Like any other Indian tradition, Bengalis too follow a series of elaborate and colorful rituals of great significance.
Ashirbaad - Similar to an engagement ceremony, it takes place a couple of days before the wedding day. The groom’s family visits the bride at her house, blesses her by showering husked rice and trefoil and gifts her with costly presents. Elders from the bride’s family do the same at groom’s house also. The ceremony usually takes place in the presence of a priest. It symbolizes an acceptance of the boy and girl on both sides.
Aai Budo Bhaat - This is a grand feast held both at both houses separately on the wedding eve with typical Bengali dishes. It’s just an older version of today’s bachelor parties, but thrown by relatives or friends and is made fun with songs and dances.
Vridhi -It is a pooja conducted at both the houses separately to honor the ancestors. It is usually performed by a paternal uncle and a priest sitting in front of the idol of Bhagwan Narayan, in a room decorated with alpona (Bengali rangoli).
Gaye Holud- Also known as turmeric ceremony, gaye holud takes place on the pre-wedding day, first at the groom’s house. For the bride's gaye holud, the groom's family except the groom go in a procession to the bride's home carrying a wedding outfit, turmeric paste, henna, and gifts. They are welcomed with the blowing of conch shells. The bride will be anointed with the same turmeric paste by five or seven married women from her side. There will be a feast for the guest as mehendi takes place and sends them back with gifts and sweets.
Dodhi Mongol – At early morning on the wedding day, seven married ladies will adorn the bride with traditional bangles shakha and paula (red and white) and feed her a meal of curd and rice.
On the wedding day, the groom’s family members, as well as his friends, sets out for a procession called Bor Jatri to the bride’s house and they will be welcomed by the ladies of the house with a holy earthen lamp, sprinkling trefoil, and husked rice placed on a bamboo winnow (kula).
Traditional Bengali weddings took place at bride’s house, but now a day, the ceremony is held at a venue near the bride’s house.
The groom seated on a low wooden stool called pidi at the chadnatolla (wedding altar) will be offered new clothes. Her brothers lift her and take round the groom seven times. This ritual called saat paak signifies that they are tied securely together for seven births.
The garland exchange (mala badal) happens soon after this and it will be repeated three times.
The bride and the groom are made to look at each other in front of the invitees (subho drishti). This signifies the official acceptance of their marriage by the society.
An elderly male member of her family hands her over to the groom and the couple's hands are bound by the sacred thread amidst recital of Vedic chants. Their hands will be then placed on mangal ghot - a brass pitcher filled with water and covered with mango leaves attached to a twig and a green coconut placed on it. This part of the ceremony is called Sampradan. The couple there after sit in front of the sacred fire and chant mantras after the priest with a belief that Agni, the fire God is the divine witness to their marriage (yagna).The couple takes seven rounds around the fire to solemnize the occasion (saat paak ).
The bride's brother hands puffed rice to the bride. The bride and the groom together pour it into the fire (anjali). The groom then applies sindoor on the bride's hair-parting as she covers her head with a new sari offered by the groom.
Bidaay - This is the farewell – a mixed moment of joy and sorrow as the bride takes blessings of her parents and relatives to start a new life.
Kaal Ratri - After the couple reaches the groom's house and the initial welcome ceremony (Bou Baran) over, they are separated for the night, to get a rejuvenating sleep and prepare for the next day's ceremonies.
Bou Bhaat & Bodhu Boron - A banquet is held to treat the guests who lavish gifts on the new bride and the bride prepares the food. The groom offers her a plate of food, along with a new sari as an affirmation that he is responsible for all her basic needs - food, shelter and clothing.
Phool Shojja - The couple will be left together alone in their room decorated with flowers. The flowers, clothes and sweets for the occasion are gifts from the bride's house.
Diya Gaman-As the newlyweds visit the bride's house for the first time after the wedding, the thread which was tied by the priest on the bride's wrist during the wedding rituals will be cut with a ceremony. Conch shells are blown along with ululation to mark the moment.