Wedding Poruwa, a stage like structure with decorations which is a Unique Part of the Sri Lankan Traditional Weddings
Wedding Poruwa, a Unique Part of the Sri Lankan Traditional Weddings

A marriage secures the deep love and bond between two people. Besides, every couple looks forward to their wedding day to declare and celebrate their love as a forever thing. However, this wedding celebration is highly influenced by one’s culture and religion. There are many traditions related to weddings in almost every society. As you might already know, Sri Lanka has a great history and a rich culture. Thus, the wedding traditions in Sri Lanka, which reveal to the world the unique shades of the multicultural communities in Sri Lanka, are simply interesting to get to know about. Thus, we thought of sharing with you, the deep values and the unique shades of the wedding traditions in Sri Lanka. Continue reading!

Sinhalese Wedding Traditions in Sri Lanka

Sinhalese are the majority among the different ethnic groups in Sri Lanka. Their wedding ceremonies mainly come in two ways as follows. 

  1. Upcountry (Kandyan) weddings: Strongly has the Sinhalese traditional values.
  2. Lowcountry (Pahatharata) weddings: Sinhala traditions are blended with a western touch, mainly when it comes to attire.

There are some differences between these two categories. Still, Sinhalese weddings always adhere to traditions related to Buddhism. There is a whole cultural significance behind each of the traditions. Most of these traditions have been customized over time. But still, the traditions that have been passed down for centuries are considered to be very important in Sinhalese wedding ceremonies. The following are some such main traditions still taking place in Sinhalese weddings.

  • Auspicious Time
  • Sinhalese Wedding Attire
  • Mini Procession to the Wedding Venue
  • Poruwa Ceremony
  • The Wedding Feast
  • Mangala Sabhawa
  • Mangala Perahera
  • The Homecoming

Let us go through each of these wedding traditions in Sri Lanka and have a look into their significant characteristics.

Auspicious Time

Astrology plays a major role in Sinhalese weddings in Sri Lanka. Before proceeding with anything, it is the tradition of the elders to check the horoscopes of the couple to see whether it’s a match. Thereafter, once the wedding is confirmed, families get the auspicious times or the ‘Nakath’ prepared since they are a mandatory part of Sinhalese wedding traditions in Sri Lanka.

The astrologer determines the date for the wedding and the good times for the wedding rituals after examining the horoscopes of the couple. Then, Sinhalese plans all the other arrangements of the wedding ceremony in accordance with those times. They strongly believe that doing so will do good to the couple.

According to astrology, there are time periods that are very suitable for wedding ceremonies. Accordingly, the months of March, May, June, and July are usually the wedding season for the Sinhalese. Many try to have the most special day of their lives on the best possible day. However, the auspicious time always differs according to the horoscopes of the couple.

Sinhalese Wedding Attire

The traditional Sinhalese wedding attire is noteworthy as it is unlike in any other country. The upcountry or the Kandyan bride wears an ‘Osariya’ which is a variation of saree often known as the Kandyan saree. The Kandyan saree for weddings often comes in light colors.

Moreover, the designers use beads, pearls, and stones to embroider them heavily so as to give the saree a rich look. The Kandyan bride also wears a set of gold jewelry, which is unique to this costume. The whole attire represents beauty, youth, and purity.

On the other hand, the low-country bride wears a modest saree with a westernized touch. The brides who dress in this tradition may opt to wear a silk veil as well, and they wear less jewelry when compared to an up-country bride.

The Kandyan groom either wears the Nilame costume or the national suit. The Nilame costume is an extraordinary suit that has been derived from ancient kings and headmen. This costume comes in dark bright colors, such as maroon, green, purple, brown, red, and blue.

The costume designers heavily embroider these costumes with gold threads. In addition, there are many symbols in this attire such as the lion, swan, flower strands, phoenix, and swords. The suit is very heavy and grooms wear this with a sarong and a crown-like hat. The dress symbolizes power, royalty, and masculinity.

The traditional national suit is also worn in both Kandyan and low-country weddings, usually with a Satakaya (a shawl). The suite consists of a sarong and a traditional shirt in light colors such as white and yellow. However, at present, some grooms choose western full suits also for the Sinhalese weddings according to the color of the bride’s attire.

Mini Wedding Procession to the Venue

Earlier, Sinhalese weddings were always held at the bride’s house. Yet, now the majority choose a hotel or a destination as the wedding venue. At the very beginning of the wedding, there is a small procession with traditional drum beaters and dancers to take the bride and the groom to the reception hall.

First, the bridegroom and his family enter the reception hall. At the entrance, a group of young girls sings a ‘welcome song’ as blessings and a welcome. Before stepping into the hall, the bride’s brother pours a little amount of water to the groom’s feet, symbolizing respect. According to tradition, the bridegroom gifts a gold ring for the brother at that moment. Then the bride’s family welcomes the groom and his family to the wedding venue.

Then, the bride is escorted to the venue, by her family, and the drum beaters and dancers. Of course, this happens to be the major attraction of the event, as the gathering catches the sight of the beautifully-dressed bride, for the first time on that day. So, this mini procession sets a spectacular start for the proceedings of this beautiful day.

Poruwa Ceremony

The Poruwa ceremony is the preeminent moment of a Sinhala Buddhist wedding. The ‘Poruwa’ can be considered as a wedding stage which is a wooden platform decorated in traditional ways. This Poruwa structure has four pillars and a roof and people decorate it beautifully with clothes and flowers. Moreover, there are four ‘Punkalasa’ with coconut flowers at the corners of the Poruwa to symbolize prosperity. However, if it is a low-country wedding ceremony, floral decorations would be a highlighting feature of this Poruwa, instead of the ‘Punkalasa’, and the traditional decorations.

Besides, Sinhalese keep small clay lamps on betel leaves with some coins at the four corners to get blessings from the deities. However, they keep coconuts to symbolize the four noble truths of Buddhism. Grains including red rice and coins kept in the Poruwa wish for good wealth for the couple. All these traditions add more value to Sri Lankan wedding functions while showering the new couple with blessings.

The bride enters from the left and the groom enters from the right side into the Poruwa. Generally, an uncle of the bride accompanies her to the Poruwa, and the father of the bridegroom accompanies him to the Poruwa. Then there is a set of rituals that are conducted in the Poruwa.

Rituals in Poruwa Ceremony

After the couple is ushered in the Poruwa at the auspicious time, drums are played to signify the beginning of the Poruwa ceremony. Then, an elder recites ‘Ashtaka’ to bless the couple and a group of girls recite ‘Jayamangala Gatha’ to the couple. During this chanting of ‘Ashtaka’, an elder ties the small finger of the bride and the groom together to symbolize their marriage. Afterward, the elder pours water over their fingers to signify prosperity in their life ahead.

During this event, the groom and the bride exchange wedding rings. Also, the groom gifts a gold necklace, and the home-coming saree to the bride on the Poruwa, signifying that he would treat her with all the necessities in the future. These rituals also symbolize the bond between the newly wedded couple. And the significance is that these rituals are performed in the presence of the guests as a form of assurance to the union of marriage.

The latter part of the Poruwa ceremony mainly consists of offering gifts to the immediate family members. First, the groom gifts ‘Kiri Kada Selaya’ (a white cloth) to his mother-in-law as a token of gratitude for nurturing the bride until then. Next, the couple offers betel leaves for the elder relatives in both families. Each betel leaf shaft consists of forty betel leaves and it signifies the past generations of both families.

The couple dismounts from the Poruwa at an auspicious time and the bride’s uncle breaks a coconut at that moment to drive away from the evil influences. In addition, some give away gifts to a Dhobi (washerwoman) to avoid the Killa (impurities). However, there are certain additions to the Poruwa ceremony in the present, and some differences in different areas, as they have passed down from generations over time.

The Wedding Feast

Sri Lankan cuisine is so rich and diverse and for weddings, there is a grand feast for the celebration. As the couple gets down from the Poruwa, they either cut a cake or a plate of milk rice, amidst the drum beatings and open a traditional tea table with several cultural food items. Milk rice is mandatory on the tea table and sweets such as oil cake (Kawum), cakes, and traditional candies are commonly visible on the tea table.

If it is a day function, the lunch would be the main meal served, and if it is a night function, the dinner would be the main. As rice is the staple food of the country, there would be several rice dishes as the main serving. Various curry dishes and salads are served as side dishes. Apart from the traditional dishes, sometimes dishes like noodles and pasta are present as the main serving these days. However, the menu depends on the couple’s choice.

Furthermore, tea and fruit juice are popular beverages. Sometimes, the guests can obtain alcoholic beverages after lunch. As such, the Sinhalese make sure that the guests have a flavorful meal at the wedding.

Mangala Sabhawa

Mangala Sabhawa is the final event of a Sinhala traditional wedding ceremony. All the guests and the couple get together and the elders of both the families make some speeches on behalf of their families and the couple. These speeches are on thanking the guests and advising the couple for a successful married life.

However, this tradition has taken a modern turn now. In the present, this gathering at the end often consists of speeches and fun items done by the couple’s friends and family. Furthermore, there is a dance floor in the ceremony where the couple performs their first dance as husband and wife. Sometimes a father-daughter dance by the bride and her father goes on in addition.

When reaching the end of the ceremony, the couple offers thank-you notes to everyone who attended the ceremony. As such, Mangala Sabhawa still happens at the end of the wedding ceremony but with a wonderful modern twist.

Mangala Perahera

This is the mini-parade where the couple leaves for their honeymoon. The ancient Sri Lankans used bullock carts to carry the couple and the family members to the groom’s home. But now, usually, the couple uses a simply decorated car to a hotel where they will spend their honeymoon. At the end of the wedding, the couple worships their parents and bids goodbye to the guests. In some weddings, the couple chooses to wear a different outfit for the going away. Finally, they take a departure from the wedding ceremony amidst the blessings of the guests. In the modern-day, this departure does not really happen as a parade. But the term ‘Mangala Perahera’ is still used for departure.

The Homecoming

The homecoming marks the end of the whole Sinhalese wedding ceremony. It takes place a few days after the main wedding ceremony. The purpose of this ceremony is to welcome the bride to the groom’s family. The occasion is sometimes taken at the groom’s house and sometimes in hotels too.

For the homecoming ceremony, the bride wears a bright-colored Saree and sometimes a reddish wedding gown too. The groom often wears a full suit. Currently, there are new trends for the homecoming ceremony such as using Indian wedding costumes.

In comparison to the wedding ceremony, there aren’t many rituals associated with the homecoming ceremony. The function begins as the couple arrives from their honeymoon, and a group of young girls sing a ‘welcome song’ to welcome the newly-wedded couple. Then, the groom’s family welcomes the couple and the bride’s relations to the function. Next, a short event takes place as the groom’s family officially declares that they accepted the bride to the family. Next, the meals are served, and the celebration continues with music and dance. This event sums up the whole wedding and the bride is officially accepted as a member of the groom’s family.

Sinhalese weddings are graceful occasions associated with many traditions and rituals. With modernization, there are some alterations for these traditions and new additions too. However, as mentioned above, almost all the rituals have a symbolic meaning and they are closely connected with Buddhism. The intention of these unique Sinhalese wedding traditions in Sri Lanka is to bless the couple to have a successful married life. It is also an event that marks the new connection between two families. The colorful and eventful celebration portrays the magnificence of the Sinhalese culture as well as the amazing wedding traditions in Sri Lanka.

Tamil Wedding Traditions in Sri Lanka

Tamils are also one of the main community groups in Sri Lanka. They also make the wedding ceremony a colorful and glorious event along the lines of traditional, and religious rituals. Sri Lankan Tamils celebrate the wedding giving prominence to Hinduism. The rituals and traditions are associated with the Hindu religion. Also, a Sri Lankan Tamil wedding has many similarities to a South Indian wedding. But there are noteworthy Sri Lankan elements in a traditional Tamil wedding. Let us have a look at the amazing Tamil wedding traditions in Sri Lanka!

Traditions Related with Tamil Pre-Wedding Preparations in Sri Lanka

Tamils consider that auspicious times are important in Tamil weddings too. So usually, the parents determine the date for the wedding and the good times for the rituals of the wedding with the help of a priest or an astrologer. Tamils sometimes use the Kovil and nowadays mostly a wedding hall as the venue. Tamil weddings usually start in the early morning and last up to 6 – 7 hours. However, the wedding ceremony only lasts for one day.

Tamils decorate the venue with many flowers and traditional decorations. The wedding stage is where the rituals and traditions take place. The ‘Thali’ which is a pendant is the sacred ornament that is offered to the bride by the groom. The wife is supposed to wear this pendant as long as her husband lives. The groom designs the ‘Thali’ with a gold coin before the wedding.

Tamil Wedding Attire

A Tamil bride is so elegant, colorful, and radiant. She wears a bright-colored saree with beautiful golden patterns. The bride does her hair to a plait and a bun and decorates the hair with white flowers and golden ornaments. In addition, a Tamil bride wears the following set of heavy gold jewelry.

  • Toe rings
  • Anklets
  • Armlets
  • Hipbelt
  • Necklaces
  • Nose rings
  • Earrings
  • Hair ornaments

Furthermore, the bride wears beautiful and creative mehndi patterns in her arms and legs for the wedding day. She wears a heavy makeup look to complete the whole look. All these combined give a Tamil girl the look of a Hindu goddess on her wedding day.

Whereas, the groom wears an outfit called the Veshti and Angavastram. The Veshti covers the lower part of the body as a lungi or a sarong and the Angavastram is a simple white shirt. The groom also wears a turban called the Thalaip. In addition, Tamil grooms wear outfits like Kurta and Sherwani. The traditional outfit of the Tamil groom is so simple yet it is elegant.

Wedding Day Rituals

The bride’s family welcomes the groom’s family to the venue. After the welcoming ceremony, the groom steps to the wedding stage where the rituals take place. Before the wedding ceremony, the bride goes through a ritual called purification by the priest. Afterward, the married ladies of both families perform a fertility ritual for the bride. After these rituals, the bride accompanies her groom on the wedding stage to his right side. Then, the Hindu priest conducts a long process of rituals in front of ‘Agni’ (fire). The priest takes blessings from the deities, the deity of fire, and the nine planets for the holy union created between two people. As such, the priest blesses the couple for their prosperity and safety. The couple accepts each other as husband and wife by exchanging luscious flower garlands.

The groom puts two toe rings on the bride’s toes which marks her as a married woman. Finally, the guests shower the couple with grains of rice to bless them with fertility. A Tamil wedding usually has a large number of guests. Guests also wear colorful sarees and traditional Tamil outfits.

For lunch, the Hindus serve a huge vegetarian feast. The traditional meal is so flavorful and it has so much variety. The wedding hall gives out the vibes of a Hindu religious place with all the decorations and traditional, loud Tamil music. However, Sri Lankan Tamils have protected their traditions so much for generations and there are very few alterations in their modern-day weddings too.

Tamil wedding traditions in Sri Lanka prove how vibrant and colorful their culture is. It is a grand cultural and religious celebration for the holy matrimony between two people.

Muslim Wedding Traditions in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan Muslim weddings happen according to the traditions and rituals of the Islam religion. It is noticeable that Muslim weddings are rather simple but still, they have a stunning celebration according to their own ways. It is actually very different from the weddings of the other ethnic groups in Sri Lanka. Muslim weddings in Sri Lanka have received the influence of Malaysian, Indonesian, Indian, and Pakistani traditions.

Nikah Ceremony

The Nikah ceremony is the registration of the marriage. It happens in the mosque. The bride does not participate in this ceremony but her father acts on behalf of her for the rituals. So the groom and the male relatives of both the families participate in the Nikah. The Guru, who is the Muslim registrar of weddings, officiates the wedding. Here, the groom and the bride’s father sign a contract to make the marriage legal. This is like the bride’s father is handing over his daughter to the groom as his wife. Afterward, the groom has to present payment to the bride to validate the Nikah. This payment can be in the form of jewelry or money too. This is mandatory and that payment is popular as the Mehr. Mehr symbolizes the security and freedom that the bride will receive within the marriage.

Wedding Reception

The Nikah ceremony concludes the rituals held in the mosque and they later have a reception to celebrate the wedding. Before the wedding reception, the couple receives the blessings of the elders of both families in a Pachar ceremony.

In Sri Lanka, the Muslim bride wears a light-colored and modest frock with a hijab. The groom wears a Kurta or Sherwani. But some grooms choose to wear the full suit too. First, the bride enters the wedding venue with her face covered with a Veil net. The bride’s elder male relatives welcome the groom and his family to the venue and the bride’s father takes the groom to the bride. There, he presents a necklace to his bride and exchanges rings. Next, they exchange greetings for the first time as husband and wife. The couple receives blessings from the guests and they celebrate the happy occasion together.

Traditions Related with the Walima Ceremony in Muslim Weddings in Sri Lanka

Walima ceremony is the homecoming of Muslim weddings. It happens a week after the wedding. This is even more festive than the wedding reception. The bride’s father is the host of the Walima ceremony and here they accept the groom as a member of their family.

Thus, it is clear that Sri Lankan Muslims celebrate the bond of love in a very unique way according to their religion and culture.

Christian Wedding Traditions in Sri Lanka

The Christians in Sri Lanka celebrate their weddings along with their churches which are Catholic, Protestant, and Anglican. So their weddings are very similar to Western weddings.

The wedding ceremony begins in the Church and it usually follows up with a reception. The bride wears a western wedding frock. But some brides wear light-colored sarees with a veil. The groom wears a full suit. The church ceremony is the same in Sri Lanka too. However, it is important to note that there are many elegant churches in Sri Lanka to make any Christian dream wedding a reality. As a whole, it is clear that Christian wedding traditions in Sri Lanka also prioritize religion and god when performing a wedding.

After the church ceremony, the reception happens as a grand party in a hotel or at a family house. It is a party for the couple to socialize with their families and friends for the first time as husband and wife. Most Christian couples have their reception as a night party. The wedding feast includes traditional Sri Lankan food items too. However, their weddings have more western elements and there aren’t many unique Sri Lankan rituals and traditions in Christian weddings.

The Bottom Line

All these details prove that Sri Lankans celebrate the grand occasions of love in a unique and heart-touching way complemented with traditions. As you know, a wedding is a great way to understand the unique elements of one’s culture. And indeed, the wedding traditions in Sri Lanka hold these values at their best, and further, magnify the rich cultural heritage of this wonderful island. In fact, the diversity between these different types of weddings showcases the luxuriance of the Sri Lankan culture as a whole. So, by chance, if you get an invitation to a wedding in Sri Lanka, make sure you visit it to experience this delight on your own. At the same time, if you wish to have your wedding function in Sri Lanka, or to renew your vows according to Sri Lankan traditions, tour operators here are sure to help you. Happy and safe traveling!