How Much Do You Know About Buddhist Weddings?
I can honestly say that I had no idea about the customs and traditions of a Buddhist wedding. Admittedly, I immediately consulted my friend Google and read various articles which introduced the whole concept. After reading the fifth or sixth article, I stopped in my tracks and asked myself 'what am I doing?'.
It was clear that the best route forward would be to visit an actual temple and talk everything through with the right person who has direct knowledge. For all the wonders of the Internet, there is no substitute for the personal, fulfilling experience of meeting people from different walks of life.
I contacted The Buddhapadipa Temple in Wimbledon and arranged to meet Phramaha Bhatsakorn Piyobhaso. I asked David if he wanted to join me, and he was as curious as ever and decided to come along too. On the morning we were due to visit the Temple, I realised I had no idea what to expect and I guess a little nervous. It was nice that David decided to join me.
I must confess my nerves kicked in when I first met Phramaha Bhatsakorn Piyobhaso. I’ve always been nervous when meeting highly regarded religious figures. It always reminds me of childhood when I first started classes with the Imam, learning to read and understand the Quran, in Arabic too! It was instilled in my early years to be reserved in such company and respect those in such a position. I had to remind myself that I’m in a Buddhist Temple, not a Mosque, and it wasn’t long after sitting down and talking to Bhatsakorn that the nerves drifted away and I could focus on the objectives of the meeting. It helped that David was with me as he jumped in with a few questions giving me those extra moments to compose myself.
Bhatsakorn was kind enough to talk through the traditions and customs of a Buddhist wedding in detail. First of all, it is very important to know that there is no requirement for a wedding ceremony to be performed at a Temple within Buddhism. The alternative is a blessing, a personal preference for those couples wishing to receive a direct blessing in a Temple conducted by a Monk, however such a blessing can be performed by a close relative instead.
I also discovered there are no restrictions on Buddhists marrying individuals outside Buddhism. There is no set criteria, course or classes that are compulsory to attend as there are with other faiths or religions, therefore no ceremonies or rituals that are required before a blessing can be conducted.
For those couples preferring a blessing by the Monk, these usually take place in the house with your friends and family present, lasting for an hour or so.
As a part of the blessing, the congregation will participate in chanting and whilst this takes place, water and a rope are blessed simultaneously. The holy water used at the blessing can also be kept for any future wedding ceremony or reception at a later date. The rope that is also blessed is held between the couple's heads and symbolises the new union they share.
The Monk conducting the blessing will recite some teachings, readings and talk to the couple with advice on how to maintain a happy and committed relationship, primarily respecting and loving each other.
A blessing that takes place in a Temple is not legally recognised in the United Kingdom. Therefore, if the couple want to be recognised as married in British Law, they participant in a civil ceremony at the local Register Office or licensed venue as with minority religions. It is common for the couple to hold a wedding reception following the blessing and combine it with the civil ceremony according to the regional traditions and customs of the Temple.
And that's it. Becoming a married couple in Buddhism is certainly more relaxed than what I'm used to, but I found that quite refreshing. It seems to be all about the individuals and their responsibilities to each other, through commitment and respect to one another.
I’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you to Phramaha Bhatsakorn Piyobhaso for taking the time to explain his role in the customs and traditions of couples blessed within the very beautiful Buddhapadipa Temple.