Asham Danoj & Miuru Sibani
The main ethnic groups in Sri Lanka are the Sinhalese, who make up the majority of the population, Sri Lankan Tamils, Tamils of recent Indian origin, and Muslims. The main religions are Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity. With all these different communities on the island cultural wedding traditions can vary widely but in many interesting cases traditions actually run parallel and overlap.
Buddhism is the most common religion in the island country, and Buddhist Sri Lankan weddings borrow a lot from Hindu traditions. Things like horoscopes and formal family proposals are equally apart of both traditions though they play out slightly different between them.
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.
Before the revival of Buddhism in the 19th century, marriage in Sri Lanka generally followed the Hindu marriage laws of India. There were strict rules regarding how a woman was allowed to act, and both parties, the bride and groom, had to formally request the consent of their parents before being allowed to marry. In addition, caste was incredibly important to matching couples. Buddhism, with its treatment of marriage as a secular rather than ritualistic union, is generally believed to have improved the condition of the Sri Lankan woman and to have created a more gender equal society.
Because Christian, Hindu, and Muslim traditions in Sri Lanka generally align with typical weddings from these communities with only slight variation, in this guide we will be focusing mostly on Buddhist Sinahala and Kanyada wedding traditions and speak only briefly about the above cultures. Over the course of this wedding guide we will be exploring the lead up to the wedding, the variety of ceremonies that are absolutely key to the marriage, the clothes, the food, and the history of Sri Lankan wedding traditions.