The wedding priest plays an integral part of the ceremony and therefore it is vital you get the right priest for your wedding.
The role of the priest is essential in ensuring that you are married not only by the laws of the land (the civil marriage) but also by the laws of the Lord and the universe.
The Hindu wedding ceremony has its root in the ancient Vedas, which were written over 5000 years ago. Countless couples and generations have performed their wedding according to these rites and it is the priest who is responsible not only for conducting the ceremony, but also for explaining it for the benefit of all those in attendance.
When you look at the moon through the naked eye, it can seem very far away. However, when you look at the same moon through the powerful lens of a telescope, it becomes so close, it feels like you can reach out and touch it. For common people to understand the wedding and make sure the couple get the full benefit from it is very difficult – much like trying to look at the moon with the naked eye. Therefore the priest is like the lens which brings the presence of the Lord into the ceremony thus bringing the whole thing to life for the benefit of all attendees.
I usually make sure that the weddings I conduct follow the 3 E rule:
1. Entertaining. Wedding ceremonies usually last around 1hr 30mins and there are many Sanskrit verses that need to be chanted. In this day and age, attention spans are ever diminishing and therefore it is vital that the priest can make the wedding ceremony entertaining for both the guests and the couple. This is done through stories, humor and keeping in tone with the overall joyous and fun side of the occasion.
2. Educational. Not only is there the fun and entertainment aspect of the wedding but it also serves an educational purpose. There are many customs of the ceremony, which hold profound and significant meanings behind them. Thus, once explained, the audience and the couple will gain a deeper understanding of the customs along with their purpose and significance. Everyone will actually have the opportunity to learn something about the Hindu culture and customs and their relevance in the modern age.
3. Enlightenment. I aim for people to go away from the wedding not only entertained and educated but also enlightened. Enlightenment means people go away actually wanting to know more about Hinduism and what is has to offer.
However, this in and of its self is not enough. The potency of the wedding and all the mantras chanted within it, is directly proportionate to the purity of the priest who is performing it.
In other words, just by calling one self a Brahmin and chanting some mantras does not automatically ensure the blessings of the Lord are with the couple. If the priest himself does not live a brahminical and pure life outside of the wedding, there is no substance to his devotion. Much like a fitness instructor who then goes and eats junk food everyday after work when he gets home.
Therefore a true Brahmin should be strictly following the 4 regulative principles outlined in the Vedic scriptures, for there to be any purity and potency to the ceremony, for the benefit of the couple.
The 4 regulative principles are as follows:
1) No gambling – this creates a cheating mentality where one wants the most rewards by putting in the least effort.
2) No intoxication – including caffeine. This clouds the mind and distracts one from his true nature. Spiritual life is about clarity of thought and controlling the mind.
3) No meat eating – including eggs and fish. One cannot call himself a brahmin if he practices violence and does not have compassion. Therefore, refraining from eating meat helps one develop these two essential qualities needed for any genuine spiritual practitioner – non-violence and compassion.
4) No illicit union. This means where one only engages in union within marriage and for the means of pro-creation. The priest must exercise self-control and not be victimized by the temptations of this world.
Only when the priest lives by these very basic rules at the very least, can he really add potency and genuine substance to the sacred marriage ceremony.