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Group Wedding Ceremony Includes Widows

February 06, 2017|

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Brides prepare for a group wedding ceremony hosted by the NGO, Guild of Service in Vrindavan. Image by Amy Toensing. India, 2016.

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Widows sing and celebrate a group wedding ceremony held at their ashram by the NGO, Guild of Service. Traditionally, widows would not be welcome to participate in wedding preparation ceremonies due to the cultural belief that they bring bad luck. Image by Amy Toensing. India, 2016.

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Brides prepare for a group wedding ceremony hosted by the NGO, Guild of Service in Vrindavan. Image by Amy Toensing. India, 2016.

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Widows at Ma Dham ashram perform a Haldi ceremony for a young bride who will participate in a group wedding ceremony for marginalized women. Widows are often excluded from wedding preparations and ceremonies due to the cultural belief that they bring bad luck and were the cause of their husband’s death. Image by Amy Toensing. India, 2016.

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A young, soon to be bride, who would traditionally be forbidden to remarry because of her previous marriage and child, is surrounded by widows at Ma Dham ashram in Vrindavan during a Haldi Ceremony. Image by Amy Toensing. India, 2016.

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Hands of brides decorated with Mehndi (Henna) before a group wedding ceremony in Vrindavan. Image by Amy Toensing. India, 2016.

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Widows at Ma Dham ashram in Vrindavan help a young bride fasten a Nath (nose ring) as part of the Solah Shringra (sixteen adornments) traditionally placed on an Indian bride. Image by Amy Toensing. India, 2016.

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Grooms wait for a group wedding ceremony to begin at Ma Dham ashram in Vrindavan. Image by Amy Toensing. India, 2016.

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A widow, soon to be remarried in a group wedding ceremony in Vrindavan, stands among 14 other brides who would otherwise be challenged to marry in traditional Indian culture—including other widows and inter-religious and inter-community unions. Image by Amy Toensing. India, 2016.

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Couples who would otherwise be challenged to marry because of social or financial limitations—including widows remarrying and inter-religious and inter-community unions—partake in a group wedding ceremony hosted by the NGO, Guild of Service in Vrindavan. Image by Amy Toensing. India, 2016.

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Fifteen couples line up to participate in a group marriage hosted by the NGO, Guild of Service in Vrindavan. Image by Amy Toensing. India, 2016.

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Brides and grooms participating in a group wedding ceremony give offerings to the “Sacred Fire” at Ma Dham ashram in Vrindavan. Image by Amy Toensing. India, 2016.

Twice a year the NGO Guild of Service hosts a dowry-free group wedding ceremony for the marriages of widows, the children of widows, inter-caste unions as well as couples who simply can’t afford a proper Hindu ceremony. Normally these groups, and especially widows, would be “culturally banned” from getting married.

This group ceremony was held at Ma Dham, a home and shelter for widows in Vrindavan, India. There were 15 couples total—five of the marriages included widows.