Ardas is the common Sikh prayer and is invoked at the start and conclusion of every Sikh event. At the Milni (introduction of members of family) both families perform Ardas on their meeting each other.
A simple ceremony takes place and both families exchange well wishes on meeting each other. This is followed by light snacks and tea before the religious ceremony begins. Ragis (religious musicians ) perform kirtan (the singing of hymns from Sri Guru Granth Sahib) as people begin to enter the Gurdwara for the beginning of the ceremony. This is when the bride makes here first public appearance of the day.
The actual ceremony begins with an offering of a special ardas when only the bride and groom and their respective parents stand up while the rest of the congregation remains seated.
Upon completion of the ardas, those standing pay obeisance to the Granth Sahib and sit down. The granthi then takes vak ( reciting he first shabad on a page opened at random, sometimes beginning on the previous page). Next, the Bride’s father proceeds to a position behind the couple and places in the hand of his daughter the edge of the palla, of stole, which the bridegroom has around his neck. (This symbolism is equivalent to kanya dan or the western custom of ‘giving away the bride’)
This action is accompanied by the following sloka recited by the raagis: The next stage is the four lavan (the four marriage vows in verse form as below). The four stanza of the hymn describes the progression of love between a husband and wife which is analogous to that between the soul (bride) and God (the husband). Each lav is first read by the granthi, the raagis then recite it to music.
As they commence, the couple bow to the Granth Sahib, get up and walk slowly (clockwise with the groom leading) around the palanquin. By the time they return to their place the recital has been completed. They bow to Granth Sahib and sit down. Then the second, third and fourth lavs are repeated similarly; first read our by the granthi and then recited by the raagis as the couple walk around Granth Sahib.
The Lavan Hymn by Guru Ram Das, Suhi, pg. 773-774
In the first round of the marriage ceremony, the Lord sets out His Instructions for performing the daily duties of married life. Instead of the hymns of the Vedas to Brahma, embrace the righteous conduct of Dharma, and renounce sinful actions. Meditate on the Lord’s Name; embrace and enshrine the contemplative remembrance of the Naam. Worship and adore the Guru, the Perfect True Guru, and all your sinful residues shall be dispelled. By great good fortune, celestial bliss is attained, and the Lord, Har, Har, seems sweet to the mind. Servant Nanak proclaims that, in this, the first round of the marriage ceremony, the marriage ceremony has begun.
In the second round of the marriage ceremony, the Lord leads you to meet the True Guru, the Primal Being. With the Fear of God, the Fearless Lord in the mind, the filth of egotism is eradicated. In the Fear of God, the Immaculate Lord, sing the Glorious Praises of the Lord, and behold the Lord’s Presence before you. The Lord, the Supreme Soul, is the Lord and Master of the Universe; He is pervading and permeating everywhere, fully filling all spaces. Deep within, and outside as well, there is only the One Lord God. Meeting together, the humble servants of the Lord sing the songs of joy. Servant Nanak proclaims that, in this, the second round of the marriage ceremony, the unstruck sound current of the Shabad resounds.
In the third round of the marriage ceremony, the mind is filled with Divine Love. Meeting with the humble Saints of the Lord, I have found the Lord, by great good fortune. I have found the Immaculate Lord, and I sing the Glorious Praises of the Lord. I speak the Word of the Lord’s Bani. By great good fortune, I have found the humble Saints, and I speak the Unspoken Speech of the Lord. The Name of the Lord, Har, Har, Har, vibrates and resounds within my heart; meditating on the Lord, I have realized the destiny inscribed upon my forehead. Servant Nanak proclaims that, in this, the third round of the marriage ceremony, the mind is filled with Divine Love for the Lord.
In the fourth round of the marriage ceremony, my mind has become peaceful; I have found the Lord. As Gurmukh, I have met Him, with intuitive ease; the Lord seems so sweet to my mind and body. The Lord seems so sweet; I am pleasing to my God. Night and day, I lovingly focus my consciousness on the Lord. I have obtained my Lord and Master, the fruit of my mind’s desires. The Lord’s Name resounds and resonates. The Lord God, my Lord and Master, blends with His bride, and her heart blossoms forth in the Naam. Servant Nanak proclaims that, in this, the fourth round of the marriage ceremony, we have found the Eternal Lord God. After the Lavan the Anand Sahib hymn by Guru Amar Das is recited. This is followed by kirtan. The religious ceremony is formally concluded by the entire congregation standing for the final Ardas of the marriage.
After this Sri Guru Granth Sahib is now opened to any page at random and the hymn is read out as the days order from the Guru for the occasion (hukamnama). Karah Prashad, ceremonial sacremental pudding is then distributed to everyone to mark the formal conclusion of the ceremony. The couple are blessed and garlanded by their parents followed by everyone else. During garlanding, care is taken that one’s back is not turned on the Granth Sahib.