I adore Bangladeshi weddings. The first one I ever attended was that of my best friend, 6 years ago. I remember being amazed at the esthetic similarities to Pakistani and Indian weddings, yet struck by the cultural differences. Bengali weddings are a completely different creature from the affairs we tend to see in Bollywood movies – I strongly recommend attending an event if you ever get the chance! The main difference I noticed was that the Bangladeshi bride’s family and close friends play a much greater role in the festivities and prominently display their community solidarity. For example, where an Indian or Pakistani bride may have 5-10 bridesmaids, a Bengali bride may have 20-40!
There is so much to learn about this beautiful, rich and multi-layered culture. Today I’ve partnered with Toronto Bengali wedding planner Farah Nuri Hossain of A Shahzadi Affair to share her knowledge of Bangladeshi wedding traditions. I am also obsessing over these photos of a stunning Gaye Holud that Farah planned to Shahzadi perfection!
What sorts of traditions are unique to the Bengali bride? For example, how does the Bangladeshi gaye holud differ from a Pakistani mehndi or Indian sangeet?
There are so many Bangladeshi wedding traditions!
Paaka Kotha: An informal meeting of the two families where the parents of the groom visit the family of the bride to ask for the bride’s hand in marriage. In the Bangladeshi culture, family plays a huge role in any marriage. They are the foundations of the new bonds created. This is the meeting where both families give their blessing to the couple and talk about their expectations as two families gear up to join together as one. They will also decide on a day to formally conduct an engagement ceremony to announce the upcoming wedding to their friends and relatives.
Engagement (or “Paan-Chini”): This is a formal engagement ceremony held by the bride’s family to announce the impending wedding. The unique thing about this ceremony is that the groom gets a ring too. In recent times, the groom is gifted a watch or something that fits his personality. Most guys these days prefer to forgo the ring as they want to wait until they are officially married to sport it.
Mehndi Night: This is a fun event two days before the wedding when the bride gets her henna done. It is a small get-together usually reserved for the bride’s closest female family and friends. This is very similar to Pakistani/Indian traditions. The bride has her mehndi applied and her family and friends entertain her by dancing and singing.
Maacher Dala: Giving the bride’s family a tray of fish before the Gaye Holud is a long standing tradition. This usually includes two large Ruhi fish decorated to each resemble a bride (recognised by its dupatta and nath), and a groom fish (complete with a dhoti or kurta). In the mouth of the fish there is usually a sum of money, which belongs to the person who cooks the fish to later be served at the Gaye Holud.
Gaye Holud: This is a ceremony for both the bride and groom to get doted on. The tradition is that the groom’s side will visit the bride and her family with gift trays laden with all of the clothing, accessories, makeup and other gifts that she will need for the wedding. There are more trays of gifts for the family and friends. The groom’s side is welcomed to the event with flowers, sweets and garlands. After they are welcomed, the bride will make her entrance and then the “holud” ceremony will begin. The groom’s mother and father begin the ceremony by tying a rakhi to symbolize that they are tying her to their family. Once that is complete, they will swipe a little turmeric on their foreheads before they swipe a little on her head. This symbolizes that they want to pass their good luck to you. This continues throughout the night by the guests. Throughout the night, there is entertainment in the form of dancing, skits and other fun activities surrounding the couple and their families. Usually the guy’s side will do a similar night with all the same traditions, but these days, more and more couples prefer to do one event jointly hosted by their families.
Holud Gosul: A bath that takes place after the Holud. Traditionally, seven married women will literally shower the bride. They pamper the bride, give her a massage with turmeric and tone her skin with milk. It is supposed to be a cleansing of the bride as she washes away her old life and gets ready to begin her new one. It is also a chance for the bride to be doted upon by her closest friends.
Aye Boro Bhaat: This event (translated to “last meal”) traditionally happens the night before the wedding. This gathering is held by an aunt or a close maternal figure who is not the bride’s mother. Everyone brings a dish loved by the bride to feed her as her last meal in her own home. This tradition can also happen for the groom, although it is not mandatory.
Gate Dhora: On the day of the wedding, the baraat (groom’s family) arrives to take part in the wedding ceremony. However, they cannot just walk in. They are stopped at the door by the female relatives and friends of the bride who attempt to hold the entry of the groom until he pays the sum of money they set. There is bargaining and banter until both sides are satisfied and an agreement is reached on the entrance fee. After this, the groom and his entourage are let in.
Aktd / Nikkah: The actual marriage ceremony. Sometimes it is done with the bride and groom seated together, but is usually done in the traditional Muslim fashion where the bride and groom are in separate rooms taking their vows – after which, they are presented to each other.
Rusmat: This is a ceremony where the bride and groom are draped with a dupatta over their heads and look at each other for the first time as husband and wife. The groom is asked to describe what he sees in the mirror. The next part of the rusmat is the garland exchange, followed by the ring exchange. After this the couple feeds each other some misti and lassi, symbolizing the first of many morsels they will share.
Biddai: This is at the end of the wedding ceremony. It is the ceremonial walking out of the bride with her family to see her off as she begins her new life with her new husband!
Firani: Traditionally, this happens a few days after the wedding when the bride is taken back to her parental home by a brother or cousin. She and her groom are expected to spend the night. There is a lavish dinner that is hosted by the brides’ family in honour of the groom to welcome him to the family.
Thank you Farah for the amazing explanation of Bengali wedding traditions. When couples work with wedding professionals who are familiar with their language and culture it can make the planning process a lot easier! How do you think a wedding planner can benefit Bangladeshi families?
Bangladeshi weddings are very interactive situations for close family and friends. Holud performance rehearsals and mini events often get deprioritized because families are too busy trying to decipher their large-scale wedding “productions”. My team and I take the reins on anything that needs attention, acting as extra family members to take care of tasks normally given to close family and friends. This gives loved ones more time and the ability to enjoy the wedding celebrations. I have a team that is very good at taking direction. Communicate your ideas and watch us work with you to give you the tools needed to create and execute your vision. Throughout the months of planning, we help gather all of the couple’s wedding resources and vendors and stay in contact with them leading up to the event. We also offer solutions to issues that may present on the day of the wedding, working to ensure the flawless execution of your big day.
Thank you again Farah for the incredible tips, and thank you Renaissance Studios for the beautiful images of Shahzadi bride Anisa. Readers, make sure to check out more photos of Anisa and Irshad’s stunning cupcake themed engagement shoot, gaye holud and wedding on the A Shahzadi Affair blog! The images are genius!!
- Wedding planning and advice: A Shahzadi Affair
- Images: Renaissance Studios
- Venue: Payal Banquet Hall
- Decor: Dream Party Decor
- Hair and makeup: Shirley Wu Beauty Concept