I’m guessing that if you grew up in Pakistan, or even in a very Pakistani community in Canada/the UK/the US, then you’re probably pretty well versed in the bazillion rasams (cultural customs) that happen at a Pakistani wedding. But in my recent circuit of wedding attendance, I’ve realized that that’s not always the case. Maybe we take for granted that our mom/khalas/chachis/aunties will just know what to do (note that I’ve only mentioned women family members – I feel like boys don’t know anything when it comes to this stuff!) but I sometimes think about what will happen when OUR kids get married? Will our generation know how to integrate our cultural traditions into our children’s weddings?! Especially those of us that are second-generation Pakistanis/Desis?
I love our rasams. They are part of the rich cultural fabric which we share with India (hence so many of our Indian Hindu/Sikh friends have the same traditions at their weddings) and I think that they are what makes our (Pakistani/Indian/Desi/Asian) weddings so special. So, below is my breakdown of the rasams that I know of, or that we did at my wedding. I’m pretty sure that there are SO many that I’ve missed or just haven’t heard of, comment on this post and let me know what your culture/family does, and I’ll add them in!!
Pakistani Mayoun/Mehndi Rasam: No makeup
Old school: Back in the day, during the days (or weeks!) leading up to her wedding, a bride would “sit mayoun” meaning she wouldn’t leave the house, leave oil in her hair, wear really plain clothes, and definitely not wear make up. As far as I understand, this rasam of not wearing makeup on your mayoun/mehndi slash generally looking disheveled in the days leading up lol, is so that you look THAT MUCH MORE AMAZING as a bride. In a sense, I guess it’s the epitome of a “Before” and “After” makeover!
New school: Sitting at home and not leaving the house before your wedding is not only impossible, but also, who actually wants to that lol?! I think the new school way to honour this tradition (if you want) is by just not wearing any makeup on your mayoun function. That’s what I did on my mayoun, as you can see here:My mehndi, on the other hand, was a different story! I actually contemplated not wearing make up on this day as well, until my brother chimed in: “Uhhh, there’s going to be 400 people there, and photographs, and HD video.” And on the makeup went lol! I did, however, opt to do it myself which you can read more about here, to still try to pull off that before and after thing! Here’s my mehndi makeup:
Pakistani Mayoun/Mehndi: Flower Jewelry
Flowers are a huge part of Pakistani weddings – way beyond just centerpieces. A pretty part of the mayoun/mehndi functions is adorning the bride with flower jewelry. Family/friends close to the bride will take turns putting pieces of the flower jewelry on her, below you can see my sister and best friend putting flower earrings on me, and in the next photo, my mom is giving my friend a flower ring to put on me. Usually, flower bracelets are also given out to the girls or at least the VIP girls as part of the festivities as well. I’m not exactly sure what the symbolism of the flower jewelry is beyond that it’s just pretty, I think it may be because you don’t actually wear gold until your wedding and valima.
Pakistani Mayoun/Mehndi: Mehndi
Old School: This is the rasam that is the actual origin of the “Mehndi” function, where the the women in the bride’s life would get together, apply bridal mehndi on her, apply mehndi on each other, and sing and dance. It’s basically started as the biggest baddest bridal shower that there ever was, actually the Huffington Post published an article titled “Mehndi Ceremonies: The World’s First Bridal Shower“, which is an interesting read! In it the author writes, “In addition to the aesthetic beauty of mehndi designs, there is deep belief in its significance during a wedding. Mehndi symbolizes the strength of the union between the soon-to-be-married couple, and it is believed that the deeper the color of a bride’s mehndi, the happier and more prosperous her marriage will be. Some South Asian grandmothers even go as far as to say that the richness of the color correlates to how much a bride’s soon-to-be-husband loves her.” I’ve actually heard that the darker your mehndi is, the more your mother-in-law loves you — but maybe that’s a Pubjabi thing lol!
New School: Today, the mehndi function is usually a combined affair with both the groom’s side and bride’s side, and essentially a really big pre-party leading up to the celebrations. (Definitely my favourite part of our wedding!) We had our family friend apply mehndi on all of my friends on the mayoun (two days before the mehndi) and had a professional mehndi artist apply bridal mehdni on me (one day before the mehndi).
Here’s a pic of one of my bridemaid’s with her mehndi and flower bracelet:
Pakistani Mayoun: Haldi ki Rasam (Applying Tumeric Paste on the Bride)
Old School: This one makes me laugh. Mainly because it really points out our culture’s internalized racism of fairer = lovelier. (Let me set the record straight: IT DOES NOT). But I do believe that was the reasoning behind (at least partly!) of applying a tumeric paste all over the bride before her wedding. Apparently, it makes you glow!?
New School: I’m actually allergic to everything. I mean everything. I was gifted a jar of Creme de la mer (a very fancy ace cream) and I was even allergic to that! The only thing that I can use on my face is Nivea cream. Even still I told my mom that I didn’t want anyone putting anything with haldi on my face lol. So, my mom took a jar of Nivea, added a little bit of tumeric powder, mixed it up, and got my friends to rub that on my arms, legs, hands and feet. (Her best line of the evening was, “ok, who wants to make Safa’s feet white?!” And as my best friend begrudgingly rubbed the cream on my feet my mom says to her, “you know this is an honour to touch bride’s feet.” Lolz.)
Pakistani Mehndi: Saath Suhagan Rasam Mehndi/Mithai ki Rasam and Mithai Ki Rasam (Feeding Sweets).
Another major part of the mehndi is for family and friends to come up to the bride groom, take some dry mehndi and place it in a decorative leaf which the bride and groom are holding, and feed them sweets. I’m not exactly sure about the reason behind the holding of the leaf/mehndi application thing, but it’s just what makes the mehndi a mehndi! The saath suhagan rasam, specifically, is when seven happily married women come up to apply the mehndi, and feed the bride and groom, and the thinking is so that they pass that on their marital happiness onto the bride and groom.
Here you can see SM’s aunts (mamani, chachi, phupho, three khalas) and older sister doing the saath suhagan rasam! Oh, the other part of this custom is that the family will circle money over the couple’s heads, and then that money is taken and donated to charity. Old School: The sweets would be straight up mithai, ladoo, etc.
New School: As a bride the last thing I wanted to do was stuff my face with sugar the day before I had to fit into my wedding dress! I think more and more, brides request to be fed with fruit instead of mithai. (And yes I definitely had toothpicks in them because I’m a germophobe lol).
Pakistani Mehndi: Dholki
This one is probably my favourite. Nothing makes a wedding feel as festive than the singing of classic wedding folk songs and the sound of the dholak. .
Old School: The women of the family would just know all of the songs and sing them on the mayoun, mehndi and in the days leading up to the wedding in the shaadi ki ghar (wedding house).
New School: No one actually knows the words to all of the songs, especially those of us born abroad and so seeing dholki song booklets are a common site at mehndis now! I wrote a post on this before where you can download a song booklet! Oh and as you can see while it’s mostly women who participate in the dholki session, some of the younger boys did too! Also, another new thing is that some families actually throw ‘dholki’s as pre-parties, complete with invitations, and themes, and catering.
Pakistani Wedding Rasam: Joota Chupai
I explained (ranted) about this in my last post, but essentially, joota chupai is a playful tradition where the bride’s sisters and girlfriends ‘steal’ the groom’s shoe, and get him to pay them for its return. (SM calls it extortion lol). But it’s really just supposed to be this playful back-and-forth between the bride’s girls and the groom’s posse, that’s light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek, and full of jokes.
Guaranteed at every wedding, when it’s time for joota chupai, you will hear this classic song from the ’90s movie (aka my favourite period of Bollywood ever lol) Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, which to this day, is the best thing ever.
Pakistani Wedding Rasam: Dood Palai
This one is cute. It’s when the sister of the bride feeds the groom milk (again for money – obvii, haha). After the groom drinks the milk, he’s supposed to fill up the cup with money and give it back to his sister-in-law! (Yay more extortion!) It, too, is supposed to be a fun little back and forth! Also, as my sister joked with me, the reason for the milk is that it was thought to give the groom ‘takhat’ (strength, lol) before his wedding night (I know -soooo cringey lol!) I definitely bought this special dood palai cup from Lahore (Liberty!) and hot glue-gunned it down to the plate because I was so afraid that my clumsy sister would spill it everywhere. In this photo you can clearly see my non-desi bridesmaids watching with fascination lol.
Pakistani Wedding Rasam: Rasta Rokna
We didn’t do this one, so I’m not exactly sure how it goes, but the idea is that that the girl’s side stops the groom from getting to his bride (until he pays them off – lol yes this is a theme). Again, it’s supposed to playful and fun! I’m not sure when it happens, in this photo it looks as though the sisters are doing it as the groom enters the hall on the mehndi!
Pakistani Wedding Rasam: Aarsi Mashuf (Mirror Rasam)
This custom isn’t a Punjabi one, I believe it is a sindhi/Urdu-speaking rasam. We had planned to do it on our wedding, but it somehow got forgotten in everything that went on. Anyway, it’s a cute one, where a dupatta (scarf) is held over the bride and groom and a mirror underneath so that they see each other in the reflection of a mirror.
Old School: I think the idea behind the ceremony is that it’s the first time where the bride shows her face to the groom after the Nikah. The couple see each other in the mirror and the bride unveils her face that she keeps hidden during the Nikah.
New School: Your groom has probably already scene your face plenty of times lol, and even during the nikah cause you may be sitting next to each other, so I think this rasam is likely just done for the symbolic purposes, and a great photo op! (Unfortunately I don’t have a photo credit for this picture below, I found it on google images).
Pakistani Wedding Rasam: Moon Dikhai
As I understand it, the moon dikhai is supposed to be a gift (usually jewelry) that the groom gives his bride on their wedding night.
Old school: Apparently, the bride would be sitting on the ‘marital bed’ with a full gunghat (scarf really covering her face) and to see her face / lift her dupatta, the groom would present her with a gift.
New School: SM claims he didn’t know about this rasam (convenient!) so no moon dikahi gift for me! I’m sure jewelry is still commonly given though!
Pakistani Wedding Rasm: Holding Quran over Dulhan’s Head During Ruksathi
I think this one is pretty self explanatory, the idea of holding the Quran ove the bride’s head during the rukhsati (the traditional farewell) is that God be with you always as you embark upon this new journey.
Pakistani Valima Rasam: Youngest Devar (Brother-in-Law) Sits on Bride’s Lap
Haha, we didn’t do this one, because, well just read the title, but I’m pretty sure it’s a Punjabi one! The idea is that when the bride comes home after the wedding, the younger brother of the groom, sits in the bride’s lap until his brother gives him a gift/money. I actually tried searching for a picture for this one, and unfortunately could not find one. Lol, but I’m sure it would have been amazing!
What did I miss?! Comment below!