A Guide to Punjabi Weddings – Chunni Ceremony

Last week, as part of my Guide to Punjabi Weddings, I explained the first stage of a traditional Punjabi wedding – the roka and/or thaka ceremonies. Now, for the next stage, I’ll be looking at what the chunni ceremony involves; the meaning behind it and have included a checklist of things you could need. I’m often asked what is given or needed for this ritual so all you need to know has been explained in the Epic Events blog!


The chunni ceremony is often referred to as the official engagement. The roka is an informal engagement when the couple are blessed and recognised by both families as to-be-weds. The chunni cements this and makes them official fiancés.

The ceremony involves the boy’s family visiting the girl’s house or venue that they have arranged to accommodate the guests. The boy’s family bring gifts comprising of fruit, Indian sweets, meva (dry fruit) and a complete outfit for the girl. Some families opt to bring many more gifts, although this is neither expected nor necessary.

Women who are closely related to the boy, usually his sister or sister-in-law, present the girl with a red outfit. Ladies in the boy’s family will then dress the bride in these clothes – in the privacy of a separate room of course! They usually bring matching cosmetics and nail varnish, which they also put on the girl.

Once the girl is dressed, she is brought back to where all the guests are congregated. The boy and girl are seated together, which is when the crucial ritual of the chunni charauna takes place. The boy’s mum places a red “chunni” (scarf) that corresponds to the outfit the girl has been dressed in, and places it on the girl’s head. Then she or other significant women in the boy’s family adorn the girl with other gifts they have brought – traditional jewellery set (which is usually gold), bangles, a red accessory in the hair and mendhi on her hands. The boy’s father will put handfuls of meva into the girl’s “jholi”. The boy’s parents will feed the girl a whole dry date.

Some families ask the boy to put sindoor (vermilion) on the girl, which is an Indian tradition originating from the Hindu community and can only be done by a man to his marital partner. It is a sign of a married woman. He will then put the engagement ring on the girl’s finger, hence this being the official engagement.

The parents will give sagan to both the boy and girl in the form of feeding them ladoo (an Indian sweet) and gifting them money. The rest of the family will follow and this is where youngsters in the family imitate paparazzi as they flash snaps of the sagan process!

Some variations exist between this ceremony in India and abroad. In India, the girl will also put a ring on the boy’s hand during the chunni ceremony because they do not exchange wedding bands in India. Some families opt to feed the girl boiled rice and milk in place of ladoo, but generally the concept is to feed her something sweet.


The meaning behind gifting the girl a red outfit and dressing her represents the boy’s family’s acceptance of her as their prospective daughter-in-law. This is why there is emphasis on them dressing her. It is called the chunni charauna ceremony because crucially, the boy’s mother will put the chunni on the girl’s head to dress her like a bride. The boy’s father fills her jholi with handfuls of meva as a symbolic token of welcoming her to the family.

Chunni Checklist

This is a general guide of what the boy’s family will take to the chunni ceremony:

  • Red outfit – could be lengha or sari but is usually a salwar suit
  • Fruit, which is usually presented in a basket
  • Meva (dry fruit) that must be made of an odd number of ingredients (5, 7 or 9), which could include almonds, raisins, mishri (crystallised sugar lumps), cardamom, cashew nuts, coconut flakes and dates
  • Indian sweets – ladoo are traditionally fed to the boy and girl but other Indian sweets could be gifted additionally, and/or chocolates or sweets.
  • Accessories with the red outfit – traditional jewellery set (usually made of gold), bangles, bindis, red ribbon for the hair
  • Mendhi
  • Sindoor – optional and depends on the family
  • Make-up, which usually consists of lipstick, eye-liner and eye-shadow although it is not limited to just these cosmetics.
  • Bag and/or shoes – optional to add additional accessories to the girl’s outfit although some traditional families may not favour the idea of gifting their prospective bride with shoes before marriage.
  • A simpler red chunni that the girl could wear when her outfit has been changed but before the boy’s mother has put the official chunni on her head
  • Red handkerchiefs (or something similar) for the bride and groom to hold their sagan money.
  • Flowers – optional for the boy to gift his prospective wife.
  • And don’t forget the all-important engagement ring!

So this is the chunni ceremony. It can take place any time after the roka and before the wedding day. It’s now common for the function to be held at a venue to accommodate all guests and even a DJ to keep everyone entertained!
And following this is the kurmai, which I’ll be explaining next week so please continue your support by following the Epic Events blog.

If you’re planning your chunni ceremony, give us a call to find out how we at Epic Events could help!

About Raj Kaur Bilkhu-Sohal

Raj Kaur Bilkhu-Sohal is a journalist from Birmingham, who now lives in London.
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50 Responses to A Guide to Punjabi Weddings – Chunni Ceremony

  1. Pingback: A Guide to Punjabi Weddings – wedding day (part 3) | Epic Events

  2. Pingback: A Guide to Punjabi Weddings | Epic Events

  3. Gursharon kaur says:

    this was very helpful as i am planning my chuni at the moment, it has gave me a in depth explanation of what it is and what to expect.Thank you

  4. ekta says:

    I like ur guide thanx…its so helpful…

  5. Vidya bhogal says:

    I think it’s fantastic the depth you have gone into , it’s my sons chunni in June , with the list it just makes night time bearable , as I am a worrier , both my daughters are happily married so everything is opposite now to girls wedding and it gets confusing sometimes . Thank you so much for the info

    • Raj Bilkhu says:

      You’re very welcome! I was compelled to write this guide after so many people asked the usual questions – what do I need, what does this ceremony involve and how has this tradition come about.

      I’m so glad it’s working as intended! All the best on your son’s wedding.

  6. hari says:

    please do same for marriage also

  7. Johnk678 says:

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  8. Herjeet says:

    We’ll you have said a lot for boys side…what about girl and her parents roll

  9. Anonymous says:

    Do the girls parents give a gift to the boy?

    • Raj Bilkhu says:

      On the chunni ceremony, the grooms family have come to the bride’s house/function venue so they bring the gifts. However, many bride’s families will give the groom’s immediate family gifts, such as clothes or money – this depends on traditions from family to family.
      Only the bride is given an engagement ring and both the bride and groom exchange rings at the civil marriage.
      Hope that helps!

      • Chandri Atmaram says:

        what is the amount of money given to the boy? a Sri Lankan friend s daughter is marrying a SIngh from Uttar Pradesh. is that ceremonies different? like for Roka, Shagun, Chunni etc

      • Raj Bilkhu says:

        Yes, UP wedding traditions are different to Punjabi traditions. The amount of money you gift to the bride or groom is entirely down to personal preference.

  10. rittu says:

    Hi I am making baskets with all the shagun stuff for my soon to be sis in law and I am told to put coconuts how many should I put my mom told me it was 1 and half please let me know

  11. Neera says:

    Hi Raj
    Is it ok for me to pass on my chuni to my future daughter in law on the chuni ceremony. It is beautiful , I used it in the first few years on karwa chauth but not any more as I just cant be bothered to take it out of the attic. The ceremony is in a couple of weeks time

    • Raj Bilkhu says:

      Hi Neera
      That sounds like a lovely idea. Although some women wear their wedding chunni on their son’s wedding during the paani vaar (when the bride comes home for the first time).
      If thats not a tradition in your house then by all means give it to your daughter in law. However you will need to give her an outfit too.
      Hope that helps

  12. taj says:

    is there a specific time a chunni should be? Can it be combined with a Sangeet and do it in the evening?

    • Raj Bilkhu says:

      Hi Taj. No there’s no specific time but if its close to the wedding then it tends to be before the first maiyan (vatna) which is usually the same day as the sangeet. The bride to be would have maiyan on her and is not meant to wash it off until the wedding day. Although nowadays families tend to go with what is most convenient to them so its individual to the family. Hope that helps.

  13. Des says:

    Raj. Thank you for details. I am an english guest of the bride to a forthcoming ceremony. What is a normal present you give to the happy couple? // Des

  14. neets says:

    hi it’s my brothers wedding in Dec and the chunni ceremony in 2 weeks time. please can you share basket ideas and how to decorate them? thanks

  15. Sabrina says:

    In the makeup for the bride you mention lipstick, eyeliner and lipstick again (maybe this was a typo?). What should the 3rd item be?

    • Raj Bilkhu says:

      Oh, thanks for pointing out the error! I meant to write eye-shadow but as mentioned; it’s not limited to this. Some people give additional items like blusher or more than one lipstick. It’s down to personal preference.
      Hope that helps.

  16. Manpreet says:

    Thnq . it helped me to complete my punjabi assignment. it could’nt find appropriate info but ur site helped me . thank u again!!

  17. Anonymous says:

    Hi the hardest thing to find if not traveling to India is what things I meet to shop for my sons sikh wedding where to get the sword the turban to match how long to get the scarf he holds for lava the fiNE details

  18. Rachna Bhaskar says:

    The checklist is very helpful… You could give more details like how much shagan and how many sweet boxes…later you could also tell us what is to be given to close relations other than sweets after the wedding.

  19. Kelly Kamboj says:

    Thank you so much for all this information about Punjabi weddings, it’s my daughters wedding in August and we have no elders in our family to guide us on the old traditions so once again thank you so much.

  20. Manjit Kaur says:

    Hello, can the rings b exchanged on the same day of wedding in Sikh marriage?

    • Raj Bilkhu says:

      Yes, a chunni ceremony is not essential, nor is an engagement ceremony. Many couples in Britain perform the civil marriage (registry) on the day of the wedding at the gurdwara (which is licensed to perform this) and exchange rings then.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Very useful information. We are having the Roka at my house and I am glad I came across your site. The Chunni is next year and the wedding the following year….. times have changed and some of the traditions slightly different. Its nice when you explained the reason for the ceremony too. Thank you

  22. Renee says:

    Hi Raj! Just commenting to say that your Guide to a Punjabi Wedding is great, and I think it’s amazing that you take the time to respond to people even years after this post was made. You are a genuinely kind-hearted individual, best wishes.

  23. Karen Roth says:

    Hello. My neighbors invited us to thier daughters engagement party this weekend. (Punjabi) I am not sure what is an appropriate gift for them. The last event we went to everyone was dressed to the nines in thier beautiful suits. So i will definitely dress up this time, but want to make sure we bring a nice gift. Suggestions?

    • Raj Bilkhu says:

      Haha! Oh yes, Punjabis like to dress up in bright, bold colours.
      There isn’t a defined gift to give. But most couples I come across prefer monetary gifts or vouchers. After all, there are only so many vases or toasters you could have 🙂

  24. Jas says:

    Excellent discription of punjabi ceremony!! I really enjoyed reading it!! Keep it up!! Look forward to next one..

  25. rumnitron says:

    Hi, I am curious about something. I recently attended a Punjabi wedding. I went to the venue at 7:30 pm, as mentioned on the invite, but there was hardly a soul present. Guests started to arrive after 8 but neither the bride nor the groom had arrived. Also, the buffet was closed – only starters were being served. I waited till 9:30 but still no sign of bride, groom or buffet. After that I had to leave. Is this usual for a Punjabi wedding? At what time should someone reach the venue so as to meet the bride and groom?

    • Raj Bilkhu says:

      Hi – interesting question to which there is no clear answer. Ever heard of “Indian timing”..? Generally, we don’t go per programme. I tend to arrive an hour after the given time and so far the theory has worked!

  26. Jay says:

    Hi, what is a Jholi? I’m marrying into a punjabi family but they don’t really know the rituals either so i need to research on it all. thanks 🙂

    • Raj Bilkhu says:

      Hi Jay – I think by jholi you might be referring to when sagan/blessings are offered to a bride or groom. A scarf (dupatta) or large hanky (ramaal) is placed in their lap where relatives will place their gifted money. During a chunni ceremony, the bride’s jholi is also filled with dried fruit and nuts. The same is done to the groom at the kurmai ceremony.

  27. Taj kaur says:

    Thank you for this support we are marrying our first child both of us are born and bred in the uk our parents both sides give conflicting advice and keep highlighting that the kids these days do what they want so do as you please which is of no help the older generation are seeing a lot of changes and don’t like it but they have over done and made the weddings too stressful I keep telling all our relative no suits are to be given and don’t expect which is not going down too well but it’s part of making things easier on the day

    • Hi Taj, glad you found this useful. Not many families give suits now. It’s an unnecessary tradition that adds too much financial pressure on the bride’s family. I suppose real change will only come when we take a stand against such pointless customs. All the best at your child’s wedding.

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