A wedding in Sri Lanka is a BIG deal, not just the number of people they invite but lots of events and parties surrounding the big day. Then there is the Homecoming, for which you will see various couples around Colombo in red being photographed. The Homecoming is when the couple makes their first big appearance following the wedding and they are welcomed into their new home.
Key points to note with Sri Lankan weddings are:
- Venue & dress code – If a wedding is being held at a place of worship, guests are expected to dress discreetly. For ladies, it’s always good to carry a shawl.
- Dress code – this is typically quite formal. You are not expected to wear a sari or other ethnic clothing unless you wish to do so. However, Sri Lankan wedding attire is heavy on the bling so bear this in mind. It is easy for an expat to appear under-dressed. For wedding ceremonies, brides tend to wear white and similar lighter colours. For homecoming receptions, the bride tends to wear red or similar bright colours. A good rule of thumb is to avoid white and red.
- Timing – Many Sri Lankan weddings (Hindu and Buddhist ones especially) are conducted based on auspicious times defined by comparing the horoscopes and birth charts of the couple tying the knot. This can lead to strange timings for the wedding ceremonies. Sometimes, this can even be as early as 7.30 am
- Gifts – Giving a gift is not always required but is always appreciated. The wedding registry concept is slowly catching on. If you’re not familiar with the couple, generic gifts are mostly homeware items. Gift vouchers or a discreet envelope of cash handed to the couple are also well-received. If going with cash, an amount of at least Rs. 5,000 is expected.
T&T TIP: Buddhist & Muslim wedding ceremonies are fairly quick (about 20 mins). Hindu weddings are longer affairs with the ceremony taking about 1.5 hours followed by the reception. Christian wedding lengths can vary depending on the couple but tend to take about an hour.
SRI LANKAN FUNERALS
Funerals in Sri Lanka differ according to religions. With most, burials usually take place approximately 3 days after death. In the case of Muslims though, burial takes place within 24 hours. A Sri Lankan funeral is a little different to that in the West. In Sri Lanka, you are expected to pay your respects to the deceased by visiting their home while the body is shown there. Once this home visit has taken place, you are not obligated to attend the funeral service, although relatives and close friends will attend both. If you are unable to pay your respects at the deceased’s home prior to the funeral, then you are expected to attend the funeral.
With Buddhist, Hindu & Christian funerals, the body is often displayed for last respects at the home of the deceased for 1-3 days, before being taken to the cemetery for cremation (Buddhists & Hindus) or burial (Christians). If the body of the deceased is displayed at a funeral home instead of at their private home, you may visit the funeral home instead.
With Muslim burials, the body is displayed for last respects at the deceased’s home for a few hours before being taken to Muslim cemetery for burial. Muslim tradition is to bury the deceased within 24 hours, so your window for paying your respects is small. FYI Women are not allowed to attend funeral services. If you miss paying your respects before the burial, a brief visit of commiseration with the deceased’s family is encouraged after the funeral at yours and their convenience.
T&T TIP: When going for a funeral, it is expected to dress simply in white or lighter colours. Black is not the go-to colour for funerals here. For Muslim funerals though, either black or white is acceptable, as well as light or dark colours. Obviously bright colours are a no-no for any funeral, unless stated.
COMING OF AGE
Coming of age is a big deal in Sri Lankan cultures, it signifies that a girl is now a woman, and is cause for celebration within the family. Immediate family will play a part within these rituals. Different races and religions will have their own ways of celebrating this milestone. Generally, there is an event of some sort for those close to the family to celebrate the occasion. For this, it is encouraged to give a gift to the girl coming of age. A small piece of jewellery is your best bet for this kind of thing or money.
T&T TIP: Be prepared with your domestic staff especially, if the mother of a girl coming of age works for you, she could be off work for several days. The ceremonies are at auspicious timings and it goes on for days. If it is the child of your domestic staff that has come of age, it is good/expected to give them some cash that they can put towards the celebrations.