Sikh (Indian) Wedding in the UK

Seeing the colorful pictures of Indian weddings online, I’ve always wanted to photograph one myself. They say if you chase your dreams, they’ll come true eventually. This recent shoot was full of firsts: my first time photographing a wedding with around 500 guests, my first trip to England, my first Sikh wedding in UK, and my first experience with a ceremony in a language I didn’t understand. It was intense, knowing every detail mattered.

Sikh Wedding Traditions.

The preparations for such an Indian wedding begin long before the event, with both families participating, of course. They start preparing the sweets that will be consumed on the day, seemingly in quantities of not less than one hundred kilograms, one month in advance. A few days before the celebration, the bride undergoes the many-hour-long Mehndi ceremony, during which intricate henna patterns are applied to her hands and feet.

The preparations of the groom and the bride take place in their respective parental homes. The traditional wedding attire of the newlyweds is striking in its magnificence and the variety of intricate elements. The bride’s head is adorned with a shawl, while the groom’s head is graced with a dark red turban.

Symbolism and Tradition: The Sikh Sword and the Groom’s Arrival

The Sikh sword, known as a “Kirpan,” holds significant symbolic value in Sikh culture. It represents the Sikh’s duty to uphold justice, defend the oppressed, and protect the innocent. The ceremony of presenting the Kirpan to the groom by his uncle is a cherished tradition symbolizing trust, responsibility, and honor bestowed upon the groom as he embarks on his journey into married life.

Traditionally, the groom’s arrival at the temple on a white horse symbolizes nobility, grace, and the beginning of a new chapter in his life. The white horse is considered auspicious and is adorned with decorative embellishments for this special occasion. This grand entrance is accompanied by music, drum beats, and joyful celebrations as family and friends gather to welcome the groom to the wedding venue.

However, in modern times, variations to this tradition have emerged. In some cases, logistical constraints or personal preferences may lead to alternative modes of transportation. The substitution of a dazzling Rolls-Royce for the white horse maintains the sense of grandeur and sophistication while accommodating practical considerations. Regardless of the mode of arrival, the essence of the tradition remains intact, symbolizing the groom’s entrance into a sacred union and the beginning of a joyous celebration.

Sikh Wedding Ceremony in UK.

After the exchange of flower garlands near the temple, symbolizing the union of the families, the ceremony proceeds to a joyous tea-party featuring delightful Indian sweets and snacks. Following this heartwarming tradition, all invited guests convene in the main hall of the Gurdwara, where sacred hymns fill the air.

Inside the Gurdwara, the Sikh wedding ceremony unfolds before the holy scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib. Respect for the sacred space is shown by covering one’s head and removing shoes before entering. Gender-segregated seating places women and men on opposite sides of the “altar,” where the Guru Granth Sahib rests on a raised platform.

The groom makes his entrance first, bearing gifts of money and a new blanket for the sacred scripture. He respectfully bows before the Guru Granth Sahib and awaits the arrival of his bride. As a gesture of acceptance into the bride’s family, her father presents the groom with a watch, symbolizing the passage of time and the joining of their families.

The bride enters the ceremony accompanied by her immediate family, including her brother and parents, and takes her place beside the groom. Together with their parents, the couple stands for prayers led by the priest, who recites blessings for their union and imparts wisdom on their marital responsibilities while singing sacred wedding hymns.

Symbolizing the transition of responsibility, the bride’s father passes the end of the groom’s red scarf into the bride’s hands. This act signifies the transfer of her care from her father to her husband. Following this, the bride and groom circle the altar, with the bride holding the end of the groom’s scarf while her family members accompany her. Throughout this time, the priest continues to chant wedding hymns, marking this as the pivotal moment of the ceremony. Upon completing the fourth round, the couple is officially pronounced husband and wife.

As the wedding ceremony concludes, guests offer gifts and monetary blessings to the newlyweds before adjourning to a restaurant for further celebration.

Indian Wedding Photography in the UK: A Unique Experience

In my extensive experience with weddings, one aspect that stood out during an Indian wedding photo-shoot in the UK was the brevity of the session. Unlike traditional five-hour photo-shoots against scenic backdrops, this session lasted no more than 20 minutes! Surprisingly swift, it included a significant portion of time dedicated to the groom’s outfit changes. It was a refreshing departure from the norm, capturing the essence of the moment without unnecessary extravagance.

Sikh Wedding Receptions: A Festive Tradition

The grand entrance of the newlyweds into the restaurant hall is a spectacle filled with vibrant energy, marked by the rhythmic beating of traditional drums. Right there, amidst this lively ambiance, the couple cuts their wedding cake. And why not?

Why keep the guests waiting in anticipation throughout the evening when delicious treats can be enjoyed immediately? In fact, the food is already served on the guests’ tables long before the newlyweds arrive. Following Sikh tradition, it is the parents of the bride and groom who ceremoniously feed the newlyweds with the first slices of the wedding cake, symbolizing the beginning of their journey together.

In Sikh wedding in UK, the traditional concept of a late-night dinner, formal master of ceremonies, and competitive games for guests is absent. Instead, the Sikh banquet is characterized by a sumptuous dinner, setting the stage for a unique and joyous celebration. As the evening unfolds, the atmosphere is transformed into a whirlwind of excitement, with an infectious energy that sweeps through the gathering.

It’s a moment unlike any other, where everyone, regardless of age or status, joins in the revelry. From spirited grandmothers to playful children, from dignified gentlemen to graceful ladies, all dance with unrestrained enthusiasm, infusing the event with genuine delight and boundless joy.

The Ending of a Sikh Wedding in UK: A Bittersweet Farewell

As the lively celebrations wind down, it’s time for a heartfelt goodbye. The bride, along with her family, heads back to her childhood home, while the groom follows suit, ready for a playful tradition at the bride’s doorstep. Inside, they’re warmly welcomed, treated to sweets, and given gifts.

As the night comes to an end, there’s a quiet moment filled with emotion. With a handful of rice tossed behind her, symbolizing goodbye, the bride says farewell to her family, ready to start her new life with her husband.

    • Reply Bal & Anupe

      23.02.2024, 16:24

      Organising for a huge Indian wedding (about 450 guests!) in 6 months wasn’t exactly smooth sailing, however we were so happy when we finally booked Evgeniya as it was one less thing to worry about.

      Being a very fussy person (and having a creative eye myself), I spent a long time scouring the internet trying to find a photographer who adopts a natural, reportage style of photography. I wanted candid shots taken throughout the day, which told a story. I looked up photographers from all over the world on well-known websites such as ISWP, It didn’t matter to me where the photographer was from, I just wanted an amazing photographer to shoot my wedding in London! Evgeniya has a natural talent and passion for photography. Her customer service is second to none, she’s a consummate professional and takes her work very seriously.

      It was Evgeniya’s first time shooting an Indian wedding, and her first time in London. She didn’t know any of the rituals or practices, but oh my goodness – she was so attentive and always focussed, she didn’t miss a thing. In addition to this, our wedding day was exceptionally long, from early morning ‘til night. Evgeniya did not tire, she remained totally committed all day! We also want to give a shout out to Evgeniya’s second shooter, as it was not possible for Evgeniya to be in two places at once, we needed another photographer. Her work and style is also outstanding.

      Thank you very much!

      • Reply Jenny

        24.02.2024, 21:40

        Thank you for your heartfelt review, dear Bal and Anupe! It was an absolute joy to be a part of your big day and capture those beautiful moments. I’m so glad to hear that you were happy with my photography style and professionalism. It was an honor to document your wedding, and I appreciate your trust in me, especially since it was my first time shooting an Indian wedding in London. Your kind words mean a lot, and I’m grateful for the opportunity. Wishing you both a lifetime of happiness together!

    Write a comment