Bengali wedding includes many rituals and ceremonies that can span several days. Although Muslim and Hindu marriages have their distinctive religious rituals, there are many common Bengali rituals in weddings across both West Bengal and Bangladesh.
A traditional wedding is arranged by Ghotoks (matchmakers), who are generally friends or relatives of the couple. The matchmakers facilitate the introduction, and also help agree the amount of any settlement.>
Bengali weddings are traditionally in four parts: the bride's gaye holud, the groom's gaye holud, the wedding ceremony, and the reception. These often take place on separate days. The first event in a wedding is an informal one: the groom presents the bride with a ring marking the "engagement" which is gaining popularity. This can sometimes be considered as Ashirwaad.
A Bengali Hindu Marriage can be divided into the following parts:
The turmeric ceremonies or gaye holud (Bengali: গায়ে হলুদ gaee holud, lit. "yellowing the body") come before the wedding ceremony. There is one turmeric ceremony for the bride and one for the groom. For the bride's gaye holud, the groom's family - except the groom himself - go in procession to the bride's home. They carry with them the bride's wedding outfit, wedding decoration including turmeric paste and henna, sweetmeats and gifts. They also take two large fishes decorated as a groom and bride. There are local variations on this tradition, such as the number of fishes, the party responsible for cooking the fish(es) and time the fish is taken to the groom's family.
The procession traditionally centers on the (younger) female relative and friends of bride, and they are traditionally all in matching clothes, mostly orange in colour. The bride is seated on a dais, and the henna is used to decorate the bride's hands and feet with elaborate abstract designs. The turmeric paste is applied by the bride's friends to her body. This is said to soften the skin, but also colours her with the distinctive yellow hue that gives its name to this ceremony. The sweets are then fed to the bride by all involved, piece by piece. There is, of course, a feast for the guests. The groom's gaye holud comes next, and has the same form as the bridal ceremony.
The wedding ceremony (Bengali: বিবাহ or বিয়ে bibaho/bie) follows the gaye holud ceremonies. As the wedding ceremony is arranged by the bride's family, much of the traditions revolve around embarrassing the groom. The groom, along with his friends and family, traditionally arrive later than the bride's side. As they arrive, the younger members of the bride's family barricade the entrance to the venue, demanding money from the groom in return for allowing him to enter. There is a bargaining between groom and the bride's family members on the amount of money of the admission. There is typically much good-natured pushing and shoving involved. Another custom is for the bride's younger siblings, friends, and cousins to conceal the groom's shoes for money; to get them back the groom must usually pay off the children. Siblings, friends and cousins also plays many practical jokes on the groom.
For a Hindu wedding, a priest asks the couple to chant mantras from the holy texts that formalises the following:
For a Muslim wedding, the bride and groom are seated separately, and a kazi (person authorized by the government to perform the wedding), accompanied by the parents and a witness (Bengali: ওয়াকিল wakil) from each side formally asks the bride for her consent to the union, and then the groom for his.
At this time, for Muslim weddings, the amount of the dowry or mahr is verified, and if all is well, the formal papers are signed, and the couple are seated side by side on a dais. The bride's veil (Bengali: ওরনা or ঘোমটা orna/ghomṭa) is draped over both the bride and groom, and a mirror is placed in front of them. The groom is then supposed to say something romantic on what he sees in the mirror—notionally the first time he has laid eyes on his bride. A traditional answer is to say that he has seen the moon. The bride and groom then feed each other sweets, while the bride's family members try to push the groom's face into the food. All the guests then celebrate the union with a feast.
In Hindu marriages on the day of the marriage (after wedding ceremony is over), close friends and relatives remain awake for the entire night. This is called the Basor Raat. Generally the day on which wedding is held Basor Raat starts after midnight if the wedding ceremony is over by evening. Most Hindu Bengali marriages happen in the evening. The next day, preferably before noon, the couple make their way from the venue to the groom's home, where a bridal room has been prepared.
The reception, also known as the bou bhat (Bengali: বউ ভাত lit. "bride feast") or walima (Bengali: ওয়ালিমা) among Muslims, is a party given by the groom's family in return for the wedding ceremony. It is generally a much more relaxed affair, with only the second-best wedding outfit being worn.
Unlike in the wedding ceremony, the bride and groom act as a couple at the reception; the bride and groom arrive together, receive and see off guests together, and dine together. After the party, the bride and groom go to the groom's family house for two nights. On the second day, the bride's family are invited to the groom's house for a meal, and they leave with the bride and groom. This meal is called firani.
In the flower bed ceremony (Bengali: ফুল শয্যা ful shôjja, lit. "flower bed"), the bride wears a lot of floral ornaments and their marriage bed is decorated with flowers by the groom's family. This is the night of consummation. In Muslim marriages, this takes place on the night of the wedding. In Hindu marriages, this takes place on the night of the reception.