Weddings bring together two families with their diverse thinking and customs. In the traditional Indian wedding scenario, the families of the bride and the groom are strangers to each other. It is only during the course of the wedding that bonds are formed and forged. Hence, the wedding can go on for four to five days to allow the families to get to know each other. It is perhaps for this very purpose, that Indian wedding ceremonies incorporate a variety of games and humorous by-plays to allow the families and of course, the bride and the groom to get better acquainted.
Weddings are also tense affairs, so these games go a long way in diffusing the tension and providing light relief and amusement to all those who attend.
During traditional Punjabi weddings, after the baraat, the male relatives on both sides hug each other and get acquainted. While this goes on, the female relatives of the girl sing or recite sithanis-verses replete with humour and satire. These verses poke fun at the boy`s family, but are taken lightly and everyone enjoys a good laugh.
In some Tamil weddings, turmeric coloured water is prepared and everyone gets a good drenching with that. Today a mere sprinkle suffices as a symbolic gesture.
In Rajasthan, the bride traditionally attacked the groom with a sword. If he survived, he was allowed to marry her. With the change in times the bride now symbolically attacks the groom with garlands of the choicest sweets! This is a humorous event with the entire family looking on.
Other small by-plays like hiding the groom`s shoes or rolling coconuts add to the general mood of fun at the wedding.
In the Gujarathi tradition, the bride`s mother tries to pull the groom`s nose when he comes to the door. If she doesn`t, it is believed that he will keep his distance from the family.
Compensation, usually in the form of money, plays a major role in many wedding by-plays. Even in the north Indian custom of hiding the groom`s shoes, he has to pay for their return. The purpose is not so much the compensation actually received, but the asking and the receiving, which happens in the midst of much fun and laughter.
These games, have, over a period of time, lost their momentum and significance. Weddings, today, are not the leisurely events that they used to be. And even if the games are incorporated, they are usually symbolic gestures. But there is no doubt that these games and gaffes are an interesting and unusual aspect of Indian weddings. While the solemnity of the ceremony is undoubtedly preserved, there is an element of gaiety, of colour and laughter, which brings a special quality to every wedding.