Dec 8, 2023

10 Beautiful Wedding Customs in Sri Lanka

The world is filled with countries that each have their own wedding customs. If you’re getting married in Sri Lanka and want to ground your special day in historic tradition, there’s perhaps no better way than including some of these customs in your wedding. I’m exploring 10 wedding customs in Sri Lanka that make these occasions memorable, and really show the variety this beautiful country and its culture has to offer.

1. Poruwa Ceremony

Let’s start off by discussing the 3 main types of ceremonies in Sri Lanka. First up is the Poruwa ceremony. Part of Sri Lankan Buddhist wedding traditions for over 2000 years, the Poruwa wedding ceremony is by far the most prominent way to celebrate the coming together of two people in Sinhalese Buddhist culture. 

The majority of the Sri Lankan wedding Poruwa ceremony sees the couple standing on a beautifully decorated elevated stage called a “Poruwa”. This raised platform is sometimes known as a ‘wedding throne’ and is a central point to the proceedings while the bride and groom perform a selection of rituals. Many of which we’ll talk about later on in this article like blessings from elders, betell leaves, rice milk offerings, and oil lamp lighting. 

2. Tamil Ceremony

While just over 70% of people in Sri Lanka follow Buddhism, around 12% are Hindu. As such, the Tamil Hindu Ceremony has a number of Sri Lankan Tamil wedding traditions worth knowing about. As you might have guessed, the Tamil ceremony includes many different rituals performed by or on the couple. 

Here is a selection of rituals performed at a Hindu Tamil ceremony:

  • Ganesha Ritual – Seeking Lord Ganesha’s blessings for their ceremony
  • Shiva Parvathi Ritual – Seeking Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi’s blessings for their ceremony
  • Navagraha Ritual – Worship of the 9 planets which all have significant influence on a couple’s life
  • Saptapadi – Regarded as one of the most important steps in the ceremony, Saptapadi is where the bride and groom take 7 symbolic steps together (symbolising lifelong commitment to one another)

Perhaps just as important (and maybe even more anticipated) is the tying of the Thali. A traditional and sacred gold necklace that is tied around the bride’s neck by the groom to symbolise everlasting love and devotion. 

This part of the ceremony is completed to the sound of drums (we’ll talk more about that soon), pipes, and guests that throw flower petals and rice grains over the happy couple.

It’s important to remember that the specific rituals performed will vary depending on the family and region the couple are from.

3. Sri Lankan Christian Ceremony

The third most popular type of wedding ceremony performed in Sri Lanka is the Christian ceremony. The fact that all three of these ceremonies are still fairly popular shows just how culturally diverse Sri Lanka is!

Just over 6% of people identify as Christian, and for the most part, the Sri Lankan Christian wedding traditions are very similar to Western weddings. As such, you can expect both a ceremony and reception at a lot of Sri Lankan Christian events.

Most of these weddings will include both the bride and groom writing their own vowels (though it is possible to have the officiant write them as well), the bride being walked down the aisle by her father, the bride wearing a white dress, the best man making a speech at the reception, and the first kiss of the married couple. There are more, but these are the main wedding traditions in Sri Lankan weddings.

4. Gifting Parents

At some point during the Poruwa ceremony, both the groom’s parents and the bride’s parents are presented with gifts from the happy couple. These gifts can be any number of things including a white cloth, a killotaya, and betel leaves.

Traditionally, the bride’s mother will receive a gold coin, rice, a roll of white cloth (about 16m), and betel leaves (placed onto the floor of the poruwa) as a way to pay her back for the care and nurturing she has done for the bride up until this point of her life.

Of course, not all weddings will follow these traditional marriage customs in Sri Lanka, but it’s safe to say that some form of gift-giving, similar to what we’ve talked about above, will happen at any Sri Lankan wedding.

5. Kumara Kiribath

Kumara Kiribath (milk rice) is a food that’s often served at important moments in a Sinhalese person’s life. As such, it’s no surprise that you’ll find them at Sri Lankan weddings and forming part of the Sri Lankan wedding customs.

Usually straight after both the bride and groom have been united as a couple, and the Thali has been tied, they both feed each other rice milk to symbolise that they will care for each other for the rest of their lives.

Sometimes this is accompanied by other gift-giving, but the Kumara Kiribath is specific to Sri Lankan wedding ceremony wedding traditions.

Of course, there’ll be a load of traditional food on offer at almost any Sri Lankan wedding, with sweetmeats being some of the most common. Hailed as a symbol of Joy, Kavum, Kokis, and Athirasa are the main few, and they’re usually laid out with milk rice at any traditional Poruwa ceremony

6. Traditional Clothing

Like many types of weddings around the world, traditional clothing is one of the wedding customs in Sri Lanka. Just like in Western weddings, Sri Lankan weddings have a traditional dress code for the bride, groom, and guests. Always double-check with the family to ensure you’re coming in appropriate clothing, but for the most part, it’s fairly simple.

Most local females, including the bride, will wear a saree but foreign guests may not be expected to make that effort — instead, consider a formal dress or something similar. For men, wearing a suit is the way to go and a safe bet all of the time.

7. Offering of Betel Leaves

While all the previous wedding customs in Sri Lanka and traditions we’ve talked about are extremely important to any Sinhalese wedding, perhaps none are more significant to the ceremony than the use of Betel leaves.

The first use of these Betel Leaves at the wedding is when the closest members of the bride and groom are invited for a feast by offering them as gifts. It’s very likely that if any relatives were invited without the use of betel leaves, it would be taken as an insult.

Incredibly important to the Poruwa ceremony we mentioned above, the leaves are offered more than a few times throughout the celebration:

  • When the groom visits the bride, he’ll be received by a tray full of them. 
  • The oldest member of the groom’s party is offered bundles of betel leaves by the bride’s parents and family members
  • The bride and groom drop betel leaves on the Magul Poruwa (with the intention of making it a prosperous marriage)

And it’s not just marriages either. Betel leaves are an indispensable part of Sinhalese culture often being used at New Year’s, the start of school years (for students and teachers) and other important moments in a person’s life.

8. Oil Lamp Lighting

Similarly to the betel leaves, oil lamp lighting is one of those wedding customs in Sri Lanka that is used (conducted) during other special or religious occasions as well.

At weddings, lighting an oil lamp represents prosperity, good health, and an abundance of wealth and happiness. Sometimes the families of the bride and groom do it as well which signifies two families coming together.

9. Pirith Nool

One of the most important parts of any Poruwa Ceremony is the tying of the Pirith Nool (sacred thread). The couple have one of their little fingers tied to each other with gold wool while the uncle of the bride pours holy water over it. This signifies eternal commitment.

While this may have traditionally been seen as the equivalent of signing a marriage certificate, it may now seem more similar to the exchanging of rings. Many modern Poruwa ceremonies might in fact take influence from Western-style weddings (or Christian weddings) and include a ring exchange during this point of the ceremony. 

10. Traditional Drumming and Dancing

Easily one of the most fun wedding customs in Sri Lanka, traditional music and dancing. Either 4 or more girls or the appointed ashtaka (narrator) will recite chants and one will usually be the most well-known of Buddhist chants, jayamangala gatha.

It’s also traditional for Kandyan dancers and drummers to perform throughout the ceremony. They may use a Gata bera drum, and performances will be done either at the same time as, or in between, any of the above-mentioned wedding rituals.


Now you know just how beautiful and culturally diverse a Sri Lankan wedding can be, and also a number of wedding customs and traditions that a couple may choose to include in their day. If you’re looking to hire a wedding photographer in Sri Lanka that specialises in Western weddings, or are interested in discussing your options, get in touch and let’s start planning together.

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