In Hindu wedding ceremonies, sometimes there’s confusion over the 7 steps of saptapadi and 7 pheres around the fire. They’re two different things and both are included in Hindu ceremonies.
In the 7 steps of saptapadi, the couple stands side-by-side and take 7 steps at a slow place. It is believed that when the couple takes these 7 steps together, they will be lifelong partners. The vows passed down for centuries can seem archaic for modern society and some officiants are open to modernizing and personalizing them.
i.e. when we reviewed the vows for my wedding, one of them was that I’d agree to take care of our livestock – makes perfect sense…if we were living in an agrarian village in India. We worked with our officiant to write vows that were meaningful to us.
ProTip: review the ceremony with your officiant a few months before the wedding. You may want to change some things.
The seven (clockwise) pheres around the fire represent harmony of body, mind, soul, values (dharma), prosperity (arth), karma, and moksha. Before the pheres, the groom’s sister ties a scarf, connecting the bride and groom’s dupattas in what is known as granthibandhan. It represents their greater strength together.
As we know, Hinduism is a vast religion with many sects. In some of these cultures there are only 4 pheres: dharma, arth, kama, mosksha. And who leads the pheres varies as well. In some cultures the bride leads first the first pheres and the groom, the last ones, representing harmony and balance in the home.