Though a minority community in India, the Christians hold as much significance as any other community. Christian weddings are a spectacle to behold, with a host of rituals and customs that are hitherto unknown to the general masses. Christian weddings are much more than just a 'I do'. Let us unravel them for you...
Attending a preparatory course: Once the marriage is fixed, the prospective bride and groom attend a marriage preparatory course. They fill a form declaring every detail about their lives and take an oath on the Bible that they haven't withheld any information and that they are aware of the duties within a Christian marriage. Also, they are required to produce their baptism certificates.
Bridal shower: One of the most important pre-wedding customs of a Christian wedding, a bridal shower is a fun-filled, entertaining informal hen's party, which is hosted by the bride's female friends. A female get-together marked by dance, songs and joyful (sometimes naughty) games, the bride is showered with blessings for her conjugal life. Traditionally, the bride offers a pink cake (which has a thimble hidden) to all present. It is believed that the girl who receives the piece of cake with the thimble will be the next to get married.
Bachelor's party: This is akin to the bridal shower. Here, the male friends of the groom host a wild night for their single friend to enjoy his last stint as a bachelor. It is customary to raise a toast before the drinking begins for the evening. Once the toast is raised, it is customary to break the glasses to ensure that they are not used for a less worthy purpose.
His and her's pre-wedding party: Sometimes, the bride and the groom forgo their respective bridal shower and bachelor's to host a pre-wedding bash together for their friends. A combined get-together offers a chance for great social camaraderie and interaction for the youngsters.
The rehearsal dinner: Generally held a day before the wedding, the rehearsal dinner is to bring together the families of both the bride and the groom along with a few close friends. The groom's family usually hosts it while the wedding reception later is hosted by the bride's family. The rehearsal dinner can be an elaborate affair at a swanky place or an intimate gathering at the groom's place or any other chosen place.
Welcoming the bride: On the day of the wedding, the groom sends a car to pick up the bride to get her to the wedding venue. When the bride arrives, the best man welcomes her with a kiss on both the cheeks and hands over a small bunch of flowers.
The wedding mass: The bride accompanied by her father walks towards the aisle where she is finally received by her soon-to-be groom. The priest welcomes the couple and the guests into the church and begins the ceremony. The wedding mass begins with hymns and selected readings from the Bible.
Liturgy of the word: The bride and groom along with their close relatives read previously selected passages from the Bible.
Homily: Homily refers to the interesting lecture that the priest delivers with an emphasis on the sanctity of marriage. He makes it even more fascinating by punctuating it with amusing anecdotes.
The nuptials: The nuptials refer to that part of the ceremony when the priest puts forth a few questions in front of the couple as to whether they are marrying out of their own free will, whether they will love and honor each other as husband-wife for the rest of their lives, and whether they will accept children from god lovingly and bring them up according to the law of Christ.
The solemn promise: The priest asks the couple to hold hands and declare their consent before god and the church. The couple then takes their wedding vows. They promise, individually, to be true to the other in both good and bad times, in sickness and in health. They promise to love, respect and honor each other for the rest of their lives. The priest, joining them together in marriage, blesses the couple.
Exchange of rings: After the priest blesses the rings so that the couple lives together in peace, goodwill and love, the bride and the groom exchanges the rings with a promise of unconditional love and fidelity.
The penitential rite: This ritual marks the entire congregation present in the church confessing to god and to one another, their personal shortcomings, sins and failures.
Prayer of the faithful: Once the penitential rite is over, the priest conducts a prayer service for the newlywed couple. He calls upon the lord to bless the couple so that their love may grow into a stronger bond and become a blessing for them and for others. The priest also seeks blessings for the friends, family and the souls of the departed relatives of the couple.
Offertory procession: The offertory procession refers to the ritual where the couple makes various offerings (like the Bible, a miniature house, candles or flowers) to the lord. Each offering has a special significance attached to the newlyweds' future life. After the offerings, the priest gives the couple consecrated bread and wine which represent the body and blood of Jesus Christ. The ritual is brought to a close with the choir singing offertory hymns.
The communion rite: The congregation now receives the holy communion. This is followed by jointly reciting 'Our father', a Biblical prayer.
Nuptial blessing: The bride and groom offer a thanksgiving prayer to god. The priest concludes the ceremony with a final blessing followed by a prayer. The congregation joins in to bless the newlywed couple. Finally, the priest and the couple sign the church register that serves as a valid legal document of marriage. A copy of this document is then sent to the registrar of marriages.
The recessional: This marks the end of the wedding ceremony. The bride and groom, followed by the marriage procession, walks down the aisle and steps out of the church. As they walk out, the organist plays the tune of the recessional hymn.
The reception: In a Christian wedding, the reception is the only post-wedding ritual. The newlyweds enter the venue, who are welcomed by showers of confetti and a live band playing foot-tapping numbers. The wedding cake is cut and they feed each other a bite of the first slice, the rest being distributed amongst the guests. The toastmaster proposes a toast in the newlyweds' honor. The evening gets going with the couple's 'first dance'. While they are waltzing, the bride's parents join in, followed by the best man, the bridesmaid and the groom's parents. Soon, all guests are seen joining in. Once dinner is over, the couple takes everyone's leave to push off for their honeymoon or their first night together. The wedding festivities come to an end with the bride throwing her bunch of flowers behind her, with a popular belief that the girl who catches it will be the next one to be married.