One of the most popular Bangladeshi pre-engagement/wedding customs is the exchange of ‘dalas’ between the future bride and groom and their families. So what’s a dala? Traditionally, a dala is a bamboo or cane basket that is beautifully decorated, and used to display the gifts to the bride and groom. Now as the years have passed, dala decor has become more and more ornate and extravagant. There’s often a playful competition between the bride and groom’s family about who makes the better looking dalas, and as a consequence, over the years the dalas themselves have become more elaborate. Today, some families (like Naveed and mine) are choosing to replace the bamboo or cane with woodworks, artistic carpentry, mirrors, glass, perplex and array of decorative items sourced from a variety of countries.
In the past, dalas were only exchanged before the wedding, during the Gaye Holud ceremony (a little bit about the Gaye Holud here), however, as engagement ceremonies became more popular, families started exchanging dalas prior to the engagement as well. This is said to have stemmed from the belief that the future and bride and groom should ideally be wearing new clothing and accessories on their special days.
So for the engagement, the future groom and his family give the future bride presents and bride’s family gives the groom and his family presents. Of course, the parents of the bride and groom often choose to give their own children gifts as well.
As for the decoration of the dalas, many people decorate their own dalas, however, buying pre-made dalas. or hiring professional dala creators/decorators is also common practice. In our case, we decided to design and decorate our own dalas. The dalas from my (the bride’s side) were designed by my very talented mother. Since we went with a purple and pearl theme for the engagement ceremony itself, we decided to continue with the theme for the dalas.
So here are the future groom’s (Naveed’s) dalas:
The dala for the watch:
Naveed’s shoes, belt, accessories, shirt, cummerbund, and bow tie:
Naveed received his gifts from my family and I received my gifts from Naveed and his family. As the bride, I received some special treatment and was gifted jewellery from both families (I’m beginning to realise that getting married comes with many perks).
Here are the gifts that I received:
My jewellery from Naveed’s family and my parents:
Along with gifts for the bride an groom, our families exchanged a whole lot of sweets, including chocolates and an array of Bangaldeshi traditional desserts. These sweets were then given as gifts to the extended families of the bride and groom. Naveed’s family also brought along a special Dala containing betel leaf and accompanying condiments. This is because the engagement itself, is sometimes referred to a Paan-Chini program (literally translating to betel leaf and sugar) and when the dates for the wedding are set/ announced the groom’s family brings along sweets and betel leaf for the families to enjoy. Since it’s an occasion to celebrate my family, too, decided to gift sweets to Naveed and his family.
Chocolates for him and his family from my family:
Laddu (traditional Bangladeshi sweet) for him and his family from my family:
Pitha (traditional Bangladeshi sweet) for him and his family from my family:
More sweets for his family (extended) from mine:
Betel leaf (paan) and condiments from Naveed’s family to mine:
A variety of halwa (traditional Bangladeshi sweet) from Naveed’s family to mine:
More sweets from his family to mine:
Sweets from Naveed’s family to my family (extended)
Chocolates from Naveed’s family to mine:
Finally, here’s a photo of the dala for our rings. As the rings were to be exchanged during the engagement ceremony itself (and I’ll be posting about that soon) I’ve included a photo of the dala without the rings:
Generally, dalas are exchanged on the day of the engagement, however, we decided to do things slightly differently. My family hosted a Pre-Engagement Dala Exchange night where we all dressed up, exchanged dalas and enjoyed a nice dinner. As Naveed and his family live overseas (Melbourne), it was also the perfect opportunity for us to introduce him and his family to the elders of my family, particularly my grandmother. In my next posts I’ll be writing about the night of the Pre-Engagement Dala Exchange and our looks for the evening. Stay tuned!