The landscape of marriage has shifted so much over the last decade or two. I’ve just received the third wedding invitation for the year and I thought that there is no better time than now to pick on the norms or stigmas associated for Sri Lankan weddings, and how they have changed over the years.
1. “You’re Too Old Now”
This has been shaped to "waiting for the right time". Gone are the days where you were virtually pushed out of your door into marital bliss with anyone who cared to knock. Somehow, the very parents who were bundled off at the tender age of eighteen are getting accustomed to having their offspring embrace marital bliss in their 30s.
2. “Here’s your Spouse”
If you listen to your grandparent's spin-off of romance, it might sound like low-key rape. About how ‘he' was presented to her parents, they consented, and the following week they were married off. If your grandmother knew her husband’s name before their ‘wedding’, she would have been considered lucky. However, now, even in the case of arranged marriages, both parties are allowed to step into a period of courting, before they court the Poruwa, lest they end up in court.
3. “Big Hotel, Big Menu, Big Deal”
The big budgets still remain. However, the above is more of a chic ‘Boutique Hotel, a classy menu, and 50 people that matter' – not your mother's colleagues from the 80s, not your parent's childhood neighbours, your classmates from grade 01, and your grandmother’s first boyfriend. I feel bad for brides who have to do their ‘rounds' dressed in twelve kilos of makeup, draped in twenty-five yards of fabric, on the verge of dislocating your shoulder after carrying a heavy bouquet for three hours of photoshoots.
4. “Event Organiser, AKA Your Mother”
I know a few mothers who might feel suicidal on finding out that their children have outsourced planning their wedding for the cost of a small car. In the olden days, you simply woke up on the day of your wedding only to find that your mother had singlehandedly organized the whole wedding. She, having hired a brigade of maids, has baked the wedding cake, wrapped them individually, and stuck pretty ribbons on them. She has decided on the menu, your attire, your partner, their respective outfits, the church hymnals, and may even insist on accompanying you on your honeymoon.
The stress of organizing a wedding hasn't minimized even with an organiser, but one thing you are guaranteed is magazine-esque wedding photography. None of the guests figured that the centrepieces were supposed to be seventeen centimetres tall, not 1.7 meters. That's a wedding organizer for you.
5. “Let’s Book a Wedding for 2025”
It’s perhaps because I work in the hospitality industry that I see these trends up close and personal, but the lead period for booking a wedding has decreased over the last decade. In ages past, Sri Lankans would consult their horoscopes and decide on nekath, booking venues two years in advance, but now wedding venues are booked even three months prior to the date.
6. “An Engagement, a Wedding, and a Homecoming”
It’s only natural for parents to want the best for their children, it’s even more so that they would want to compete with the Pereras next door. Maybe they had three separate events, pawning all their jewellery, mortgaging their estate, and selling a kidney, but does that stop your parents? No. Their daughter will be second to none. In their labour of love, they now organize these events on a grand scale so that it's featured in the Hi Magazine. They somehow rationalize that feeding 5,000 people is better than being a proud homeowner at the beginning of a marriage.
7. “The Es-Waha-Kata-Waha”
Remember the time when Sri Lankans would refrain from sharing the big news fearing the evil eye? Even when doling out wedding invitations, it’s done with such stealth, they could easily be mistaken for training in the Special Task Force. It's partially because not everyone is invited, but mainly because they didn't want anyone's vengeful tongue to wag curses on their happily ever after. I'm glad to see that people are now less superstitious and worry less with negative tidings from external sources and focus more building positivity through their marriage.
Perhaps, media has played a role in shaping these stigmas. Maybe your single post on Facebook has been instrumental in changing the way Sri Lankans think. Though you will always find a lavish buffet complete with batu moju, black pork curry, and papadom, I believe that Sri Lankans have helped shape Sri Lankan wedding customs. I like to believe that it’s the voices of many that have somehow ‘normalised’ weddings – for the may who have endured these so that we can have it easy, you’re our heroes.
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[All images are courtesy of Giphy.com]