Importance of the Engagement Ceremony
The engagement ceremony which is also known as the sagai, mangni or nischitartham in different parts of the country, precedes the wedding. It is held a few months before the wedding or in some cases, a day or two prior to it. The ceremony, as the name suggests, is held to make the engagement formal between the two families who agree upon going ahead with the wedding. It is the first ceremony that kick starts the Indian wedding preparations.
Many people outside India find it hard to believe the scale of the ceremony and how it involves so many rituals for an act as simple as exchanging a pair of rings. But such are the Indian wedding traditions – families are involved in all the aspects of the wedding. The families of the bride and the groom get together and the date that is decided for the wedding is announced. This formal announcement of the wedding date is the main goal of the engagement ceremony. The ‘lagna patra’ or the wedding invitation is drafted amidst hymns and prayers. It is then read out to the entire gathering to announce that a wedding date has been agreed upon. After the document is read, the parents of the couple proceed to sign it as a mark of ‘sealing the deal’.
It is after this that the ring exchange takes place. After the exchange the rings, the groom’s family typically gifts the bride a small piece of jewellery like a pair of earrings or bangles. The bride’s family also gives the groom a wrist watch or a gold chain.
Once the ring exchange is completed, it is time to seek blessings of the elders and also pose for pictures. This is followed by a small snack or lunch, depending on the time at which the engagement ceremony is held.
Nowadays, given the kind of tight schedules that people follow and the travel involved, families decide to hold the engagement ceremony along with the wedding itself. The wedding dates are agreed upon in a low key gathering in the groom or the bride’s place and invitations are printed. A day before the wedding, a small ceremony is observed where the couple exchanges rings – a mere formality to facilitate the ring exchange.
Given that it is the first ceremony that brings the families of the bride and the groom together, the engagement ceremony is very important. Also, the period following the engagement is very memorable and exciting for the couple who will be stepping into a new life together after matrimony.