Making Sagun Bags

My first “real” Nepali wedding experience was at R and S’s week long ceremony in 2009. I stored away different ideas that I saw as possibilities for our own wedding down the road. However they are both Newari, and what I didn’t realize at the time was that various rituals and traditions that I was taking note of were often specific to the Newari community in Nepal–and that even within the Newari community there were various “takes” on different traditions (as was evident when R and S would debate their own family’s particular wedding traditions).

P’s mom is Newari, but P’s dad is Chetri, so generally the culture of a household (if the household in Nepal is blended) tends to be that of the father, so much of P’s family traditions were Chetri instead of Newari growing up. (Conversely, S’s mom is Chetri but dad is Newari, so he grew up with Newari traditions).

One tradition that I noticed at R and S’s wedding was that R’s family gave guests small red velvet bags with a picture of Ganesh with “R weds S” imprinted on it. Inside was a small packet of nuts, dried fruits, and chocolates. I assumed that this was a universal custom, not necessarily a Newari custom. So while budgeting for various aspects of our wedding, I had assumed that we would give small favors at the American wedding (as per our tradition) and that we would give a small bag of nuts and dried fruits at the Nepali wedding as a favor.

I mentioned this to P a few months ago, and he said, “Oh that’s sagun that’s a Newari thing. I don’t think we have to do that, but you can ask my dad.”

So we asked, and P’s dad said not to worry about the bags, we didn’t have to do it.

Around the time that P was in Nepal (three months ago), P’s dad realized that I had googlechat because P would message me when I was at work (if the power was on in Nepal). P’s dad loves keeping in contact with people, so after P left, he started messaging me nearly everyday to say a quick hello and ask how things were going.

A few weeks ago I mentioned to him that I was going to give out small favors at the American wedding, since that was the tradition, and asked if he wanted to do anything similar for the Nepali wedding. I think when he heard that there were favors for the American wedding, and thought it would be nice to do sagun bags too. So he told me he would talk to Mamu about it.

Eventually they decided it would be nice, so P’s parents went to a shop to order the red velvet bags with Ganesh that said, “Happy Wedding! C weds P July 9 2011.” (I bet it was the first time that the shop keeper put my name on a sagun bag!)

When his parents arrived in the States, they came with a suitcase of food, included several bags of cashews, almonds, pistachios, and 150 red velvet sagun bags.

R and S made a surprise visit this weekend (in part because the boys decided to take P out for a bachelor’s party– in true P style–deep sea fishing! That’s where they are as I type) so R offered to help put the sagun bags together.

We laid out a sheet, and put the different nuts and chocolates into different bowls for easy access, and R, Mamu and I started filling bags. The first 75 seemed to take a long time (especially when Mamu declared, “No mistake, no mistake” and R and I rushed to keep up with her pace), but later in the evening, after a long break, the last 75 went very quickly.

R and I filling sagun bags with cashews, pistachios, almonds and chocolates

So now we have baskets and bags full of 150 red velvet “C weds P” sagun bags to distribute next Saturday!

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9 responses to “Making Sagun Bags

  1. yes sagun bags are really nice tradition in many cultures during wedding ceremonies

  2. Looks good! Guests will love it! By the way, have you thought about getting a translator who can translate in English to those who will not understand what is going on during the Nepali ceremony? This may help many of the people on your side (and believe me many Nepalis also don’t know what is going on) feel more comfortable during the Nepali wedding. Depending on the size of the area in which the Nepali wedding will take place, you could even get a microphone and speakers so the translator can be heard admidst the chatter that will most likely take place during the ceremony? Someone who understands the rituals and who can clearly speak in English. All the best to you and your family. Enjoy these last few days before your marriage. Wish you a blissful marriage!

  3. Hello C. My nepali fiance and I can’t wait to see your wedding pics. You must be so excited. Only a few more days to go!

    Shuva bibaha!

    J & B

  4. I have never seen these kind of bags before. They are so cute. What a nice tradition.

  5. That’s wonderful. I have been to Pakistani weddings where they give ornate pouches or tiny decorated boxes filled with nuts or even chocolates. They don’t call them shagun/sagun bags, I don’t know what they are called, but it is a tradition for some people, I suppose. I can’t wait to see your pics, either.

  6. Wedding excitement :) The bags look great. Hope it’s all going well!

  7. I love your blog, but just a quick note: Newari is the language, Newar is the people.

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