Have you ever been to a wedding?
Did you ever attend a wedding ceremony so completely different from what you are familiar with?
I cannot forget, one of the most memorable wedding ceremonies that I have attended, and I enjoyed it immensely. It was so unique and totally different from any other nuptials that I have ever been to before.
In August of 2014, I was fortunate enough to be invited by my Sri Lankan friend to his daughter’s wedding.
It was the middle of the rainy season in Sri Lanka, which added to the nice and cool ambiance. Even before my plane landed, I was so excited and filled with anticipation. To be a part of such a unique experience was such a privilege for me.
Unlike in my home country, where June is the most popular month to have a wedding. So much so, that churches and venues are booked months in advance just to be a “June bride”. I learned that there is no special month preferred for a wedding in Sri Lanka. It depends on the auspicious time according to both the horoscope matches of the bride and groom. The formal date and time of the wedding is predetermined by the dates and times of the couple’s birth, they strongly believe in Astrology and using horoscope.
Buddhism is the predominant religion in this island country. Largely, marriages in Sri Lanka are arranged or semi-arranged through the community and the match-making services that exist within the various traditions. Modern weddings are leaning more and more towards love matches, like in the rest of South Asia, but tradition and religion are still paramount to the proceedings.
Anyway I was so super super excited, to experience how it is, and how it looks. The ceremony, the food, and the wedding gown. Of course since i’m a girl, I really wanted to see the style and beauty of the wedding dress.
The wedding ceremony started at 7pm and was held in a Hotel. Yes, it can be in a beach, or in a huge garden or in a Hotel, not like in the Philippines where weddings are most often performed strictly in a church if you are pure catholic. At first I thought they would have the wedding in a Buddhist temple, but I was wrong.
The bride’s nephew washes the groom’s feet, symbolizing that the bride’s family welcomes the groom to their fold.
The groom and his family will assemble on the left of the Poruwa, while the bride and her family assemble on the right. The couple will then enter the Poruwa, leading with the right foot accompanied by their respective fathers.
The Poruwa is a beautifully decorated traditional wooden platform, which can feature an overhanging roof that looks sort of like a silk umbrella. The bride and groom walk up to the Poruwa together, leading with their right foot, and face their guests. The guests are divided based on their relation to the couple – the bride’s side sits on the right side of the platform and the groom’s side on the left. By the way, bonus fact: the footage stage of the Poruwa needs to be 3 feet high from the floor, with 3 steps. Its width should be 6×6 feet.
The bride arrives at a prescribed time, often wearing a white veil in a custom borrowed from the west.
The Asthaka (master of ceremonies) presents a hand of betel leaves to the couple, which they accept and then hand back to him to be placed at an elevated position on the Poruwa. This symbolizes the offering of betel to god. In Sri Lankan Buddhist custom, a sheaf of betel (botanical name Piper betle) is offered as a token of respect in all ceremonial occasions.
The groom’s best man, hands a tray to the groom with fourteen sheaves of betel leaves, each with a coin in the middle (the custom may vary). The groom holds the tray while the bride takes one sheaf at a time and drops it on the Poruwa.
The groom and bride exchange wedding rings handed to them by the best man and the bride’s brother. The rings are placed on the fourth finger of the left hand.
Her uncle walks up to the Poruwa and ties the pinky fingers of both the bride and groom together. He pours water over the fingers so that the water and the ground it lands on can be the lasting witnesses to the union.
Water and earth being the eternal verities, the water so poured and the earth on which it falls are intended to be the lasting witnesses to the marriage.
Next the groom presents his bride with a saree , which she will then present to her mother.
The bride’s mother (or it can be the bride’s sister) gives the couple a special mix of milk, rice and kavum(a deep-fried Sri Lankan pastry).
This is a symbolic pledge to take care of each other for life.
Girls singing the Jayamangala Gatha. Give the presents to them when they finish. (Place about Rs. 300/- in an envelope and hand it to them when they finish the singing).
Getting down from the Poruwa as the MC the Shilapadhipathi, who is more the MC than a priest, chants the blessings with the help from the father of the groom.
The bride’s family member (uncle) breaks open a fresh coconut in two. As family members and guests are waiting to see .. If the couple will have a boy? Or girl?.. Or maybe twins?
Coconut – to signify fertility;
The Poruwa Ceremony is sometimes followed by a Western-style reception. Couples may add their own spin to their Poruwa Ceremony with dancers who enter before them or a garland exchange, but generally Buddhist Sinhalese couples stick to the above. All in all the Poruwa Ceremony is a lasting vestige of Sri Lankan culture and is honored as such.
Of the many traditional events that take place during a Buddhist wedding, the ‘Poruwa’ ceremony is the most important. The Nekath strictly guides the ceremony.
This event is called the ‘Poruwa Siritha’ (Ceremony). The Poruwa Siritha appears to have existed in Sri Lanka before the introduction of Buddhism in the 3rd Century B.C. Through the ages; many innovations have been introduced to the Poruwa Siritha. By and large, the men and women of present day society realize the value of their heritage and are motivated to protect and preserve traditions of their past for posterity. The Poruwa Siritha was as valid custom as a registered marriage until the British introduced the registration of marriages by Law in 1870. Today’s Poruwa Siritha has been influenced by both upcountry and low country customs of Sri Lanka.
Hmmm….Did you encounter cultural differences? and have you ever dated a foreigner?…