A Nepali American wedding
Tying the knot across cultures
By Heidi M. Pascual
Weddings are undoubtedly one of the happiest days in
people’s lives. But they become extra significant and
memorable when the bride and the groom come from
different cultures. Interracial marriages, come to think of it,
are probably the best solution to racial strifes and
misunderstandings. After all, a peaceful loving home could
be reflected through its members’ relationships with others
outside their home, and even on a global scale.
I love attending weddings of this kind. In my heart, they
always make my hope alive — that love between and among
diverse peoples would create a more peaceful and loving
On July 25, Madison’s .Monona Terrace Community and
Convention Center was abuzz with excitement and
happiness, as a diverse group of families and guests
attended the wedding of Rita Sijapati and Tyler Bertsch. Two
families were “fusing” legally and spiritually. Respect for
each other’s family was manifested in the conduct of two
religious celebrations: a Nepali Hindu wedding, and a
Christian wedding, held one after the other. There were two
sets of preparations made — wedding attire for the whole
entourage, officiating pastors, ritual paraphernalia, and stage
decorations. Since we’re all too familiar with the Christian
wedding ritual, I’d like to share with our readers the steps
followed at the traditional Hindu wedding ceremony, which
was performed in Sanskrit (an ancient language of the
Vedas) by Pandit Megha Nath Poudel. These rituals were
included in the wedding program.
Janti (Procession): Tyler and his family arrived with
some gifts and the bride’s family welcomed them with
Swyamber (Exchange of garlands): Rita (whose face
was first covered with a red veil) accepted Tyler as her
groom and circled him with water; then they also exchanged
The priest started the ceremony by invoking God to accept their prayers and bless the couple, their families, and the attendees. He also prayed
that the dead ancestors of the couple bless them (Shakochar).
Kanyadaan (Giving the bride away): Parents and other relatives washed the feet of the couple and the bride’s parents symbolically gave
the bride’s hand to her groom. This moment also signified the couple’s acceptance of each other and their commitment to love each other for
Granthi Bandhan (knot tying): The couple’s parents put rice, money and other gifts on a white fabric and the priest tied the fabric onto the
couple to symbolize blessings and togetherness. This was followed by Hirdaya Sparsha (touching of heart), in which the bride and groom
touched each other’s heart, to represent the bond of love between them.
Sindoor Ashirwad (symbol of marriage): The groom anointed the bride’s parted hair with a sindoor (red powder), the traditional mark of a
married woman, then he tied a wedding necklace (Mangal Sutra) around her neck to symbolize love and good fortune.
Vachan Grahan (exchange of vows): The couple promised to stay together for life and thereafter. The groom presented bangles to his bride
as another expression of love.
Shilarohan (vow for strength and firmness): The bride’s brothers gave the bride some parched rice for offering to God. The couple then
stepped upon a rock, which represented purpose, strength and firmness. They asked each other to be as firm as a rock as they, in the future,
resist undesirable foes together.
Saptapati (commitment to harmony): With a small fire on the center of the stage, the couple held the knotted fabric and went around the fire
seven times, praying to God for guidance:
With God as our guide, let us take seven steps for prosperity, strength, wealth, happiness, progeny, bounty, and companionship.
Pasa (dice game): The couple “played” dice (pasa) symbolizing pleasure, persistence, and harmony. Then both fed each other (Maur
Khouni) to symbolize a promise to take care for each other.
The Hindu wedding ceremony concluded with the couple greeting family members and relatives from both sides by placing a coin in front
of their relatives and bowing their heads. The family members picked up the coin and returned it with blessings and gifts.
Family members, friends, relatives, and guests