Matrimonial Tradition

Marriage or matrimony or wedlock can be referred to as a socially or ritually recognized union or legal contract between spouses that establishes rights and obligations between them and their children, and between them and their in-laws. Definition of a marriage may vary depending on different cultures, but it is an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually sexual, are acknowledged.

Sri Lanka boasts a rich culture with diversity evolved and passed down to generation to generation over thousands of years. I think it is worth discussing about the matrimonial customs in Sri Lanka where various ethnic groups are living, the majority being Sinhalese Buddhists. The nation consists of Sinhalese, Tamils, Moors, Burghers and Vedda community. Their culture, religion and caste system dominate the customs of marriage.

With the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka in the 5th century BC, regaining of spiritual mind of women practically helped win their rights and responsibilities. Cultural and behavioural patterns of our neighbouring country India highly influenced Sri Lanka's livelihood economically socially and politically.

Names, surnames and attire helped to secure the caste system as well as the feudalism which were inherited in the traditional society. Prohibition of marriage among high and low caste was the rule of the day. If it happened against that, expulsion from the caste was the repercussion. A meeting known as 'Variga Shabha' was called to do so. The marriage between similar or same caste was considered a highly accepted norm in the early Sri Lankan society.

According to early Sinhalese concept, intermarriage should occur among the same caste. Because of that reason, one caste, one religion and one language societies arose from separate villages.

There were four types of marriages in the early Sri Lankan society. They were the general way of marrying a young woman called 'Deega Vivaha'. Marrying a young woman and settled down in her home called 'Binna Vivaha'. Marriage among nephews and nieces was called 'Avessa Vivaha' and the last one was polygamy or polyandry marriages. Marrying a woman by two brothers or marrying two sisters by one person was called 'Eka Gei Kema'. The last two types of marriages were meant to avoid outflow of family wealth.

The first two types of marriages are accepted in the modern civilized society while the marriages among blood relations rarely take place.

Nowadays love marriages are on the rise. Therefore, ethnicity, caste, religion and language differences are not considered as barriers for a successful marriage. These will perform with the blessings of their parents. Now they consider little age gap, education, financial status, social and professional status of both sides as good qualifications for a successful marriage.

Up country marriages in early Sri Lanka

According to early up-country marriage system of Sinhalese Buddhists, first, horoscope of the groom should match the bride's and if it does, then several relations of the groom other than his parents visit the bride's home to see the her and discuss with her parents about the proceedings.

At the first visit to bride's place, they used to carry a lot of sweetmeats. According to the agreement they decide to publish or register the names of the couple and arrange an auspicious time. There was a custom of reading the auspicious time by one of the uncles. Before reading the auspicious timetable, white cloths are spread on the mat and 'Lada Pas Mal' (five varieties including parched grain, broken rice, white mustard, jasmine buds and panic grass) are sprinkled. Then couple should stand on the mat and light the lamp while reading the auspicious timetable. Then, adornment of gold necklace to the bride by the groom takes place. This custom is similar to 'changing the rings' in low country marriages.

Low country marriages in early and present Sri Lanka

Matchmaker played a big role in low country marriages and if the two horoscopes match, they go to see her first. On this occasion, a hand of betel or small casket of betel is carried by the bride to offer her future husband and relations. If she disliked him she indicates or implies it by offering the hand of betel or casket to another person. After the successful marriage proposal at the auspicious time groom goes to see the bride's place and hands over the wedding attire to her. On the same day, registration of their names is published. This customs is still practised in villages of the low country.

Hindu marriages

According to Hindu culture, marriage is considered as a sacred duty that entails both religious and social obligations. They erect a special shelter opposite their home and decorate it nicely. During twilight, amidst beating drums and blowing horns, the wedding occasion is informed to visitors and invitees. The owner of the house cordially welcomes them by offering them betel and areca nuts. In the early morning, one person lights lamps on the 'pot of prosperity' (Pun Kalasa) while two other persons walk either side wearing turbans. Then one of the two persons breaks a husked coconut with an axe. Meanwhile, the other person takes a handful of cow milk and pours the milk on to bride's head and blesses her. After this occasion, the bride is to bathe water mixed with fragrant flowers. Then all the visitors come and sit on the floor to have their meals while the groom comes with one of his cousins to the scene. Then bride's younger brother washes feet of the groom. Meanwhile, a ring is put into a water bowl as a gift to the brother-in-law. These types of customs are still in existence in Sinhala and Hindu weddings.

Foreign Weddings In Sri Lanka

The wedding day is without doubt the biggest day in one's life. Having it outside your home country would make it really exotic yet elegant leaving you with loads of unforgettable memories lasting forever. Sri Lanka is tropical paradise blessed with a stunning natural beauty. There are endless palmfringed beaches, scores of alluring rivers, lakes and waterfalls, breathtaking landscapes, world's top gemstones, world's most hospitable people, a rich culture with diversity and much more; all these would make your wedding a wonderful one indeed. Hence, I would not say why many foreign nationals prefer to have their wedding in this resplendent isle.

If you are planning to tie your knot outside your motherland, you will need to familiarize yourselves with the marriage customs and laws of the country where you hope to get married. Then, you may solemnize your wedding according to the local customs, rituals and laws. Here we are discussing some important facts that we believe would help you have a really exotic Sri Lankan wedding in a tropical paradise.

Foreign nationals will find no barrier to get married in Sri Lanka as the country' law permits it. However, to enter into the wedlock in Sri Lanka, foreign nationals required to fulfill certain legalities. First of all, when you get married in Sri Lanka, the following documents have to be produced to the Divisional /District Registrar of Marriages of the area where your marriage would take place.

The legal documents required

1. Birth Certificate

2. Passport of both persons

3. An affidavit signed by a solicitor/statutory declaration to confirm who you are and your present status (unmarried)

4. If divorced, a decree absolute

5. If widowed, the death certificate of your late spouse and your previous marriage certificate

6. If you have changed your name, a deed poll (including divorcees who have reverted to their maiden names)

7. If adopted, an adaptation certificate

8. If under 18 years of age, evidence of parental consent in the form of a statutory declaration

he certificate of freedom to marry or unmarried certificate is a legal document that sets out that you are free to marry. The affidavit or statutory declaration is a legal document that confirms who you are and your current status (unmarried/free to marry). Separate affidavits for each period of time that you lived in different countries, which are certified /legalized by respective foreign office & Sri Lanka mission accredited to the country. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade issues this certificate which is also known as Civil Letter of Freedom. When you apply online for a Certificate of Freedom to Marry, you need to forward a hard copy of the supporting document to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

In case of foreign nationals, all documents should be in English and they must have been in Sri Lanka for at least four working days before the marriage can take place in order to allow time for completion of all paper work, (the exact length of time may vary). However, when it comes to your wedding, Sri Lanka has an array of beautiful, romantic locations where you could hold your exotic wedding. Most of the tourist hotels in the island facilitate foreign weddings on various themes. They do all needed for a perfect wedding including legal process, paying registration fees, and many other activities such as marriage licensing, marriage certificate (translation/legalizing), and all wedding ceremony arrangements.

Finally, once you have married in Sri Lanka you must obtain your marriage certificate certified by the Consular Affairs Section of the Ministry of External Affairs in Colombo; if the certificate issued in Sinhala/Tamil language, you may obtain official English translation and certified it by the Ministry of External Affairs. Then only your marriage certificate will be valid to submit to authorities outside of Sri Lanka.