Weddings in Goa
The first step if you want to get married in Goa is the act of
the proposal or the utor. Among the agricultural communities and
other laboring castes the encounter takes place in the early hours
of the morning. Among the wealthy it takes place late evening.
The ultimate proposal is worded in a very poetic manner, as in
a typical Kunbi community.
Says the boy's family to the girl's (it is always the boy's family
that has to ask for the girl's hand in marriage in the Catholic
community), 'We have smelt the perfume of a sweet flower in your
garden. We have come to ask for it.' Replies the girl's family:
'In that case you may take this fire stick and enter the house.'
The fire stick is a symbol that they are in favor of the match.
After the utor begins a long series of dos and don'ts, well after
the day of the marriage. The betrothal is sealed when the bridegroom
sends the gift of fulam (flowers and sweets). These are to be
distributed to the neighbors.
The bride then gets her denem (trousseau) ready. She takes with
her several items in sets of seven each. That makes seven towels,
pillowcases, bed sheets, handkerchiefs, nightgowns and even seven
undergarments. Seven is thought to suffice her for a very long
The saddo takes place a few days before the wedding. It is the
name of the dress and the ceremony of cutting and sewing the dress.
Saddo is to be worn on the first day after the marriage. It has
to be red in color or red and white. All neighbors gather and
the professional ovio (songs of praise) singers are called in.
The tailor sews the dress while the women sing in the background.
There's coconut cake and tea to go around for everybody. The people
leave a tip for the tailor on their way out.
Both the families have a bhuim jevonn before the wedding. This
is a ritual meal in honor of the ancestors. All kith and kin have
to be present for this meal. In the well-to-do Catholic houses
today it goes by the name of bikariam jevonn, (meal for the poor).
It has taken the form of a charity luncheon for the poor, as ancestor
worship is regarded as a pre-Christian tradition.
However, the poor are asked to pray for all the family's ancestors.
A couple of days before the wedding is the ceremony of chuddo.
These are the bangles worn by the bride for her marriage. The
bangle seller is brought in, and with friends and neighbors singing
ovios in the background, the bride downs 30 green and red bangles,
15 on each hand. Green stands for fertility and red for a married
life. Traditionally married women had to wear glass bangles throughout
their life. They had to be broken on the coffin of the husband.
The bridegroom's family has the privilege of asking for an ojem;
a gift of several sweetmeats and bananas, from the bride's family.
These are later distributed to neighbors and relatives.
The kunbi traditionally held group marriages a couple of days
before the Mell, the spring festival which is today merged with
Carnival. About 25 to 30 couples got married. The entire village
would resound with the ghumots (earthen drum) and dulpods. A day
before the marriage, the bride's toilette begins. The ros is a
ritual where the bride is ceremoniously massaged with coconut
juice. It is meant to make the skin smooth and soft. A large bowl
is placed before the bride, who sits in the bathing room. Each
relative drops a coin in the juice, takes a palm full and massages
the bride. When all the juice is over, the woman who had ground
it gets the money.
The bride has to fast on the day of the wedding. Once she steps
out of the house, turning back to take a look is considered taboo.
If she drops a kerchief or her purse, she should not retrieve
it either. She gets another one if it is at hand. The items are
left to the devil who might have gone with the bride, had she
picked them up.
Before proceeding to the church or temple the bride goes to her
immediate neighbors for their blessings. After the wedding reception
is over (which is usually late in the night), the vorr or the
bride's marriage party and the bridegroom's family see each other
off at the shim or border of the village. This is known as the
Both parties draw an imaginary line across the road with the foot.
One male representative from either family stands on each side
of the line, and snaps a blade of grass in a mock tug of war.
Each one throws a glass of feni on either side of the shim for
the guardian spirits and have a sangvonn for the guardian spirits
and ancestors seeking their protection for the newlywed couple
and their families.
The parties then vend their way home to the drumming of ghumots
and dulpods and singing of ovios all the way, but not before the
men have had their 'one for the road'.
The saddo or the dress to be worn on the first night should not
be washed by the bride. She should leave it in the wash bucket
with a currency note tied to the skirt. The first relative who
chooses to wash the dress gets the tip.
On the third day the new son-in-law is invited for lunch at his
in-laws house. It is his first visit. The party includes the bridal
couple and their relatives and friends. It is customary for the
son-in-law and his friends to lift off any item that they like,
provided it is small enough not to be noticed. This is a joke
played on the bride's family.
As soon as the bridegroom's party leaves, the bride's family gets
busy trying to find out what is missing -- a hand mirror, an ash
tray, a cell torch, a crystal wine glass, or probably your favourite
perfume! As a tradition you cannot ask for the things back. But
the generous sons-in-law of today religiously return all items
after a day's suspense and a good laugh.