Arranged marriage or love marriage, the most important pre-wedding ritual is the engagement ceremony. Engagement ceremony is almost celebrated since ages with certain variations according to their community and family rituals. This day, a quarter century ago my engagement ceremony was organized at my house; after a long process of mutual sharing of family background, marriage looks by the grooms' family and groom. I was working in a bank and my then fiancé in a central government office. I was working in a small town and he was working in a metro. I was told I need to adjust and get accustomed in the new house and with new relationships. Those days are colorful with a pinch of nervousness of how things would go etc. Amidst all this, my parents were busy in the arrangement of the ceremony, the first celebration in our family organized by my parents. My grandmother came to our house few days before the ceremony to guide and help my mother organize with the required arrangements.
Our family, relatives and my then fiancé family gathered to celebrate the ceremony on an auspicious day as soon as the marriage details were finalized. In south Indian families the presence of groom or bride is not compulsory on the engagement day. My then fiancé, now husband, took an excuse to miss it. The most important ritual was the exchange of tambulalu (betel leaves and betel nuts) with coconut, fruits and flowers between head of both of our families. I was offered silk clothes and jewelry by my in-laws. An auspicious day and time was decided for the wedding day after thoroughly looking into both of our horoscopes. The venue for wedding was decided, which is a kalyanamantapam (banquet hall) near my native village. The arrangements to be made for the wedding within short span of 3 weeks was the next discussion.
Later a sumptuous lunch was offered to all the guests present at the ceremony. My aunts were teasing me that “soon you will be married and may forget us”, “don’t forget visiting us when you are around here”. My mother offered kumkum and turmeric and clothes to all the ladies and tambulalu with clothes to all the adult men. All the guests said their goodbyes after congratulating the family and blessing both of us (though he was not present there).
Traditional ceremonies may be an excuse for the younger generation in the midst of western culture influence; but they are unique and memorable which can relate a sense of belonging to their own community and can cherish for life.
"Long engagements give people the opportunity of finding out each other's character before marriage, which is never advisable."-Oscar Wilde