Sri Lankan weddings

In Sri Lanka everyone is supposed to get married, alternative lifestyles, such as being single, having an unmarried relationship and same sex relationships are considered to be odd and are mostly seen as not being normal and not a part of the Sri Lankan culture. Marriages in Sri Lanka are usually arranged by the parents, either through people they know and whom they find suitable, through a matchmaker or via an advertisement in the newspaper. However, times change and more people choose for a so called ‘love marriage’. Social status, caste, education, profession, as well as the financial situation, is taken into consideration in the selection.

Singhalese marriages

Singhalese people usually compare the horoscopes of both the boy and the girl whether they match; if they do not match, the proposal is usually being rejected. An astrologer calculates the auspicious time for the marriage. Betel leaves are significant in the performance of a Singhalese marriage. Relatives are invited for weddings with the betel leaf, like an invitation card. A family will get as many leaves as the number invited. The wedding consists of two separate parts: the wedding day at the bride’s home or at a reception hall, while the second day, called home coming, is celebrated at the groom’s home. The bride and groom are mostly dressed in traditional Singhalese costumes. On the wedding day the Poruwa ceremony is the most important part of the event. Although the ceremony is deeply rooted in tradition, even going back to pre Buddhism times, Buddhist elements dominate the ceremony. Actually the ceremony takes place on a wooden stage, which is also called the Poruwa. On the way to the Poruwa the wedding couple and guests are accompanied by Kandy dancers and drummers. Several ceremonial activities are performed by the bride and groom and their close family members. The parents are being worshipped by the wedding couple; the oil lamp lighted and milk rice being shared between bride and groom. The ceremonial part will be followed by a meal and party. Somewhere in between, the wedding couple also goes out for a photo shoot.

Muslim marriages

Muslim marriages in Sri Lanka are different from Singhalese ones. However, they have some things in common, like the dual character of the wedding, the day itself and the home coming party at the groom’s place. Similar to most of the Singhalese and Tamil weddings, the selection of the partner is done by the parents; they take the social status, financial situation, etc. into consideration as well. In rural areas it is still common that a dowry is negotiated from the bride’s side to the groom. Nowadays we see an increasing number of love marriages due to the mobile phone. Muslim girls have little to no freedom outside the house and thus were unable to engage in love affairs. With the introduction of the mobile phone and reloading options, the number of love affairs has dramatically increased among the Muslim youth. The registration of the marriage is done at the mosque before the festival day. It can also be done on the day of celebration at the house of the bride. It is an entirely male activity; the representative of the mosque, the groom, the father of the bride and witnesses sign the marriage agreement. The father of the bride puts a silver ring on the finger of the groom. Then the document is brought to the bride to sign. The ceremony is followed by a big lunch or dinner, mostly buriyani, originally a Pakistani dish with beef, chicken, green peas and pickles. Watalapan is served as a dessert. The party takes place in two separate rooms, one for males and one for females. For Singhalese invitees there is a separate buffet for a mixed crowd. In the hall for the females a stage is placed for the wedding couple with a settee, facing the (female) guests, decorated mostly with artificial flowers.Usually hundreds of guests are being invited for the wedding. After the meal everybody goes home. Close family members and friends go to the bride’s home and enjoy coffee, tea and sweets.

Hindu marriages

 A Hindu wedding in Sri Lanka is full of traditional ceremonies. It is a custom that the parents arrange the selection of a suitable wedding partner, just like the other weddings as described above, the caste, education, financial situation and social status are important issues in the selection. The wedding consists of two parts: the civil wedding and the traditional wedding. A few weeks before the wedding there is the gold melting ceremony, being held in the groom’s house, which is an important ceremony. A gold coin is melted for the so called ‘nupial cord’ with a pendent to hang around the bride’s neck, fixed with three knots; this is done during the ceremonial wedding. The bride doesn’t remove the chord from her neck as long as her husband is alive. The civil wedding takes place at the bride’s home with the presence of close relatives and friends. During this ceremony rings will be exchanged and the register being signed. A nice lunch will conclude this ceremony. The traditional wedding can be held either at the bride’s house or at the temple (kovil). Most temples also have a reception hall. It is mostly the younger brother who accompanies the groom to the bride’s house or temple (kovil). Upon arrival at the temple the groom takes place at the settee. When the bride arrives she takes her seat on the right side of the groom. The groom then hands over a beautiful silk saree to his bride. She takes the saree and disappears to the dressing room to exchange her saree for the one presented by the groom and returns to her settee, but takes her seat on the left side of the groom. The groom hangs the gold cord around the bride’s neck and from that moment they are husband and wife. The ceremony, which consists of several actions, is led by a priest and accompanied by traditional music.The wedding ceremony is followed by a wedding meal. The bride is usually dressed in a traditional costume and the groom in sherwani.