Everything else.. Will COVID-19 Redefine Sri Lanka’s Wedding Culture?

Will COVID-19 Redefine Sri Lanka’s Wedding Culture?

2020 Jun 1


Home to a boastful mix of traditions and cultures, Lanka’s nuptial ceremonies represent its four major religions. Be it the Poruwa ceremony, Hindu Vivaah Sanskar, Muslim Nikah or the Catholic Church ceremony, the islet’s matrimonial celebrations are an opportunity to relish and often an opportunity to showcase the families’ wealth and prosperity, given that, traditionally, marriage is considered a milestone in one’s life.

Moreover, in a compact isle such as ours, marriages between religions are a common occurrence. Imagine then, factoring in the couple’s faiths, the unique traditions each of it brings, the societal expectations of a marriage as well as any other personal desires. 

As such, Sri Lankan wedding ceremonies are a comprehensive culture of its own. And looking forward to a relative’s or a friend’s marriage means days-long preparations not only for the couple but also for its guests. 

Speaking to Nelum Haththaella, the Editor and Managing Director of Bride’s of Sri Lanka, on this elaborate experience Lankans are all too familiar with, she says “The wedding industry is a huge part of the Sri Lankan economy and is also considered a key player in promoting tourism with destination weddings taking place around the island.”

Image from Image from https://www.theweddingvowsg.com/wedding-venues-sri-lanka/

Our island offers breathtakingly beautiful locations and varied backdrops to wed against, which makes Sri Lanka a preferred choice even amongst foreigners for their nuptials to take place. The notion of ‘getting married’ has now evolved from a simple registration followed by a reception for family, relatives and close friends to an orchestrated multi-day event that involve pre-shoots, bachelor and bachelorette parties, the actual marriage ceremony, the reception, the homecoming, and sometimes few more banquets before or thereafter.

In this light, the sudden outbreak of the global pandemic, the imposition of curfews and bans on ceremonies have an obvious and rather disheartening domino effect on matrimonial celebrations in the country.

Sunela Samaranayake, Founder of Suné Events mentions that the situation has affected pre-bookings with clients postponing their weddings to December and beyond.


Image from https://www.tayafinchonline.com/


“Initially, a few of my foreign clients were under the impression that it might be best to cancel the wedding altogether – meaning to have only a civil ceremony in their respective countries and cancel any festivities planned in Sri Lanka.” 


“As the world has never dealt with such a calamity before, even pre-booked vendors were unsure how to respond to client requests for refunds, given force majeure. Most of my clients opted to postpone since vendors were not willing to refund but instead were open to carrying forward credit up to a period of 18 months,” she says.


Leaving aside the obvious concern of health and safety, global and in-bound travel restrictions are also a major aspect for weddings to be postponed. Factors such as overseas guests, bride or groom flying down for the ceremony having to undergo the 14-day quarantine period stands in the way of these “dream weddings” couples plan for years. Not only that, as Sunela mentions refunds and its policies further exacerbates the situation.


“Fate of the booking advances made, availability of future dates from hotels and suppliers, their flexibility and policies, whether guests would take the risk to attend the weddings and mostly making that crucial decision whether to have the wedding or postpone it are some common concerns amongst couples,” says Nelum.


It then begs the question, “Will COVID-19 Change Sri Lanka’s Wedding Culture Forever?”


Image from https://www.rappler.com/

Both Sunela and Nelum shared the same notion on this matter. And that is once the government regulations are relaxed, Sri Lankans will definitely fall back to our celebratory ways. “Although people’s livelihoods may have been affected by COVID-19 – it is most likely that they may cut down monetarily elsewhere but still throw a lavish party when it comes to a family wedding.” says Sunela.



The initial few weddings would probably be small but very soon people will execute their original plans on lavish weddings. The couples, guest and suppliers will have to take necessary precautions and be more disciplined, now that we all fully well know how dangerous this virus could be.” proclaims Nelum.

In the meantime, talk to your wedding planner or a trusted individual within the industry and explore your options before making a decision. Like with weddings all over the world, a sizable monetary investment is required to plan a ceremony and reception attended by your loved ones. Seek advice on how best you can recover your monies, either through a refund or carrying forward credit with pre-booked wedding vendors.” advises Sunela. 


Image from https://themaharanidiaries.com/a-traditional-sri-lankan-garden-poruwa-wedding-ceremony-maya-rev/


And to the couples who eagerly awaited 2020’s wedding season to tie the knot, Nelum says, stay positive and hopeful. Your wedding is not the proclamation of your love. Support each other during this difficult time as you would when you are husband and wife. Your wedding needs to be more meaningful to the two of you, not your guest list – remember that in all your decision making.”

Although the global pandemic is altering our day-to-day lives, transforming a culture that runs through ages seems far-fetched as of now. Even though it has urged couples to momentarily compromise, according to the experts in the scene, the thought of a permanent shift is yet to be logged into the books.


Follow Suné Events on https://www.instagram.com/suneevents/ or email sunelaf@gmail.com

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