About the Wedding Ceremony
The Self-Realization Fellowship Wedding Ceremony is based on India's centuries old Vedic marriage rites, and was especially adapted for the West by our founder, Paramahansa Yogananda. The sacred ceremony invokes the blessing of God, and emphasizes that God is the central force guiding the lives of husband and wife for their mutual spiritual unfoldment. The taking of these holy vows with sincerity before God and one another lends strength to the couple's resolve to base their relationship on the highest principles of marriage.
Planning the Ceremony
To schedule a marriage ceremony, a couple needs to arrange with the wedding co-ordinator for an interview with a Self-Realization Fellowship minister. This interview is for spiritual counseling. The minister will talk to the couple about the ideals for a spiritual marriage as reflected in the teachings of Self-Realization Fellowship and in our marriage ceremony. At the conclusion of the interview, the couple will meet with the Wedding Coordinator to arrange a date and time for the ceremony, and to discuss the logistics of the ceremony.
It is possible that the minister who conducts the pre-wedding interview may not be the minister who performs the wedding ceremony.
Couples interested in scheduling an interview should contact the Wedding Co-ordinator at
Tuesday through Friday, from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm (PST), at 310-454-4114, ext. 5351
Days and Time
Weddings are conducted on Saturdays only, and only on certain Saturdays of each month. The ceremonies take place at 11:00 am, 1:00 pm, and 3:00 pm only.
Ceremonies take place either in the Windmill Chapel, or beneath the Lotus Towers on the Gandhi Memorial lawn.
Number of Guests
Wedding ceremonies are limited to a maximum of one hundred guests.
Outdoor temple seating
We do not provide chairs for weddings on the Gandhi Memorial lawn. Couples who wish to have chairs should arrange to rent them from outside companies.
Unless the rental agency is instructed that the chairs are to be delivered to the lawn area designated by Lake Shrine personnel, the agency will leave them in the parking lot. The couple must then arrange to have the chairs taken to the lawn area, set up before the wedding, and removed immediately after the ceremony.
The rental agency shoud be informed that chairs must be picked up on the Saturday of the wedding. It is not possible for the Lake Shrine to store chairs over the week-end! Those considering chair rental should discuss this further with the wedding co-ordinator, who will provide additional information.
Weddings scheduled for the Gandhi Memorial lawn will be held in the Chapel if the minister determines that the weather makes an outdoor wedding inappropriate.
No wedding receptions may be held at the Lake Shrine. All guests should be informed that no smoking or alcoholic beverages are permitted on the premises, including parking lots.
The Lake level parking lot is reserved for the wedding party. We suggest that couples encourage their guests to carpool, as our parking space is extremely limited.
Also, please tell your guests not to leave their cars at the Lake Shrine and carpool to the reception, as we have other weddings taking place and our grounds close at 4:30 pm, which means they would be unable to reclaim their car that evening.
At least one usher should be provided by the couple to direct guests to the wedding site and to the reserved parking areas. Please check with the wedding secretary for information about where your usher should be positioned.
Donations and deposits
Weddings are conducted on a donation basis. All donations are used to maintain and preserve the beauty of the chapel and grounds of the Lake Shrine for all to enjoy.
Photographs / video may be taken before and after - but not during - the ceremony.
Still photography, video taping, and audio taping are not permitted during the ceremony, even from a great distance. We are not able to make any exceptions to this guideline.
A wedding rehearsal is unnecessary, since the ceremony is simple and short. A Minister's assistant and Bridal assistant will be on hand to give instructions to the wedding party before the ceremony. However, if the wedding party wishes to direct a wedding rehearsal on its own to familiarize the attendants with the grounds, this may be discussed with the Wedding Coordinator.
The bride's party may include a maid or matron of honor, bridesmaid, flower girls, pages and a ring bearer, as desired. She may have someone to give her away, if she wishes.
The bridegroom's party may include a best man and ushers.
Brief instructions are given to the wedding attendants before the ceremony.
The bride may bring a floral bouquet to carry during the processional, if she wishes (she will not be carrying the two roses mentioned in "During the ceremony", above).
Most couples preserve the roses exchange in the flower ceremony and the petals used in the rose petal ceremony as remembrances of their vows. Please delegate to a young person or some other person attending the wedding to bring an envelope and to collect the petals for a keepsake.
Many couples feel that a guest book for everyone to sign is a valued memento of the occasion.
Couples may bring their own book, which will be placed on a table (provided by the couple) near the entrance to the Windmill Chapel, or near the beginning of the path that leads to the Gandhi lawn area. A member of the wedding party may be asked to remind each guest to sign his or her name.
It is easier, though, to have the Guest Book at the reception so that the guests may be given more time to enjoy the beauty of the Lake Shrine.
The Day of the Ceremony
What to bring
The couple must bring the following on the day of the wedding (we suggest they make a checklist):
a. Their California Marriage License (The minister cannot conduct the wedding service unless he has received, prior to the ceremony, a valid license).
b. Ring(s): One for the bride, and if it is to be a double-ring ceremony, one for the groom (rings are not mandatory).
c. Roses: One red and one white (long stemmed and thorns removed). These roses will be exchanged as a part of the ceremony, and will be placed on the altar before the wedding begins.
d. Witnesses: Two witnesses (usually the best man and the maid of honor).
e. Music: If the couple is providing their own music.
The wedding party should arrive at the Lake Shrine at least 1 hour before the scheduled wedding time.
Where to go upon arrival
Some couples follow the tradition of not seeing one another on the day of the wedding before the ceremony, while others arrive together. The wedding secretary will provide instructions about where to go upon arrival in either case.
The bride's dress should be conservative, and must include proper under garments. Transparent or immodest gowns are inappropriate to our temple setting. We are unable to perform ceremonies for couples who do not adhere to these dress guidelines.
Please advise your guests to plan ample travel time to the Lake Shrine. Due to the proximity of coastal beaches, all access roads are generally quite congested, which can delay the punctual arrival of both guest and members of the wedding party.
Our ceremony is brief, and must begin on time. Couples often tell guests the ceremony is scheduled 15 to 30 minutes earlier than it actually is, to prevent latecomers from missing the ceremony.
The bride's father may attend her at the altar if desired, in which case someone should usher the bride's mother to her seat just before the ceremony begins.
On signal from the minister's assistant, the minister, followed by the groom and the best man, enter from a side door and assume their places in front of the altar on the right side. The best man stands slightly to the left behind the groom as they both face the congregation.
As soon as the groom and best man reach their places, the bride, whoever is giving her away (if someone is), and her attendants enter the Chapel from the main entrance and make the traditional walk down the aisle. Facing the altar, the maid of honor stands to the bride's left.
Gandhi lawn ceremony
Usually the bridegroom, best man, and minister enter the lawn area from one of the upper terrace areas and assume their places in front of the altar (the stone tablet that is permanently positioned beneath the Lotus Towers).
Then the bride and bridal party walk around the lake side path beginning from the houseboat area. The guests can see the bridal party as the processional takes place, which is a lovely addition to the ceremony.
Variations to the standard entrances will be described by the wedding secretary when the creremony is scheduled. The positioning of additional attendants may be discussed with the wedding secretary as well.
When the bride reaches the groom's side, he turns to face the altar. The bride releases her father's arm, transfers her flowers to her left arm and gives her right hand to the groom. He puts it through his left arm and her hands rest near his elbow. Or, the couple may simply stand side by side.
At this point the minister will ask, "Who gives this bride in marriage?" to which the bride's father may answer, "We do," thus including the bride's mother. The father then takes his seat beside his wife.
Photography and Video
Photographs and video may be taken during the processional even as the wedding party arrives at the altar.
We ask that all photography and videography cease when the minister begins speaking.
The minister will shower the bride and groom with rose petals as a blessing as they begin their marriage. Photography may resume just before the minister showers the couple with rose petals and may continue as the minister pronounces the couple husband and wife.
After the signing of the marriage documents, many couples pose for photographs together with members of the wedding party. The minister will be happy to pose for one or two photos immediately after the documents are signed.
The bride and groom go up the aisle at the conclusion of the ceremony. Immediately following the recessional, the bride, groom and their two witnesses go to an area designated by the minister's assistant for the signing of the marriage documents.
Rice and confetti may not be thrown on the Lake Shrine grounds. However, it is permissible for bridal attendants to scatter rose petals, and for wedding guests to blow bubbles as the couple departs.
About the Wedding Ceremony