The bride’s parents wait outside the marriage hall with coconuts, flowers. Thamboolam with two conical structures called ‘Paruputhengai’ (made of Dhal, Jaggery, Coconut) to receive the groom and his family for the wedding.
The main part of the wedding starts with Vratham. This ceremony is performed by both the families to invoke their family deities and ancestors. A ‘kaapu’ is tied around the wrists of both the bride and the groom and the yellow thread should not be untied until the wedding is over. The kaapu is supposed to ward off evil spirits by acting as a protective armor for both the bride and the groom. From here on the groom prepares himself for his new phase in life as a ‘Grihastha’.
Once the groom reaches the venue, a formal engagement ceremony takes place. A Ganapathy pooja is performed and a final formal agreement is made between the bride's and the groom's family.
A pooja ceremony happens at a temple nearby and then the groom is taken on a procession to the mandap to accept the bride. The procession these days is in a car, but in the olden days the procession used to be (sometimes) on elephants (gasp). The Janavasam is to ‘show’ the groom to the public and allow to voice their objections if any, to the marriage.
After the recitation of Vedic verses, the groom, all well clad in Panchakacham, starts his journey towards Kasi (Varanasi) to expand his knowledge of Brahman. The groom sets off towards the gate, with his slippers, a bamboo fan and an umbrella. The bride's father stops him on the way, and convinces him of the importance of being a ‘Grihastha’, and also promises to give him his daughter as his companion to face the trials and tribulations in life.
Symbolizing their unification as one soul in two bodies, this inward acceptance is demonstrated by exchange of garlands between the Bride and Groom. The Maternal uncles lift the Bride and the Groom respectively to their shoulder levels enabling for easy exchange of garlands. While thrice they exchange, fun is also added making garlanding one another difficult for some time.
The couple are then made to sit in an oonjal (swing), lots of songs are sung and the bride and the groom are served with a mixture of banana, milk and sugar by women from both the families. The women also prepare rice balls with turmeric and circle them around the couple. The rice thrown in all the four directions to ward off evil Spirits. The groom is then asked to hold the right hand of the bride and lead her to the marriage dias.
The bride is made to sit on her father's lap and is then given away as a 'gift’ to the groom. The priests chant the mantras and a darbha grass is placed on the bride's head. The father of the bride declares that “with all the beings in this world, with the five elements and all the celestial beings as my witness, I am giving my daughter to you for the good of your ancestors and for the liberation of my ancestors”.
The bride is made to wear the ‘Madisar’ or the ‘Koorai Pudavai’, and made to sit on her father's lap facing eastward. The groom faces westward, and ties the mangalyam around the neck of the bride. "Getti melam”, the bride's uncle would say and this signals the nadaswaram and thavil artist to speeden their tempo up. A total of 3 knots are tied around the bride's neck. The first knot tied by the husband formalizes their union, the second and the third knots are tied by the groom's sister to symbolize the welcoming of the bride into her family.
The bride and the groom now hold hands and pray for their eternal happiness, the groom also helps the bride to take seven steps around the sacred fire and this ritual is called the ‘sapthapathi’. This is the most important part In the Marriage ceremony, and only after the sapthapathi are the bride and groom ‘officially’ married.
We take the first step to provide for a happy and healthy home.
We take the second step to develop physical, mental and spiritual powers.
We take the third step to increase our wealth by diligence and righteousness.
We take fourth step to acquire knowledge, happiness and harmony by mutual love and trust.
We take fifth step so that we are blessed with strong virtuous and loving children.
We take the sixth step to promise to care for each other for a long life together.
Finally, we take the seventh step to be true companions and remain partners by this marriage Life and confluence of mind.
The evening of the marriage day is the time to relax and play. The newly-wed wife calls her husband for play, inviting him through a song much to the merriment of one and all gathered there follow a list of playful items. The Bride applying the Groom's feet with turmeric paste: fanning him, showing him a mirror, breaking papadas over each other's head wrenching the betel pack from each other's hand: rolling the coconut between them as in ball play and so on.