A Malayalee wedding has the rare distinction of being the shortest wedding ceremony in the entire Indian wedding scene. Yes, rituals are present but only a handful of them. It is said that the Malayalee language is one of the toughest languages of the world. Well, can't say the same about their wedding. Short and sweet perfectly describes a true blue Malayalee wedding.
Muhurtham: This ritual refers to the matching of horoscopes of both the prospective bride and groom wherein the couple's compatibility is checked following which the muhurtham (auspicious time) for the engagement and the wedding are fixed. The ritual is presided over by an astrologer.
Nischayam: This is the formal engagement ceremony which usually takes place at the bride's place. Traditionally, the bride and the groom are not supposed to take part in this ceremony but with time, it has changed as nowadays, the couple exchanges rings on this occasion. Gifts like gold and diamond jewelry, saris and suits are exchanged between the two families. Guests are treated to a lavish meal after the ritual.
Sadya and visit to the temple: A day prior to the wedding, a traditional feast (sadya) is held at the respective houses of both the bride and the groom. The bride/groom is made to sit facing the east and is served a traditional five-course meal along with her/his family members. After the meal, the bride/ groom visits a nearby temple accompanied by her/his close family members to offer prayers to the Almighty. On their return to their homes, the bride/groom seeks the blessings from their elders by touching their feet.
Punyaha: As the groom arrives at the wedding venue, he is greeted by the bride's brother who offers him lemon and chandanam (sandalwood). Sacred water brought from a nearby temple is sprinkled on the groom before he is ushered into the wedding altar. At the altar, nirapara (a measuring container) filled to the brim with grains is kept. Also, pookula (an offshoot of the coconut tree from which the coconut grows) is kept in the nirapara.
Aayiramthiri: Around the same time inside the bride's room, aarthi is performed with an aayiramthiri (a lamp with multiple flames). This is supposed to cast off the evil eye and also purify the bride before the wedding. The aarthi is performed by a maidservant or an outsider, someone who is not directly related to the bride.
Kanyadaanam: The bride's mother and aunts bring the bride to the mandapam. At times, the bride is already seated when the groom enters the altar. Once the couple is seated, the father of the bride holds his daughter's hands and places them in the groom's hands as a gesture suggesting that the bride is now the responsibility of her husband. Once the ritual of kanyadaanam is over, the bride and the groom touch his feet and seek his blessings.
Thali kettu: The most important ritual in a Malayalee wedding, thali kettu takes place at the muhurtham decided. The bride's aunt hands the thali (mangalsutra) to the priest for its purification in front of the aayiramthiri. The priest then hands it over to the groom who ties it around the bride's neck at the most auspicious moment. They are showered with fresh flowers by the people present. The couple now exchanges garlands, following which they take their pheras. In a Malayalee wedding, the pheras (known as pradikshanas) are taken thrice (instead of the usual seven) around the nirapara (not the sacred fire). The ceremony comes to an end with the couple seeking blessings from their maternal uncles (of both the bride and the groom). While doing so, the couple hands over a betel leaf and a nut to the elders.
Pudava koda: This is another integral ceremony in a Malayalee wedding. Here, the groom presents the bride with two sets of clothing. One, a set of traditional Kerala women's wear pudava and kavani which are bordered with gold-plated threads and the other, a set of the traditional wedding sari arranged in a thalam (ornamental plate). The bride immediately changes into the pudava kavani. Later when she is ready to leave for the groom's house, she changes into the wedding sari.
Shadharmascharyatham: This is the last ritual that marks the end of a Malayalee wedding ceremony. Here, the newlywed couple offers dakshina (token gifts) to the priest for having guided them throughout the ceremony.
Thiruvathira: After the wedding ceremony gets over, the couple is taken inside where the bride's mother offers them milk and bananas. Generally the groom stays over for the night. At night, ladies perform the thiruvathira wearing cream-colored saris around the traditional lamp.
Vidai: The departure of the bride from the wedding venue takes place at the appointed hour predicted by the priest during the muhurtham. The bride leaves for her new home after taking the blessings from all the elders.
Kudiveypu: Kudiveypu literally means making a new home/family. At the threshold of the groom's house, aarthi of the couple is performed with a traditional lamp. The bride enters her new home by placing her right foot into it holding the traditional lamp in her hands. Ganapati pooja is now performed. The bride then boils milk in the kitchen to herald her inclusion into the new family.