The ritual I have observed is of a marriage. These always take place in a church and whichever church this wedding takes place is where both people will now go every Sunday. This has now become their place of worship. The church is usually covered in stained glass saints in the chapel, on the walls, on the ceiling, which is quite a view to admire. The weddings I normally go to are quite large, almost 700 hundred people is usually the amount that arrives. Everyone is smiling and meeting new people, some are ushering, while others are taking pictures and finding seats. These are always Indian Orthodox weddings where many loved ones are invited and show up to admire these beautiful ceremonies. Everyone comes in fancy Indian outfits and the bride may either choose a traditional American dress or a white or red Indian outfit. In India, red typically means marriage. The groom caters to whatever the bride grooms, whether it is Indian or American, the groom must match. The ceremony consists of two parts, the blessing of the rings and the blessing of the crowns. The entire ceremony lasts for about two hours and everyone attending must stand for the entire service. The beginning is very traditional where the bride walks down the aisle to the waiting groom, as well as the end where the couple signs the agreement and again walks back down the aisle together. During the service, everyone is excited for the couple and it’s a very serene, calm atmosphere. Everyone gathered reads from the service book provided which is filled with prayers and special Orthodox weddings songs that the choir leads the procession with and everyone else follows. The prayers are normally in English, while the songs switch between Malayalam and English.
Before the initial ceremony at the church begins, the bride and groom are separated in their own homes. They individually get their own blessing from two different priests, and they are both gathered by only their family to pray for their new beginning that is soon to begin. This is a small ritual to just pray for their journey by loved ones. Everyone then makes their way to the church and the bride is immediately hidden from the groom in a separate room, which is an old custom that would bring bad luck if the bride and groom were to see each other before the wedding. The family members are given roses to signify they are related to either the bride or the groom and will then become ushers during the service where they will hand out books and assist people with seating. Once the service begins, music begins to play to notify people that the ritual will now begin and the bridal party starts to walk down the aisle. Once the entire party is at the front of the church, the priest will give a speech to describe what will occur during this service. Now the first part of the blessing of the rings will begin. This blessing is called the service of betrothal and the rings become a symbol of a contract and are being blessed and placed on the bride and groom by the priest himself. This process typically takes an hour where everyone becomes involved and reads special prayers and sing meaningful songs to help bless the rings for the couple. The second blessing is then followed, which is the blessing of the crowns. In this service, the crowns are represented by a gold necklace with a cross pendant which is place on each of the two by the priest. The placement of the crowns signify the establishment of a new family where the husband and wife are now the king and queen of their new home. The crowns symbolize joy and self-sacrifice which is inseparably tied together in a true marriage. The service is then complete and the couple walks back down the aisle to their new life which will now begin. This is a rite of passage where the two people have now become one and are transformed completely. Everyone celebrates this joyous, meaningful ritual for the husband and wife.