Bringing Shoe Stealing to a Whole New Level…

In some sectors of Nepali and Indian culture there is a wedding tradition where the sisters of the bride–and this could be immediate biological sisters, or cousin-sisters, or female friends, etc–steal the shoes of the groom.

The set up for this works well because during the ceremony the bride and groom have to remove their shoes since the mandap becomes a small Hindu temple, and in all Hindu temples one must remove their shoes. I believe it is the same with mosques, so I wouldn’t be surprised if shoe stealing happens at South Asian Muslim weddings as well–readers can weigh in.

The groom’s friends or male cousins/brothers are supposed to guard the shoes, and I’ve even heard about “decoy” shoes to throw the sisters off.

Once the sisters steal the shoes the groom has to pay a bribe to get them back at the end of the ceremony. Depending on the parties involved, negotiations can be pretty tough.

When my sister heard about this, she loved the idea, and stole P’s shoes at our wedding, but I gave her a limit on how much she could reasonably ask for. When she asked for $50, S said, “that’s too little!” and gave her a handful of money from his wallet. I think she made off with $100 and was pretty satisfied.

Over the weekend we went to an Indian/Nepali wedding in the DC area. It was the biggest wedding I had ever been too– about 600 people. The bride was a childhood/neighborhood friend of P and his brother, and she was marrying a Punjabi man. Both the bride and groom had 13 or 14 members in their wedding party–“bridesmaids” and “groomsmen,” so when the “bridesmaids” (sisters) demanded payment for the groom’s shoes, they meant business and had the numbers to back it up.

They started chanting, “$3,000! $3,000!”

The groom countered with, “It’s a recession! That’s too much for a pair of shoes!”

Sisters: “We want $3,000!”

Groom: “I’ll give you two-fifty each…”

Sister: “Two hundred and fifty dollars each?”

Groom: “No! Two dollars and fifty cents!”

Sisters: “Noooooooo! Boooo!”

Groom: “Be reasonable girls!”

Groom’s brother: “No more than $50 per sister, otherwise they are being greedy!”

Sisters (urged on by the bride): “No, we want $3,000!”

…Haggling back and forth for quite a while…

Groom: “Okay, how about I give you all the money in my wallet right now? Trust me, it’s a lot, you will be happy… and I’ll throw an awesome party!”

Sisters: “How much is in your wallet?”

Groom: “$800 and a gift card for $25, you can have that too!”

Sisters: “Noooooo!”

…Haggling some more…

Some of the brothers reluctantly open their wallets and sweeten the pot to make an even $1,000 plus the $25 gift card.

The sisters finally accept.

P’s cousin’s American husband leaned in and whispered to me, “Um, is this for real?”

Sisters enjoy their shoe money...


13 responses to “Bringing Shoe Stealing to a Whole New Level…

  1. This is very common in Muslim weddings too except ours is far more exciting and we are not gender-biased in our dealings(all cousins/friends).We actually have to rip the shoes off the groom’s feet WHILE he is on stage…you just gotta find the right moment. And then the shoes are either hidden or held onto by someone…a game of tag might also ensue between the shoe-bearer and grooms’ people. The amount has to be right (have to take into account the number of people in the bridal party your sister actually did good in that regard) and the “arguing” should be done in good fun. Depending on where the wedding is, a dollars vs rupees debate may also occur, which is entertaining. Some grooms families even come prepared with decoy money and envelopes! It’s a fun time, we enjoyed it alot at our wedding!

  2. Pretty much all of the aspects of most S.A. Muslim communities’ weddings are from indigenous (Hindu) culture except the actual signing of the marriage contract, feeding guests as a social announcement of the wedding, plus the groom to bride dowry, the only three requirements of an Islamic marriage. All else is culture. It never actually takes place at a mosque, either. Shoe stealing is indeed one of the events at during the festivities. I loved your pics from the event. Looked like a lot of fun.

  3. Yep, Bangladeshi Muslim weddings definitely have that…or at least they are supposed to. No one in my family was up for shoe stealing though, so my husband got to keep his.

  4. Yeah, this thing is so awesome. In fact, it adds fun to the entire wedding ceremony. Two of my sister’s and several other cousin sisters have been married, and this “shoe-stealing” game is something that we always plan before the wedding. It gets real intense, in a good way. ;)

  5. Sounds like fun :) But wow. That’s a lot of money!

  6. It looks like you can get more money when your relatives get married overseas than in Nepal. In Nepali culture, groom has to fork out money twice. Once in bride’s place for her sisters and cousins for the shoes and again at groom’s house for his sisters and cousins to let the newly wed bride in. AS paid NRS 10,000 (US$135), both the time so he got away cheap I think. It is such a fun culture. At my house, while my sisters and cousins were trying to steel the shoes from his feet, they almost lift him.Definately there was a war between two team :)

  7. Shoe stealing is lot of fun! but sometimes when brides comes in between groom and bride’s sisters then it spoils the game. Like one of my American friend, in her wedding, apparently she told her sister the amount which they can ask for. It was completely not fair in her part. Since, this tradition was new for her sisters, so they just believed her…. hint hint Americanepali :)

  8. I just came across your blog. I attended this wedding also. The bride is my husband’s cousin. My family is also a Nepali-American household.

  9. Pingback: D and Y’s Wedding: Mehndi, Swayambar, and Bihaa | nepali jiwan


    All about Nepali Culture… time is a lot of fun in Nepal…love your blog! Always waiting to read more….

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