The Traditional Wedding Ceremonies

Sri Lankan Weddings
Image: Womanly.lk

Weddings in Sri Lanka are a major ceremony which take place after months of preparation. Not only the couple, friends and relatives too are eagerly awaiting the big day of celebration. Sri Lankan weddings are not just social receptions. It’s an event for observing and performing the traditions which occupy significant roles in the ceremonies.

The traditional Sri Lankan Sinhala-Buddhist wedding ceremonies involve many customs and rituals that have been passed down from generation to generation. Though wedding ceremonies have been subject to change over the decades, some of the key features, such as observing the Nekath and the Poruwa Charithra, remain unchanged. Below is a glimpse of traditional Sinhala-Buddhist wedding ceremonies.

The auspicious time (Nakath) is a very important part of Sinhala-Buddhist wedding ceremonies. The date and the nekatha the wedding ceremony should begin are decided by an astrologer after consulting the horoscopes of the bride and the groom. This is the most important part of pre-wedding arrangements. Even the time (Nekatha) at which each tradition or ritual should be performed at the ceremony is decided on by an astrologer, based on the horoscopes of the couple.

The poruwa which is a decorated platform represents the house that the couple will share and is symbolic of their marriage and the start of a new life. A traditional Sinhala-Buddhist marriage ceremony is centered around this Poruwa ceremony, i.e. the traditions done on the Poruwa.

Poruwa Ceremony Sri Lanka
Source: University of Sri Jayawardenepura

The ceremony also involves the master of ceremonies. The narrator who recites religious chants (known as ashtaka) and the Jayamangala Gatha, a group of four young girls who bless the marriage with a traditional Buddhist chant, are some of the actors who play notable roles in the ceremony. Sometimes, Kandyan dancers and drummers also perform at weddings.

Many rituals and traditions which are symbolic and sacred to Buddhism are included in the poruwa ceremony and each one is conducted due to a specific belief. The ashtaka narrator recites religious chants throughout the ceremony while these rituals are performed.

At the given auspicious time, the ceremony begins; at first, the groom and his family gather at the right side of the poruwa, while the bride and her family gather at the left side. The bride and groom step onto the platform with their right foot first. At some wedding ceremonies this is done to the beat of drums and the sound of a conch shell.

When the bride and groom stand next to each other on the platform, the master of the ceremony presents a collection of betel leaves to them, which they accept and give back to him.

The tying of pirith nool (a sacred thread) is a symbol of the union of marriage. The little fingers of the couple are tied together with pirith nool or gold thread by a maternal uncle of the bride who then pours pirith pan (holy water) over their tied fingers.

After the pirith nool ritual, the groom presents a length of white cloth about 16m in length to the bride, which she, in turn, gives to her mother. The giving of this length of white cloth to the bride’s mother is an expression of the groom’s gratitude to his mother-in-law for raising the bride since her birth.

Much like the wedding cake that is a highlight of western and even some Eastern weddings, at a traditional Sinhala-Buddhist wedding it is the milk rice (kiribath) which is the most special dish out of all the sweetmeats that are a part of the wedding spread. The bride’s mother feeds the bride and groom a mouth of milk rice and the groom’s mother gives them each a sip of milk.

After traditions have been performed, the newly-wed couple can step down from the platform – again, with their right foot first, an appointed person breaks a fresh coconut into two to bless the couple’s marriage, while the couple light the traditional oil lamp.

Another custom which has been integrated into contemporary Sinhala-Buddhist weddings is the giving of betel leaves from the bride to the groom. Before the couple steps down from the poruwa, the bride hands a sheaf of the leaves to the groom and worships him, this is performed to signify the loyalty of the wife to her husband.

A Sinhala-Buddhist wedding is not merely a festive occasion for family members, relatives, and friends to celebrate a union of marriage between two people. They are also splendid occasions to observe many of the rituals and traditions that have been a part of the Sinhala-Buddhist culture in our country over a long period of time.

Sri Lanka is fast-becoming an ideal location for destination weddings in Sri Lanka. Talk to our staff at Amaya Resorts to pick the ideal wedding destination for you.