Sri Lankan Weddings: Eight Reasons Why The Drama Never Ends

If you’re Sri Lankan, to say you haven’t attended a wedding would be like saying you don’t breathe oxygen ‒ the concept of  “weddings” has been practically embedded in our DNA. The concept, however, has evolved leaps and bounds over the years to the point where modern day weddings barely have a passing resemblance to the simple, ritualistic celebrations of the past.

Perhaps it would be an oversimplification to say that people (including the writer, of course) would only voluntarily attend the wedding for the promise of a gastronomical treat… or not.

No matter how much couples strive to make the celebrations unique, there are a few typically Sri Lankan traits no wedding can be rid of. Doubtless, you’ll find some of these extremely familiar:

1. The Pre-Wedding Shoot a.k.a How Hindi Movies Have Ruined Your Life  

The mandatory gaze-lovingly-at-your-significant-other pre-wedding pose. Image courtesy:

The pre-wedding shoot is a relatively recent addition to the Sri Lankan wedding culture, where the couple in question books a high-end professional wedding photographer to take artsy photos of them at various locations… with varying and sometimes questionable results.

At the pre-wedding shoot, much to the dismay of the groom, he finds out that he has to put up a performance of sorts. The hugging and forcibly looking lovingly at the significant other is the least of it ‒ then there’s jumping in the air, twirling around, running towards her dramatically, doing a Shahrukh Khan or two… all the while stuffed in an uncomfortable suit, was probably not what he signed up for.

As for the bride… our sympathies. It’s probably the modern-day equivalent to the 90’s wedding photo shoots where the faces of the couple would magically manifest in a flower or a keyhole, or hover eerily over the Taj mahal.

This is probably where the couple first realises that married life is not exactly a bed of roses. So much for keeping the dream alive!

The venue for the pre-wedding shoot is just as important as the jumping around. These days, almost everyone seems to prefer outstation tourist hotspots for their pre-wedding shoots. After all, the Viharamahadevi Park, Independence Arcade, or even Independence Square are so passe. We suppose it adds to the novelty ‒ running dramatically towards your significant other on the Tangalle beach is so much more exciting than running dramatically around mute stone lions at Independence Square.

2. Playing Dress-up a.k.a Modern Day Mummification

Early to bed, early to rise is taken to a whole new level here.

On the day of the wedding, the bride would typically wake up at around 1:00-2:00 a.m for a ceremony that is to take place at 5:00 in the evening… and not because she’s nervous either.

What with the million beauty rituals lined up, including plastering her face with more makeup than she’s seen leading up to that point in her life (even Michelangelo would have learnt a few tricks about face sculpting. Heck, even the Egyptians could have improved on their mummification techniques), is it any wonder that most brides are as crabby as Mr. Krabs from Spongebob?

It’s probably all worth it ‒ and absolutely necessary ‒ though. After all, one needs to live up to that ridiculously exorbitant dress that cost half a year’s salary but will only be worn once, right?

3. The Actual Wedding Photo Shoot a.k.a This Outfit Was A Bad Idea

For some unfathomable reason, wedding photographers these days seem to enjoy getting couples to pose in the strangest possible ways. Image courtesy

Basically the same thing that took place during the pre-wedding shoot, but with the couple finally in their official wedding attire ‒ the bride in her expensive wedding gown or saree, and the groom forced into a suit that looks positively raggedy in comparison.

Let’s not forget the retinue of bridesmaids and the groomsmen who, too, will not be spared the ridiculous poses as per the instructions of the professional photographers. And most probably, it will be the same crew who first did their pre-wedding shoot, which means more fun poses for the couple ! Yay.

The photos of the couple will depict the two of them staring deep into each other’s eyes with all the love in the world, when in reality, they’re most probably thinking of getting out of there, about how uncomfortable their clothes are, about food, about the urgent need to visit a toilet, about the universe and the end of the world, and more food.

4. The Mega Wedding a.k.a Invite Everyone! (Except The Family Pet)

Our weddings are the sort that win Guinness World Records. Image courtesy

Sri Lankans are never associated with doing anything on a small scale (the number of cabinet seats at Parliament is proof!). It’s either going big or going home. And very rarely do we go home.

The same goes for our wedding ceremonies. It would be an act of downright offence if you do not invite enough people to the ceremony. The minimum requirement would be 250 but we have heard of weddings where the minimum begins at 1,000.

Relatives, relatives of those relatives, your mother’s friend whom she went to montessori with, your neighbour, your neighbour’s relatives, your sister’s best friend’s latest girlfriend of two days, your brother’s friends’ friends, relatives you didn’t know existed prior to this, and even their long-dead ancestors; the list is endless. And if there’s a high-profile politician or ten at the ceremony, well… the more the merrier!

Somehow, at the end of it all, you will realise that you had forgotten to invite your own best friend, in the midst of all these Saraths, Kamals, Nimals and every aunty you would otherwise go out of your way to avoid.

5. The Buffet Line a.k.a The Real Reason The Guests Attend 

The real reason the guests attend. Image courtesy

Need we say more? The only reason most of the people show up is not to congratulate the married couple, but to eat and have some fun. (“Oh, they’re marrying? How sweet, aney! I hope they have a good buffet! )

This is also the main reason wedding crashers exist ‒ speaking through first-hand experience, of course. A word of advice to the amateur wedding crasher: eat, smile, and wave, boys. Eat, smile, and wave.

6. The Post-Wedding Shoot a.k.a Is The Photo-Taking Ever Going To End?

This photo shoot (is it too presumptuous to assume this is the final one?) is the ultimate face muscle durability test for the couple (to say nothing of sanity) and pushes them to hold their smiles until all 400+ invitees take photos with them. Certainly a daunting task, which not everyone completes gracefully.

7. The Dance Floor a.k.a Watch Out For Flying Shoes!

Yet another popular and common aspect at most Sri Lankan weddings.

The couple’s dance will most probably bring tears to the eyes of all mothers and aunties at the reception hall, while their husbands fill another glass looking all sad and morose at having to behave themselves a little longer. The fun will soon begin, now that the biriyani has been cleared  ‒ right after that final glass of old arrack.

What usually starts off with a group of professional performers putting on a dazzling show, ends up with drunken uncles dancing to Rambari or showing off their Mick Jagger moves to Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On. They are so happy in their happiness at the union of the couple that they even forget where they are. More often than not, Sri Lankan wedding guests have the tendency to take the whole  “Dance like nobody’s watching you” advice a little too much to heart.  

8. Speeches a.k.a God! End Already!

Sherlock definitely knows how to give a speech. Gif credits:

The most dreaded part of the entire ceremony is the best man’s speech followed by all the other speeches.

Filled with awkward stories and embarrassing anecdotes from your grandmother, a short speech from you boss who asks you to show up to work on the following day, and, of course, your best man/bridesmaid, who will reveal something about your life that your significant other and the rest of your family did not (and probably should not) know; this part will make you regret ever getting married in the first place.

But on the bright side, everyone would be half asleep (the bride in most cases) or passed out on their chairs and (hopefully not) the floor, to actually pay attention to the details of the speeches. Your secrets are safe. Phew!

Let us know in the comments if we missed out on anything. Conversely, don’t let us know if we killed your plans of a dream wedding and/or discouraged you from ever getting married.

Featured image credit AP

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