It’s not every day you have a combination of Sikh and Quaker wedding ceremonies, so when Caitlin and Harleen told us about their plans for such in Washington, D.C., we knew we wanted to be along for the ride. As it turns out, Sikh and Quaker traditions have much in common. As one guest pointed out during the Quaker ceremony, both profess ideals of peace, unity, and inclusivity, and that sense of love was evident throughout both days of Caitlin and Harleen’s unique celebration.
The day began with Sehrabandi, in which the groom got ready in his wedding attire and a ceremonial veil was affixed, this time by his beloved sisters. The Gurdwara, the worship place for Sikhs, is where final preparations were made.
Meanwhile, outside, a horse –yes, a real horse! — decorated in bright colors awaited Harleen for the processional known as Baraat. With veil in place and little nephew on his lap, Harleen rode on the horse down the city block to his bride. A crowd of family and friends surrounded him, singing and dancing to the beat of the dhol. Caitlin peeked through the window of the Gurdwara to watch Harleen approach, and some of the neighbors who lived near the Gurdwara came outside to wish the groom well. Despite the drumming and the laughter, the whooping and the dancing, Harleen’s nephew fell asleep — the cutest.
Before processing to the ceremony inside, close family members were introduced to the circle in what’s called Milni, and honored with a garland placed around their necks. Then, breakfast was served.
For the indoor ceremony, known as Anand Karaj, guests removed their shoes. Men wore a head covering (often a turban), and women wore scarves of different colors. Guests sat and kneeled on the floor. For Bec and I, looking down from above, we saw a sea of beautiful hues. Caitlin was dressed in a an arresting turquoise, which brought out her eyes. This ceremony, like the later Quaker ceremony, emphasized that marriage is an equal partnership.
After a festive lunch, a really fun tradition emerged — the stealing of the groom’s shoes. The wedding party had to negotiate with the aunt of the groom who stole the shoes to get them back, and these were serious negotiations! Finally, a fair price was reached, money was exchanged, and everyone laughed quite a bit.
We joined them the following day for their Quaker ceremony, which was another beautiful celebration deserving its own post.