The most important ritual in a Hindu wedding is called Saptapadi. It is known as the seven step ritual, where each step corresponds to a vow groom makes to bride, and a vow the bride makes to groom. The vows are pronounced in Sanskrit in long form, or short quicker form, sometimes also in the language of the groom and bride. In many weddings, Saptapadi is performed near a fire; and after each of the seven oaths to each other, the groom and bride perform the ritual of Agnipradakshinam – walk around the fire, with part of each other’s clothing tied to each other. The fire is a form of Yajna – a vedic ritual where fire is the divine witness (to the marriage). After Saptapadi, the couples are considered husband and wife.
In some regions, a piece of clothing or sashes worn by the bride and groom are tied together for this ceremony. Elsewhere, the groom holds the bride’s right hand in his own right hand.
Step 1 Groom’s vow: O! You, who feed life-sustaining food, nourish my visitors, friends, parents and offsprings with food and drinks. O! Beautiful lady, I, as a form of Vishnu, takes this first step with you for food.
Step 1 Bride’s vow: Yes, whatever food you earn with hard work, I will safeguard it, prepare it to nourish you. I promise to respect your wishes, and nourish your friends and family as well.
Step 2 Groom’s vow: O!, thoughtful and beautiful lady, with a well managed home, with purity of behavior and thought, you will enable us to be strong, energetic and happy. O! Beautiful lady, I, as Vishnu, takes this second step with you for the strength of body, character and being.
Step 2 Bride’s vow: Yes, I will manage the home according to my ability and reason. Together, I promise, to keep a home that is healthy, strength and energy giving.
Step 3 Groom’s vow: O! Skillful and beautiful lady, I promise to devote myself to earning a livelihood by fair means, to discuss, and let you manage and preserve our wealth. O! Dear lady, I, as Vishnu form, covers this third step with you to thus prosper in our wealth.
Step 3 Bride’s vow: Yes, I join you in managing our income and expenses. I promise to seek your consent, as I manage our wealth, fairly earned, so it grows and sustains our family.
Step 4 Groom’s vow: O! Dear lady, I promise to trust your decisions about the household and your choices; I promise to dedicate myself to help our community prosper, the matters outside the house. This shall bring us respect. O! My lady, I, as Vishnu, takes this fourth step with you to participate in our world.
Step 4 Bride’s vow: Yes, I promise to strive to make the best home for us, anticipate and provide necessary things for your worldly life, and for the happiness of our family.
Step 5 Groom’s vow: O! Lady of skill and pure thoughts, I promise to consult with you and engage you in the keep of our cows, our agriculture and our source of income; I promise to contribute to our country. It shall win us future. O! My skilled lady, I, as Vishnu form, takes this fifth step with you to together grow our farms and cattle.
Step 5 Bride’s vow: Yes, I promise to participate and protect the cattle, our agriculture and business. They are a source of yogurt, milk, ghee and income, all useful for our family, necessary for our happiness.
Step 6 Groom’s vow: O! Lovely lady, I seek you and only you, to love, to have children, to raise a family, to experience all the seasons of life. O! My lovely lady, I, as Vishnu, takes this sixth step with you to experience every season of life.
Step 6 Bride’s vow: Feeling one with you, with your consent, I will be the means of your enjoyment of all the senses. Through life’s seasons, I will cherish you in my heart. I will worship you and seek to complete you.
Step 7 Groom’s vow: O friends! Allow us to cover the seventh step together, this promise, our Saptapad-friendship. Please be my constant wife.
Step 7 Bride’s vow: Yes, today, I gained you; I secured the highest kind of friendship with you. I will remember the vows we just took and adore you forever sincerely with all my heart.
After the seventh step, the two become man and wife.