A Guide to Punjabi Weddings – jaago night

We have almost reached the Big Day but before then, there is one more excuse to party – the jaago night. This is traditionally held on the night before the wedding day but some families opt to keep a day in between to recover!


The jaago night begins with another maiya ceremony. The significance of this was discussed in an earlier blog post.

Traditionally, the maternal family bring gifts, which is known as naanki shak. Historically, the maternal uncle would buy the bride or groom’s wedding day outfit. They would also buy clothes for the paternal family. This is a dwindling tradition.

naanki shak

Choora ceremony

Bridal choora and kaleeray

If it is a girl’s wedding; the next big aspect of the night is the choora ceremony. This is when the maternal uncles will put wedding bangles (choora) on the bride by dipping them in a milk and water mixture first. This is followed by adding coconut-shaped decorations that hang from a bangle or kara. During this ceremony, the maternal aunts will also gather around and assist the uncles in putting the bangles on.

This is followed by dressing the bride in a red chunni (scarf), and gifting her jewellery (often silver or gold). This is the wedding gift from the maternal family. The maternal uncles and aunts are then given milk to drink.

Choora Significance

Traditionally the bride would wear 21 red and ivory coloured bangles on each arm. Odd numbers are considered auspicious in Indian culture. Nowadays, the number of bangles worn and their design are now dictated by the bride’s choice. Bangles were usually worn by a bride for a full year as a symbol of her being newly married. The coconut-shaped decorations (kaleeray) were historically significant because many girls would be married in towns or villages that were miles away. As they were expected to be shy and reserved, they would seldom say if they were hungry. So, dried coconuts were given to them during the choora ceremony to wear on the wedding day, and to have as optional food when they depart for their marital home. Now, kaleeray are decorated as an accessory to compliment the bridal look.

Jaago significance

jaago being lit

And now for the party! Jaago literally means “wake-up”. Centuries ago, invitations were not sent to invite people to weddings. Relatives of the bride or groom would go around the village on the night before the wedding day with pots on their head that were decorated with oil candles, singing and dancing as an open invitation to attend the wedding. The candles were used for light as this is before electricity was established! The traditional folk song is “jaago”, so they would encourage people to wake-up and join in the festivities.

Novelty jaago clothes

Now, jaago nights are considered an opportunity to be creative. The bride or grooms siblings and friends will often dress up in traditional Punjabi clothing or comical outfits. Traditional Punjabi lenghas can be rented from Epic Events.

The aim of the night is to make noise and party, so not only will jaagos be carried (pots decorated with lights), decorated sticks (jaago sticks) will be banged on the floor and even a chaj would be banged (as pictured). The maternal and paternal families will often sing mischievous folk songs to each other.


Contact us to rent jaagos

If the jaago night is held at home, families tend to book tents or marquees. DJs are also booked to add to the party atmosphere. For more information on booking marquees, DJs, catering, decorations and renting jaagos; get in touch with us for a no obligation quote!

Check list

  • Maiya accessories
  • Oil – to pour at the entrance when greeting the maternal family
  • Jaagos
  • Chaj
  • Jaago sticks
  • Traditional novelty outfits
  • Book marquee/function suite
  • Book DJ

For girl’s weddings:

  • Choora (bangles)
  • Kaleeray
  • Bowl with water and milk mixture (to dip bangles)
  • Red chunni
  • Blanket (to sit on during choora ceremony)
  • Indian sweets (to be fed to the bride and maternal uncles)

Next time, I’ll be leading you through the day we’ve all been waiting for…the Wedding Day! Find out what you need for the day and what all the customs mean.

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A Guide to Punjabi Weddings – Mehndi and Sangeet

One of the most entertaining functions in a Punjabi wedding is the sangeet night, when excitement for the Big Day is expressed through song and dance! This is usually allocated as the Mehndi night too.


Generally, the sangeet night takes place two days before the wedding day. It is usually held in the evening at the wedding home – although many people opt for function venues for larger capacity.

There tend to be more women and children on this function. The evening begins with traditional folk songs; called kori’s (if you’re on the groom’s side) or suhaag (if you’re on the bride’s side). A good explanation of what these traditional Punjabi songs, and other lok geet mean can be found here. If you would like copies of common kori or suhaag folk songs then get in touch with Epic Events!

Punjabi sangeet theme

Once the night has opened with these traditional songs, the wedding guests are free to be as wild and fun as they please by singing mischievous lyrics, usually aimed at the close members of the family. This is accompanied by dancing.

Having a DJ is not uncommon, and is usually appreciated by the younger guests! We work in collaboration with Soul Sounds Music, who cater for all functions.

Arabic-themed sangeet setting

During the singing and dancing, food is provided and mehndi is applied. Although some people book professional mehndi artistes, it can also be applied by any creative member of the family. For the recipe, checkout this video.


In some communities, mehndi is applied to both the bride and groom. It is traditionally applied in intricate designs on the hands and feet, although it is not restricted to just these areas. Some wedding guests like to get creative and apply it to the upper arm, stomach or even their back!

For a bride, the longer the mehndi is kept on, the stronger the love between her and her husband is thought to be. And likewise, if the groom applies it too. Although, some communities believe the darker the mehndi turns out, the more the mother-in-law will like her prospective daughter-in-law!

In India, Memndi is worn by women for many functions and festivals. It is considered auspicious and a symbol of celebration.

*Epic Events Tip*

To enhance the colour of the mehndi, it should be kept on for as long as possible. To prevent it from crumbling off when it dries, dab a mixture of lemon and sugar on to it with cotton wool. This should only be done when the mehndi is dry. This sticky mixture helps to hold the mehndi in place for longer.

When you want to remove it, avoid washing it off with water. Instead rub your hands together. Then apply mustard oil. This oil can be applied several times to enhance or maintain the colour of the mehndi.

Check list

  • Mehndi cones – can be bought readymade or made at home
  • Lemon, sugar and cotton wool – for the locking agent
  • Mustard oil – for post-maintenance
  • Kori or suhaag songs – booklets will help if your guests don’t know the words
  • Music!

So this was the Mehndi and Sangeet night. Next week, we’ll be finding out what happens on the Jaago night!

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A Guide to Punjabi Weddings – maiya ceremony

We are fast approaching the Big Day in a Guide to Punjabi Weddings, and the countdown begins with the maiya ceremony. Traditionally, the maiya is conducted three times. This usually takes place two days before the wedding day, when it’s customary to start before midday. The second time is in the morning of the day before the wedding and finally, it is applied that night too. Both the boy and girl undergo the same process and after this they are traditionally confined to remain at home and not change their clothes! Why? – you ask. Well, read on!


Initially, a rangoli design is made in the garden or veranda of the wedding home. This design incorporates rangoli (coloured powder), flour and rice. The design could be as intricate or adventurous as you like! This is usually done by relatives from the boy or girl’s maternal family, although there is no strict rule to this.

A peeri (stool) is placed beside the design. This is where the boy or girl will sit and this should be east-facing.

The boy or girl are brought out to where the rangoli design has been made carrying a thaal (tray), which has vatna (mixture of turmeric powder, flour and mustard oil that is kneaded into a moist dough-like consistency), a fatti (traditionally a rectangular piece of wood), gaaney (auspicious red thread) and dupatta (Asian scarf).

They are sat down on the peeri, the fatti is placed under their feet so it is adjacent to the rangoli design. The dupatta is held above them by four people from each corner. The mother or any other elder in the family, wipe mustard oil on the boy or girl’s head with a few grass strands. Originally, the oil was applied to the entire hair, which has excellent conditioning properties. Over generations this has reduced to a few dabs on the forehead leaving them looking greasy until the wedding morning, which is when they could wash their hair!

Family and friends then begin rubbing the vatna on the boy or girl. This is concentrated on the face, arms, hands and feet. The maiya ceremony is a playful and cheeky affair when relatives will often mischievously apply the vatna on every available body part! Ladies traditionally sing jovial folk songs to enhance the celebratory atmosphere.

Once everyone has taken it in turns to rub the vatna; the mother attempts to feed a rice and sugar mixture to the boy or girl. Their sister-in-law (brother’s wife) playfully tries to stop the mother from doing this by smacking the mother’s hand away. This is another feature of the comical nature of the maiya ceremony.

Meanwhile, all guests are given a gaana (auspicious red thread), which they tie around their wrist. Designs can vary and people tend to be creative with bells and beads to accentuate the gaana.

The boy or girl is then led away with the tray in their hands and dupatta on their head. They are suggested to feed any singletons the remaining rice and sugar mixture as good luck for them to get hitched soon!

The boy or girl’s mother then clears the rangoli. Before she does this, she steps over the design either side seven times, then uses water to collect the rangoli to bring it to a paste. This is thrown over the house or on a rooftop for birds to feed from it. This is also considered auspicious. She will then leave three handprints on the house, because her hands would be stained after clearing the rangoli. This was traditionally done on the front of houses in India as a sign that it is a wedding house.

As I mentioned earlier, the maiya is conducted another two times. The second time is the following morning (the day before the wedding) but this is simply a process of the boy or girl applying the vatna to their body themselves. The third and final time is that evening, at the jaago night. This is another big get-together where friends and relatives will be involved.

Petals and candles to enhance design


Once the maiya ceremony has been done two days prior to the wedding day, the boy and girl are generally refrained from leaving the house (although this tradition is largely ignored now). The main reason behind this is to ensure the security and safety of the bride or groom-to-be.

They are told not to bathe or change their clothes until the wedding morning, which probably sounds repulsive! But the rationale behind it is quite the opposite. The clothes aren’t changed because otherwise they would be stained with turmeric. The vatna is a natural skin purifier so acts like a face and body mask. This is why it is applied three times before the wedding day. So the main purpose behind the maiya ceremony is to beautify the couple!


  • Rangoli – the quantity and range of colours depends on your design choice
  • Flour (just a handful)
  • Rice (just a handful)
  • Peeri (stool) – available to rent from Epic Events
  • Fatti (rectangular piece of wood) – available to rent from Epic Events
  • Vatna – made of turmeric powder, mustard oil and flour kneaded to a moist dough
  • Gaaney (auspicious red thread) – the number depends on how many guests you’re expecting
  • Thaal (tray) – available to rent from Epic Events
  • Boiled rice and sugar mix
  • Dupatta (scarf) – Punjabi’s tend to go for a traditional fulkari design
  • A few strands of grass
  • A few drops of mustard oil

Rent maiya accessories

Watch this space as A Guide to Punjab Weddings takes you through the Mendhi and Sangeet night when the festivities start mounting with plenty of singing and dancing!

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A Guide to Punjabi Weddings – Saahe Chithi

The next stage of a Guide to Punjabi Weddings is the Saahe Chithi, which is little known about until people have a close wedding in the family and they carry out this custom. It usually takes place a week before the wedding and tends to involve only close relatives.


The girl’s family prepare a wedding invitation for the boy’s family, which is splashed with a few drops of saffron. In India, the local barber is asked to take this invitation to the boy’s family and he is rewarded with clothes for doing so. Being asked to “be the messenger” is considered an honour for the barber. Although this is now a dwindling custom. Today, it’s usually key family members and/or the “middle person” (or matchmaker, otherwise known as bachola or bacholan), who will go to the girl’s house with the invitation. They may take gifts such as Indian sweets or dry fruit.


The traditional significance of this ceremony is to officially invite the boy’s family to the solemnisation of the marriage and implies that you should now begin preps for the wedding day. Although in modern weddings, planning could start years before to secure venue and temples on certain dates. But historically, weddings were a lot simpler and could be arranged within days.

The invitation is prepared in the presence of elders in the family, as a sign of respect. It is splashed with saffron, which gives a red stain. Red is the symbol of the renewal of life in Indian culture, which is what the marriage signifies.

The barber was traditionally sent as the messenger because historically it was considered discourteous for the girl’s family to visit the boy’s family too often. Also, travel was usually by foot so travelling to the boy’s house if it was in a different village or town could be timely. By rewarding the barber with clothing or some other sort of gift would be considered both charitable and auspicious to receive the barber’s well-wishes in gratitude as a result.

The gifting of Indian sweets or dry fruit is an age-old custom of not going to somebody’s house empty-handed, especially if they are your daughter’s prospective in-laws. There is a cultural bias for the girl’s family to hold the boy’s family in high-esteem to avoid any repercussions on their daughter’s married life. Although; opinion of this is subjective to each family.

Saahe Chithi Checklist

These are general guidelines. The “gifts” are not compulsory:

  • Indian sweets – usually laddoo or mithai
  • Dry fruit could also be taken – this is usually in odd quantities of the ingredients, for example 3, 5 or 7 ingredients mixed together.
  • Saffron
  • Gaana, which is a red thread used at many Hindu or Sikh ceremonies as a symbol of starting something new. This is sometimes tied around the invitation.
  • And of course the wedding invitation.

So this was the Saahe Chithi. Next time in a Guide to Punjabi Weddings, find out what the Maiyan or Vatna ceremony involves as we approach the big day – the wedding!

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A Guide to Punjabi Weddings – Kurmai Ceremony

The next stage of a Guide to Punjabi Weddings is the Kurmai ceremony, which can take place months before the wedding or just before the Anand Karaj (marriage ceremony). It is the equivalent to the chunni ceremony in that the girl’s family comes to the boy’s house or gurdwara where the boy’s family have held a paath (prayer). They will invite their family and friends. Traditionally, only men from the girl’s family would come but now anyone comes, except the girl – who is not meant to go to her in-laws before marriage, at least that is the traditional custom!


The girl’s family bring gifts of ladoo, mithai, fruit and dry fruit. The boy’s sisters will put a palla (long scarf) around the boy’s shoulders so he holds it open in his lap. The girl’s father will then fill the palla with handfuls of dry fruit and present the boy with a gold Kara (Sikh bangle) or watch. Some families may even gift a gold chain or ring. This depends entirely on the family’s preference. The ceremony usually ends with the boy and girl’s respective fathers putting a garland over each other, which is called a milni (meeting). The parents will then feed ladoo to the boy, followed by the rest of the family and friends who will also gift him money, otherwise known as sagan.


The meaning behind the girl’s family coming and gifting the boy is similar to the significance behind the chunni churaona – they are sealing their approval and publicly declaring the boy as their son-in-law to-be. In traditional Indian custom, the girl’s family never come to the boy’s house empty-handed, thus they bring fruit or Indian sweets. It is considered auspicious to bring something sweet.

The milni between both fathers at the end symbolises their union of families. However, this is not done if the kurmai is held on the wedding day.

Kurmai Checklist

Generally, the girl’s family will go to the kurmai with the following:

  • Gold kara (or whatever other gift they opt to give the boy)
  • Large amount of ladoo, which could be displayed in a box, tray or basket
  • Small box of ladoo – to feed the boy during the kurmai
  • Baskets of fruit in an odd number (3 or 5)
  • Dry fruit made of an odd number of ingredients (5, 7 or 9) including almonds, raisins, mishri (crystallised sugar lumps), cardamom, cashew nuts, coconut flakes or dates.
  • Garland for the milni

The boy’s family should be equipped with the following:

  • Palla for the boy
  • Small box of ladoo or mithai to feed the boy during the sagan
  • Large box of ladoo or mithai to gift to the girl’s family before they leave
  • Ramallah, if the kurmai is held at the gurdwara
  • Garland for the milni

So this was the kurmai ceremony. Now the boy and girl have been engaged and publicly recognised as fiancés. Watch this space to find out the next stage of a Guide to Punjabi Weddings, which is full of delicious food…the karahi!

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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!

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A Guide to Punjabi Weddings – Roka Ceremony

Punjabi weddings are renowned for being lavish and elaborative. If the rituals run consecutively, the average wedding would last a week. Punjabis are characterised by their generosity to guests with majestic dining and ample entertainment. The wedding is celebrated exuberantly with a remarkable splash of colour. Unlike other Indian communities, both the bride and groom’s families don’t shy away from the dance floor!


A traditional Punjabi wedding has numerous functions that lead to the big day. It begins with a roka ceremony, which is a simple event usually attended by close family. The function involves the bride’s family visiting the groom, in absence of their daughter, and giving the groom sagan (gifted money and he is fed ladoo). Some families opt to begin the ceremony with a small puja or ardaas (prayer), to mark the first step towards the wedding. This is followed by the groom and his family visiting the bride, which is often referred to as the thaka ceremony. The couple are given sagan together. There is often an exchange of gifts and sweets such as fruit, Indian sweets or dry fruit (meva).

The significance behind this ceremony is to declare that the boy and girl are officially engaged, thus they can openly court. It represents the beginning of a relationship between two families, who will then discuss a wedding date. Historically, this has been a low-key affair that has been conducted at the respective homes of the bride and groom. However, now it is becoming popular to hold the function in a banquet hall or hotel venue.

Watch this space in A Guide to Punjabi Weddings with the kurmai and chunni ceremonies coming soon..!

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