੀ ਧਨ ਪਿਰੁ ਕਹੀਐ ਸੋਇ ।।
They are not said to be husband and wife, who merely sit together.
They alone are called husband and wife, who have one light in two bodies.
With this ceremony, your individual souls are merged and become one. You begin this journey as one unit and have the love of everyone here today and the blessings of Guru Jee to navigate and share one life of betterment and truthful living. We wish you a lifetime of bliss and happiness.
While speaking I may have made many mistakes. I ask for the forgiveness of the gathered Sangat and our Satguru. Please join me in the Fateh
Vaahiguroo Jee Kaa Khalsa, Vaahiguroo Jee Kee Fateh