Marriage customs and traditions – Nuptials



Raoul charm putting rings


The most important aspect of a wedding is the Sacrament of Marriage received at the Nuptial Blessing Resper.

On the morning after the roce ceremony the marriage was blessed in the church and this took place either in the bridegrooms or the brides parish.

The Sacristan of St.Lawrence Church Moodubelle gives blessings to his grandaughter Salvador_Barboza Circa 1975

Upon getting ready in the traditional wedding attire the bride/bridegroom kneel in front of the altar for blessing from parents and elders.

The wedding procession then proceeds to the church in an open car, bullock-cart or on foot, in separate processions accompanied by playing of bands and bursting of crackers.

Wedding procession indicative

Bullock cart procession indicative

While proceeding on foot in procession wide red umbrellas were used over the head of the bride and groom held by the bestman (dhedo) or bridesmaid (dhedi). The first best man is called mal dehedo and first bridesmaid mal dhedi. Usually the mother of the bride and the mother of the groom did not accompany the procession.

The Bride wore the kirgi baju (dress of the unmarried) and the groom wore a dhoti (short loin cloth) and a shawl over his shoulders and a red handkerchief on his head which was later improved to the todop (white loincloth with a red and gold hem), a kutav (shirt with gold buttons and a coat), shawl, red kerchief in hand and urmal (long white piece of cloth with golden hem tied around the head like a turban) and the umbrella. The bride was dressed in the proper bridal attire only after the resper. The feet of the bride and groom were sprinkled with water before leaving home.

The bridegroom waits for the bride in case his party reached early and both, holding hands, proceed to the centre of the church. The parish priest blessed the nuptials during a High mass assisted by deacon miron or mirniam* and sub-deacon. There are instances when the marriage party has reached the church but the parish priest was absent as priests were very few then and also had to attend urgent sick calls far from the church. The wedding party then used to wait many hours and then return home without a church wedding and continue with the wedding celebrations and the nuptial blessing and sacrament of marriage was bestowed on the bridal couple one or two days later.


Raoul wedding bands

The nuptials are usually in the afternoon/early evening two or three days after the roce ceremony. The bride and groom dress in their modern wedding attire i.e. white gown/saree worn by the bride and black tuxedo or suit by the bridegroom. Bestmen and bridesmaids are several in number now and generally relatives and friends of the couple.

Photo and video sessions are elaborate today and once the dressing is done, prayers and blessing is given by parents and elders and good wishes also by the younger relatives and friends. A glass full of milk is also sometimes given to the bride/groom by the mother/yejman, to drink before stepping out of the house. After sprinkling the melrish-8602 pouring water on the feetbrides/grooms feet with water (usually done by brother of bride/sister of groom) and drinking milk as stated above, the groups then proceed for the resper which is usually at the brides church but can be at the bridegrooms church as per convenience. The bridegroom first proceeds to the church and then sends the car for the bride. The relatives follow by private cars/transport or if close by, on foot to the church.

Raoul charm bestman welcome

The bride is greeted outside the church by the mal dhedo with a kiss and presented the bridal bouquet.

rlp wedd bless2

The couple is received at the church entrance by the Priest and then led into the church, the bride accompanied by her father and the groom by his mother. The bridesmaid, bestmen, page-boys and flower-girls precede the priest. The nuptials usually take place at an high mass reserved exclusively for the marriage. The Union is blessed by the Bishop or Parish Priest or if a priest is a relative of the family then he would be given the honor of blessing the nuptials where the rings, the wedding bands (resperachi mudi) are exchanged and the Sacrament of Marriage is received by the bride and groom, in the presence of two witnesses one from the brides side and one from the grooms side.

The program for the nuptial mass, which is printed on color coordinated booklets is prepared with great care and family members take pride in partaking in the nuptial program where certain tasks or duties like readings, choir singing, offertory, etc. are assigned to the family. The selection of readings, hymns, etc. must be discussed and agreed with the parish priest, so also the program. For instance the lighting of the unity candles may be allowed by some churches and may not be acceptable to others. The church pews are decorated and it must be borne in mind that the altar too must be decorated with fresh flowers for the occasion which many a times is overlooked.

The sado, karimani, jewellery, red glass bangles alongwith the aboli (Crossandra infundibuliformis or firecracker flowers) and mangalore mallige flowers (jasmine flowers) which the bride will be adorned with at the reception are carried to the church by the bridegrooms family so that they can be blessed at the nuptials. All the articles are placed in two trays, one for the saree and ornaments and other for the flowers and wrapped in a red satin or velvet cloth. The honor of dressing the bride at the reception is given to the yejman. If the yejman is the mother of the groom she may give this honor to an elder aunt, bappu’s (elder brother of father of groom) wife i.e. the daijis who are also considered as yejmani and yejman and she is handed over charge of the sado and ornaments from the house to church to the reception venue.

At the end of the mass, the bride and groom and the witnesses are invited by the Parish Priest to sign the marriage register thereby concluding the Sacrament** of marriage and sealing the contract, which in catholicism understands marriage as a contract by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership for their whole life.

*The miron or mirniam discharges many of the duties at the church which traditionally were performed by Gurkar, Luvad or Chamador. In early times Junta was the assembly of all catholic households in a village. The elected officials were (i) Gurkars (tulu pre-christian term) (headman). Gurkars were also called Budvont which is of pure Goan origin (Silva II-101). (ii) Luvad (portuguese term) (assistant headman) and (iii) Chamador (crier) in portuguese means to call. The Gurkar had to help the Parish Priest in various ways and communicate to the people orders, admonitions and advice of the parish priest and keep the parish priest informed of happenings in the village. The Luvad helped the Gurkar and in his absence performed Gurkar duties. The Chamador’s duty was to call the people Junta for the meetings to inform about deaths and duties also included digging of graves for burials. The three were important officers and were supreme in the social life of the community in the village and considered as ‘first’ parishioners of the parish. They had honor at religious functions and these offices were usually hereditary as eldest son would be selected when father died or resigned.
**Catholic marriages come under the purview of Canon Law and the Civil Law of the country in which a catholic lives. In India, Catholic marriages are regulated by the Indian Christian Marriage Act of 1872 that accords the Parish Priest the status of marriage registrar. Catholicism considers marriage as a Sacrament only when both the partners are catholics. When one of the partners is not a catholic it is a mixed-marriage and recognised as a contract but not as a sacrament. Besides, a catholic marriage must be contracted in public in the presence of a Bishop or Parish Priest and with 2 witnesses. A catholic marriage has two essential properties, Unity – which rules out polygamy and thereby fidelity in a marriage; and Indissolubility – which rules out divorce. Hence a catholic marriage comes to an end only when a partner dies. Marriages are ‘annulled’ i.e. declared invalid and this must be established and a decision given by a court according to canon law. However a decree of divorce does not mean nullity. Divorce implies the existence of a marriage while nullity does not. A partner re-marrying after a divorce is considered as adultery (for both partners i.e. the divorcee and the one marrying a divorcee), if the spouse of the divorcee is living and the marriage has not been annulled.

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References: Severine Silva and Stephen Fuchs & Victor D’sa, S.V.D.: The Marriage Customs of the Christians in South Canara, India, Konkani Roman Catholics of Dakshina Kannada Chapter III.



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