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I got your name from the website and was wondering if I could ask you a few questions. I am in a relationship with a gentleman who has a father from East India and a mother from Canada. As my boyfriend and I have begun discussing marriage, an Indian Wedding has been discussed. I am Christian and my boyfriend is not religious. I would like to have a wedding that is not  in a church and performed by a justice of the peace, so as not to make religion an issue of this  marriage. We have discussed this and we do not plan on raising children in any specific religion, rather we will leave it up to their choice. My boyfriend would like to have an Indian wedding so as to please his parents. His parents would like for him to have an Indian wedding in addition to a traditional American wedding. He is not a practicing Hindu. I am having trouble with the idea of participating in a religious Hindu ceremony, since I am a Christian. I have no intention of practicing the Hindu religion. The ceremony is simply to please his parents and to make the marriage recognized by his family that remains in India. Would it be looked upon poorly for a wedding such as this to take place? In general, what type of religious aspects are involved in the seven wedding vows? Do you have any suggestions?          

I would greatly appreciate your help!

 Answer:  Hindu religion is not a religion in the sense a religion is understood in the West.
Hindu religion does not divide humanity into holy believers and unholy others. It respects all
religions and considers them as different paths to the ultimate human goal of communion with God, which in other frames of reference is also called nirvana, moksha, etc. If someone asked me:  “What would I get, if I study or practice Hinduism?”  I would say:  “If you are a Christian you would become a better Christian.  If you are a Muslim, you will become a better Muslim. If you are a Jew, you will become a better Jew.  Whatever you are, you will become better.”  Making a human being a “better” human being is the only goal of Hindu religious tradition.  There is no theological necessity in Hinduism for proselytization.  All Hindu religious doctrines are universal in content and character.  The world is viewed as one family (vasudhaiva kutumbhkam). Even Hindu prayers are universal.  When Hindus pray, they do not pray for themselves, they pray for all humans, animals, birds and even the plants and trees.  This is why Henry David Thoreau, one of the greatest American minds, once said,” Whenever I have read any part of the Vedas (Hindu scriptures), I have felt that some unearthly and unknown light illuminated me.” 

    In Hinduism, wedding ceremony is viewed as the beginning of a responsible and purposeful life. Prayers are offered to God (symbolized by nuptial fire) in the presence of family and friends for successful wedded life.  The major part of a Hindu wedding ceremony is what is called sapatpadi (seven promises).  The bride and the groom take seven steps together around the  nuptial fire and make the seven promises: to nourish each other, to grow together in strength, preserve wealth, share in joys and sorrows, care for children, be together forever, remain lifelong friends like two wings of a bird.  There is nothing Hindu about these seven promises. They are universally applicable to successful married life.  There is nothing in Hindu wedding ceremony that challenges the faiths and practices of any other religion.  As such a Hindu wedding ceremony could be called “a human wedding ceremony.”  In American culture, a wedding is a wedding between individuals.  However, in Hindu culture, a wedding is a wedding between two families. 

I suggest that you go ahead with both weddings, a traditional Christian wedding as well
as a traditional Hindu wedding.  After all, without traditions, we would be no more than a
single species without any individuality or identity. By participating in the rites of one religion
does not mean that one is adopting that religion. When an American tourist visits a temple in India, he takes his shoes off and bows down to pray, but that doesn't mean he has become a Hindu. Performing both weddings would actually be the very first of many compromises that will need to be made for a wedded life to be successful. A wedded life without compromises is akin to a forest without trees or a river without water. 

My best wishes to both of you for a happy and prosperous wedded life together.