Question: The groom leads the way, with the bride following close behind; they walk around the Guru Granth Sahib altar. I’m not sure but if the girl were to lead the way (maybe 1/2 the time) would that be acceptable? I’m Sikh but I want to know the truth.
Before I answer your question it is important to understand that the Sikh religion is one which supports equity between men and women. It holds women in higher regard than men because women are considered the givers of life. In juxtaposition to this religious philosophy is the culture paradigm from within which it emerged. A culture, that along with many other cultures of the time, considered men superior to women. So to answer your question, one must consider the context in which Sikh religion was formed. When the Sikh religion was founded and Sikh weddings started taking place, society was deeply patriarchal and men were considered the leaders of the family, thus they led the way during the laavan.
It is my understanding that no where in the Guru Granth Sahib does it says who must lead the laavan. The laavan, written by Guru Ram Das Ji, are written as a reminder to the couple’s connection to God. The male leading the laavan is, however, written as part of the Sikh Reht Maryada (Code of Sikh Conduct and Conventions) in Chapter XI Article XVIII. The Sikh Reht Maryada was instituted by the Shromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committe in 1931 and is still being used today.
So the short answer to your question is that, no, it would not be acceptable for the girl to lead for two of the laavan. However, that does not mean one should not try to change the status quo. Since times have changed and in many relationships, both partners are considered equal, the symbolism of the boy leading is no longer accurate. Challenging this tradition will not be easy. You can go to a gurdwara and ask them if you can lead the way for two laavan. I think they will say no because of the code of conduct, but perhaps that will start a dialogue. And change can only come if one is willing to discuss what needs to be changed. Based on the principles of our religion, this gesture of equality should be allowed; however change is a scary thing and does not come easily for most people.
If you are willing to challenge the norm, I hope others will follow your lead until your idea becomes the new norm. Another option, if you want the laavan to be equal for both the bride and groom, is to not to walk around the altar at all. Rather stand or stay seated in your place while they are recited and sung. This is done is some gurdwaras where there is no access to walk around the Guru Granth Sahib.
Good luck to you and please comment on askauntyji.net to let other web site visitors know what you decided to do and how it turned out.