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The Traditions & Rituals of Modern Buddhist Weddings

Posted by Khush Singh-Celebrity & Indian Bridal Makeup Artist

Buddhist weddings are secular in nature, so the marriage itself is usually a civil ceremony. The reception is often held in someone’s home and is small, with only family and close friends invited. Unlike many religions, Buddhists are allowed to marry a person of any faith, provided the spouse respects the teachings of the Buddha. Traditionally, a Buddhist monk blessed the couple at the ceremony temple, reciting sacred passages in the Pali language (you can find English translations of passages as well). Depending on where you and your spouse reside, a temple and a monk may be difficult to find. Many couples today erect their own shrines, complete with a Buddha image, flowers, and candles. Following down this road, it’s common for all gathered to recite a procession of hymns—Vandana, Tisarana, and Pancasila (English translations are widely available on the web).
   
If you are having a ceremony ritual in a temple, with a blessing, you only need to reserve the space. You don’t need to meet with monks beforehand or have a rehearsal. There is no organ or other music, and the guests do not participate in the blessing. Guests are allowed to wear whatever they like—good taste rules the day here. Be mindful of your footwear, however, as you’ll have to take your shoes off before entering a shrine. And don’t throw confetti (that’s considered tacky). The bride generally wears a dress, while the groom dons a suit. Although Buddhists are allowed to get married on any day of the year, that has not always been the case. It used to be that a monk determined through astrology the appropriate day for the wedding.
   
Personalize your wedding! 
Here are some popular traditional touches that may be added:
On the morning of the wedding, the groom’s family brings to the temple trays of fruit, wine, cake (and in olden days, jewelry for the bride), and candles lit by either the bride and groom or the parents. The candle lighting signifies the unity of the couple. Do not bring seven or eight trays, as those are considered unlucky numbers (six or nine is common).

A good thing to remember is that, since Buddhism practices tolerance of other religions, most of the flourishes at a Buddhist wedding are not set in stone; reception ceremonies usually reflect the customs of the site and background of where your party is held and what you’d like to incorporate yourselves. Fascinating also, as a contrast to Western vows, are the customary undertakings as inscribed in the Buddhist Sigilovdda Sutta.

The groom says, “Towards my wife I undertake to love and respect her, be kind and considerate, be faithful, delegate domestic management, present gifts to please her.”
   
The bride follows with, “Towards my husband I undertake to perform my household duties efficiently, be hospitable to my in-laws and friends of my husband, be faithful, protect and invest our earnings, discharge my responsibilities lovingly and fastidiously.”
   
After the ceremony, there is generally a large feast with dancing and singing. There is no protocol for a first/dance, father/son dance, etc., so do as you please, and love in harmony.
 

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