Bangladeshi wedding traditions has evolved comprehensively in the past few decades in tune with contemporary trends. Online matchmaking has replaced the role of ghotoks, the traditional matchmakers. The wedding fashion, cards, decoration, and food have now become more cosmopolitan and in tandem with the modern-day culture. The bridal wear is influenced by exotic wedding outfits from Punjabi, South Indian, and Afghan traditions. The traditional turmeric makeup has given way to cosmetics of international brands. However, the legitimacy of Bangladeshi wedding traditions and customs continue to occupy the central place. The hundred-year old prenuptial ceremonies, role of elders, and post-wedding rituals are there as before.
Age-Old Bangladeshi Wedding Traditions
When I got an opportunity to attend the wedding of two of my friends from Bangladesh, I was ecstatic to experience a new culture, savor famous food of the land, and have glimpse of extraordinary muslin saris. The bride and the groom were from families settled in Sylhet and Chittagong. While people in Sylhet are more inclined to traditional lifestyle, Chittagong is a cosmopolitan city. Again both the bride and groom are employees of multinational companies and had a love marriage. So I expected to see only glimpse of traditional wedding rituals. But my perception changed as soon as I reached Chittagong and met family members from both sides. True to the traditional Bangladeshi wedding extravaganza, the marriage ceremonies were spread over several days and included many rituals.
The marriage rituals began with Mehendi Sondha or henna ceremony. The bride’s hands and feet were decorated with henna. Little girls sitting beside the bride also had henna decoration. There was a small ladies-only party in the bride’s house. The next day we attended ‘Gaye Holud’ ceremony again at the bride’s place. The groom’s family visited the bride and presented her gifts, including necklace, sari, and traditional presents. The bride touched the feet of elders and sat on the ground at an elevated place. Guests put turmeric paste brought by the would-be in-laws on her face and body. The next day, we attended the same festival at the groom’s place. During these festivals, women wore orange colors. Both ceremonies were followed by sumptuous feast.
The third day was the day of wedding. Both the groom and the bride sat at some distance surrounded by their relatives. A Kazi, the Muslim priest, solemnized the marriage. He asked both the bride and the groom for their consent and declared the marriage solemnized. The groom’s family gave ‘mahr’ or monetary compensation to the bride. Formal papers were also signed in the presence of witness. Then the couple sat together and a mirror was placed in front of them. The groom had to see the bride on the mirror and praise her beauty in romantic words and feed her sweets. Music, dance, and feast followed the marriage ceremony.
Reception or Walima was organized at the groom’s house on the very next day. It was again a pompous display of fashionable attire, decoration, entertainment, and food. The couple visited the bride’s home two days after the marriage and her entire family was invited to have meals at the groom’s house as per Bangladeshi traditions.
Modern Trends Complement Bangladeshi Wedding Traditions
I am profusely charmed seeing that traditional Bangladeshi wedding customs are fully followed. However, there are distinctive contemporary marks in traditional Bangladeshi weddings. Whereas the women continue to be traditional in their attire, the men and kids prefer western outfits and fashionable clothes. Lehengas have replaced saris as the popular choice. Even brides prefer this non-Bangladeshi attire as their wedding dress. The food has gone beyond traditional limits of rice and fish and now includes Indian, Chinese, Italian, and continental types. Lights and other decorative elements complement traditional flower decoration. The entertainment program now includes western dances and film songs along with traditional music and quawali. Gone are days when the bride and groom are not allowed to meet three days before their wedding. Now they can talk over cell phones and even do shopping together. Though the marriage has more traditional features, the pre- and post-wedding ceremonies are scant depiction of the customs of the past and have adopted the changing times effectively.