17.5.11

Buddhist Weddings

Article

Marriage doesn’t hold a key place in Buddhism, as Buddha did not consider marriage to be a sacred ceremony. Buddhist weddings therefore are influenced more by custom than by doctrine.

Although in the Buddhist faith, marriage is not considered sacred, the teachings of Buddha include that any marriage should be based upon a foundation of mutual respect and couples should be equal partners.

The format of the wedding ceremony is largely chosen by the bride and groom, although there are certain aspects that are commonly observed:-

  • Some Buddhist temples are licensed as official marriage venues, although many couples opt for a civil ceremony followed by a blessing at a temple.
  • According to Buddhist teachings there are no rules regarding attire for the ceremony, however, a bride will usually choose an outfit which is suited to this more formal occasion.
  • Although in the Buddhist culture in the west, the bride will generally wear a dress and the groom a suit, sometimes the official dress of their region or country is chosen.
  • Bride, groom and guests will always follow the tradition of removing their shoes before entering a temple, as a sign of respect, if this is the chosen venue for the ceremony.
  • One element of the wedding which is common to most Buddhist cultures, is the tradition of the couple entering the temple carrying 21 beads; representing Buddha, the couple and their families.
  • The structure of the vows is decided upon by the bride and groom, but guidance is provided in the ‘Duties of Husband and Wife’, described in the ‘Sigalovsa Sutta’.
  • The bride and groom may exchange rings if they desire, but this isn’t a necessary part of the ceremony. After the vows, the newly-weds will give thanks by lighting candles and incense around Buddha’s image.
  • A key Buddhist goal is to alleviate want and suffering in the world, and some Buddhist communities encourage the bride and groom to visit a monk who has taken a vow of poverty. The couple offer the monk food, and in return he blesses their wedding by chanting at the ceremony from famous mantras found in Buddhist religious texts.
  • Buddhist wedding celebrations vary according to the culture and traditions of the country where the marriage is held. This has a great deal to do with the Buddhist beliefs in tolerance and understanding. In Japan for example, Buddhist wedding ceremonies are commonly held near hot springs so that after the wedding is concluded the wedding party can continue to celebrate for several days afterwards.
  • The most important aspect of a Buddhist wedding celebration however, is the desire to celebrate the commitment the couple has made. Many eastern countries will have spent many days preparing a huge feast for all the guests, and in the west it will be celebrated in a similar fashion at a wedding reception.
  • The marital bed has symbolic significance. In some Buddhist communities an older couple may prepare the marital bed of a bride and groom, decorating it with lucky charms, coins and seed. These are all thought to promote fertility and bring happiness to the new couple.


© Copyright Jan Reid-Lennox. All Rights Reserved.