By Song My Hoang
On Wednesday, May 14, Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) invited the Union community to participate in mock weddings demonstrating the wedding traditions of different faiths. The Better Together Marriage Event gathered numerous students to Jackson’s Garden.
Interfaith Youth Core is a national organization that promotes the interfaith movement to build religious pluralism. Religious pluralism is achieved through “respect for people’s diverse religious and non-religious identities, inspiration for relationships between people of different backgrounds and motivation for a common action for the common good.”
Interfaith Youth Core student leader Fatima Hosain ’15 explained, “At Union, we are trying to increase interfaith work and involvement through the medium of service.”
Hosain said that the group collected donations of canned goods, toiletries, sanitary products and clothing for the YWCA Domestic Violence Shelter.
The event was inspired by the idea that love is a universal concept, as every culture has its own celebration of love. The mock weddings served as a means to unite and appreciate different religious and cultural celebrations.
There were seven different cultural wedding ceremonies that were represented on Wednesday: Nigerian, Jewish, Muslim, Protestant, Unificationist, Hindu and Buddhist.
In particular, Sharmeen Azher ’17 explained that the traditional Muslim wedding ceremony begins with a brief statement praising God. This statement is often a verse selected from the Holy Quran.
The ceremony consists of a wedding contract, which can be oral or written, though written contracts are more common recently due to legal procedures. The bride and the groom agree upon the contract.
There are two witnesses involved to validate the marriage. After the wedding ceremony, there is a feast that serves to announce the marriage to the community. Traditionally, it is recommended that the poor be invited to the wedding to celebrate the happy occasion.
There are different customs and rituals among different ethnic Buddhists, so the Interfaith Youth Core chose to cover the Tibetan Buddhist ceremony.
Tenzin Youdon ’15 stated that the wedding ceremony in Tibet could last for thirty days, but it generally lasts for two to three days. On the day before the wedding, the groom will send gifts wrapped with silk, including clothing and hair ornaments, to the bride.
On the wedding day, the groom’s side of the ceremony selects a man of good status to lead a group of people and arrows decorated with mirrors, jade and jewels. The colorful arrows are placed on the bride’s back and jade is put on her head to show that the bride belongs on the bridegroom’s side.
When the bride arrives at the groom’s house, the bride has to walk on the road with barley and tealeaves. This symbolizes the harvest she is bringing into the family. She then accepts the Khatag, a white scarf that is presented by the groom, and enters the house. The bride and groom sit together in a prayer room to receive good wishes. The newlyweds are then sent to their room, where lamas, Buddhist monks, recite sutras to bless them.
The Hindu mock wedding was honored by the presence of a pundit, which is a Hindu priest, from the Albany Hindu Temple, as well as a member of the temple community, who helped to narrate the wedding.
Sriya Bhumi ’15 said that students played the bride, groom and parents, and were given traditional Hindu cultural clothing. The pundit recited various religious verses and prayers while the narrator translated the rituals to the audience.
The groom ties the “mangalsultra” around the bride’s neck, the couple walks seven circles around the fire pit, known as the “Saptapadi”, garlands are exchanged and then the couple takes the audience’s “ashirvad” or blessings.
Hosain concluded, “The Interfaith Youth Core team would want to encourage the Union community to continue to support interfaith work on this campus by voicing their opinions, engaging with others and acting to benefit our community. We should keep in mind that we are all better together!’