Ladakh Marriage Ceremonies
Marriages are usually initiated by the boy's parents when he is about 20 years old. The parents of the boy visit the girl's parents (she is usually two to three years younger than the boy) to ask for their agreement to the match. If it is accepted, lamas are consulted to select an auspicious date.
The marriage celebration usually lasts all night, beginning in the late evening when the village families arrive, each bringing food for the wedding feast. During the night-long celebration, the groom will often dance and certainly drink chang, while the bride is expected to remain sitting, often in the kitchen. The bride and groom are both presented with ceremonial khatas and sums of money. Toward sunrise, the bride is led to the groom's family home where she is met by lamas and her new family. In the ensuing ceremony, the bride initially refuses food until she is led from her father to her new husband, with whom she then shares a meal. The bride is then shown the house and by sunrise, the ceremony is complete. The celebration, however, will continue much longer with music, food and chang.
Although it is usual for the bride to move to her husband's family home, the reverse may occur if the girl's family is wealthy or if her family has not sons, in which case the groom will carry on the girl's family name.
A different type of marriage called Skus-te-Khyong-ches or "to bring by theft", is conducted when a person is marrying for a second time (due to death or divorce) or the individuals involved are poor. The bride is quietly brought to her new home and several days later, relatives and friends are invited for a meal and the public is considered informed of the marriage.