Right from decorating the mandap to decking up the bride and bridegroom, Bengalis express their artistic exuberance beautifully. Bengali weddings are not conducted during the Indian calendar months of Bhadra, Ashwin, Kartik, Poush and Chaitra. The most peculiar part of Bengali wedding is that the bride and the groom's mothers do not witness the marriage
The engagement ceremony
Post confirmation by the family priest that the bride and bridegroom do no share the same same gotra or lineage, the Adan Pradan is prepared. The groom's family visits the bride's family for finalizing the date for marriage. This ritual is referred to as Paka-Dekha. This ritual symbolically conveys a message to the society that a marriage alliance is confirmed for the particular girl and boy.
Pre wedding ceremony
Aashirwad ceremony: Just a couple of days before the wedding, an auspicious day is selected for the Aashirwad ceremony. The houses of the bride and the bridegroom wear a festive look; with colorful flowers, diyas and the fragrance of agarbattis. Mango leaves are strung at the entrance and kept for a period of one year. Colorful rangolis decorate the entrance of the house to welcome guests. A small banana tree is placed at the entrance. A small copper pitcher, the mangal ghot with the Sri symbol painted on its side is placed under the banana tree. The pitcher is filled with water and a mango tree stem with five leaves is inserted into it. Elders of both families visit the other's houses to bless the bridal couple.
Wedding Piris: The bride and groom are seated on decorated piris (low wooden stools) during the wedding. This is considered a highly auspicious moment, conch shells are blown and ululation by women folks begins. The person who decorated the piris partakes special food - fish, curd, sweets prepared in his/her honor of services.
Dodhi Mangal: Around 10 married women go to a nearby pond, pray to Goddess Ganga, invoke her blessings for the couple, invite the Goddess for the wedding and fetch a pitcher of water. The bride and the groom are bathed individually. The bride's hands are adorned with the traditional bangles Shakha and Paula i.e. one pair of red and a pair of white bangles.
The women feed the bride and groom a meal consisting of macher laija bhaja (fried fish) and jal dhala bhaja (rice cooked in water). The next meal for both will be only after the marriage rituals are over.
Vriddhi: Invoking the blessings of ancestors by way of offering puja. The ceremony takes place during the marriage day, early morning.
Gae Halud Tattya: Sweets, gifts including a minimum of six saris and cosmetics - all for the bride are sent by the bridegroom's family.
Adhibas Tattva: Sweets, gifts for the groom and his mother are sent by the bride's family.
Snan or bathing: Bengali weddings usually take place late in the evening or at night. Late afternoon or evening, a few married women apply turmeric and oil on the hair of the bride and groom. After bathing, the bride and groom wear the new set of clothes presented to them by their in-laws.
Dressing up the bride: Surrounded by close friends and sisters, the bride adorns herself in all her bridal finery. The traditional wedding dress for the bride is a red banarasi sari. The veil covers her hair and the mukut is placed on her head. Her friends and close relatives trace the design of the mukut with the help of chandan paste.
Bengali bride makeup
Typically Bengali brides wear sarees in red, pink and maroon. Ornaments and other finery are arranged to complete the look. After the bridal makeup, the Bengali bride has a huge red bindi placed on her forehead. Artistic designs are made with sandal paste on her forehead. The chandan designs on her face can be made to match the mukut. A mukut or headgear is placed on her head. The Bengali bride wears three sets of bangles - the white shankha made of conch shell paste, the pala or lacquer bangle and the iron bangle.
Bengali wedding rituals
Arrival of the groom: The venue of marriage could be the bride's house or a mandap. Throughout the ceremony the shehnai is played. A typical Bengali groom is clad in dhoti and kurta, he carries a mirror all along till the completion of wedding ceremony. As the groom enters with his relatives, the women folks greet them with ceremonial ringing of bells and blowing of conch shells and ululation.
The wedding ceremony: The bride is made to sit on the piri and arrives at the marriage alter on the shoulders of her uncles. Conch blowing and clapping marks the moment. All along she keeps her eyes hidden with a beetle leaf. The bride wears a mukut made of shola. She has to wear the red and white bangles for about 8 days after the marriage. A white cloth is held between the couple. Once it is removed for the subho dishti, the couple take the first glance at each other. The priest hands over garlands to the bride and groom and asks them to exchange garlands for three times amidst chanting of mantras. This is followed by the custom called sampradhan wherein the paternal or maternal uncle of the bride gives her away in marriage to the groom. The remaining part of the wedding is conducted with the fire as witness.
Wedding games and food: Hiding the ring of the bride and groom, playing with a vessel full of rice are some of the wedding games. The menu remains almost the same in every Bengali wedding - radhaballavi, fish cutlet / vegetable cutlet (crumbed and deep fried), alur dam / cholar dal narkel diya, fried rice (steamed rice with vegetables and nuts in ghee), macher kalia, kassa mangsho, chutney, mishti doi / rosagulla and paan. A typical Bengali meal consists of polao (fried rice), kalia (fish), chingri macher malai (prawns in mustard gravy), alu dam, chingrir cutlet and luchi. Sweets include kheer, rabri, chanar payesh, khirer laddu, gujia and gaja.
Post wedding ceremonies
Basar Ghar: The welcoming of bride and groom into the bride's home.
Bashe Biye: Adorning the bride's forehead with vermilion by the bridegroom.
Bidaayi: Departure of the bride and groom to the groom's house.
Bou Baran: Welcoming the bride and groom. As the couple steps down, the women pour water on the ground right beneath the vehicle. The groom's sister-in-law holds a plate containing lac dye and milk right under the bride's feet on which the bride imprints the soles of her feet. The elders bless the couple as they enter the house.
Bou Bhat: Marks the first meal served by the new bride in her new home. The same day, the groom's father holds a reception.
Phool Sajja or Flower Decoration: The wedding ceremonies ceremoniously come to and end with phool sajja. The bride's family sends a new sari for the bride and a set of dhoti and kurta for the groom. The nuptial bedroom is decorated with colorful flowers