Home » Buddhist Wedding » A Buddhist Wedding

A Buddhist Wedding

On Sunday February 29, I attended a service at the Tam Bao Buddhist
Temple in Baton Rouge.  Through this temple, I was given the opportunity to
attend a Buddhist wedding ceremony.  This was a unique occasion not only
for me, but also for Thay, a monk at the temple.  This was to be the first
wedding Thay would participate in since he moved to Baton Rouge about 10
months ago.  This is also the same made who had so kindly invited me to
attend the Sunday ceremony when I talked to him on the phone.  He believed
that attending the ceremony would be a great opportunity for me to see
observe a less commonly seen ritual of Buddhism.

At about 11 o’clock in the morning on Sunday, I arrived at the
temple.  It was a one story brick building with a red roof.  One of the
first things I noticed was a very large, white marble statue of Buddha.  I
later learned that this statue was hand carved from a hill of marble in
India.  It was beautiful.  Around this statue, members of the temple hold
services as well as mediation sessions.  As I walked toward the back of the
building, where the wedding was being held in an average sized room, I
noticed a small shed-like building to the right of the temple.  Inside this
shed there were offerings, statues, and flowers.  I was told that members
of the temple go inside this room to receive a fortune giving them insight
into their life.

On and around the main building, I noted a theme of red
and yellow all over the building, especially on the doors.  The monk
performing the ceremony was also dressed in a yellow robe, and there were
golden lotus flowers on the doors.  I learned that the red around the
building is meant to chase away evil.  The yellow represents holy
vibrations, much like the yellow light that is typically seen coming from
the halo’s of angels.

There was also Vietnamese writing on the doors that
a member of the temple translated as meaning “The path that is darker
erases sin” and “Within this door things remain peaceful”.  Placed just
outside the doors, there were two small, evergreen-looking trees.  These
particular trees represent long life to Buddhists.  Inside the doors I
could see about twenty barefooted people with their hands folded and their
heads bowed.  At the front of the room, placed relatively high above the
ground, there was a golden statue of Buddha.

Around the statue were fruit
and flowers which had been placed there as offerings to Buddha.  There was
another statue on the alter, which stood before the bride and groom.  This
white statue is a figure that represents compassion and love.  I thought
this was an incredibly appropriate statue to be placed in front of the
bride and groom.  As I learned more about the details of the temple, I was
moved by the symbolism that is used in Buddhism.  These were some of the
things which made the largest impressions on me.

There were many aspects of the actual wedding ceremony which I found
very interesting.  The first thing I noticed was the dress of those
involved.  The bride was dressed in a modern, white wedding gown, complete
with a veil.  The groom was dressed in a white tuxedo.  There were also two
flower girls beside the bride and groom who also wore white gowns.  Some of
the guests were dressed in a more traditional, Asian style dress.  However,
most were wearing a more American style of clothing such as jeans, a medium
length skirt, a blazer, or a suit and tie.  The priest conducting the
ceremony wore a yellow robe, while the other monks wore the more typically
seen brown robe.  I was surprised by the mix of traditional and modern
dress in this formal ceremony.

Throughout the wedding, there was a lot of
standing and kneeling to pray.  The priest spent most of the beginning of
the ceremony singing hymns and chants that were all in Vietnamese.  During
certain hymns, the guests joined in with the priest.  These hymns were
translated for me as being mostly about the expectations for the couple to
Buddha as well as each other.  The priest also read many passages, also in
Vietnamese, to the couple.  One of the passages told the couple that they
should learn to make each moment new, and learn to forgive each other for
their faults.

I found the most interesting part of the ceremony to be the
participation of the mothers and fathers of the bride and groom.  These
four very important people were seated to the right of the couple.  In the
middle of the ceremony the bride and groom brought the members of their
family a cup of tea.

This time in the ceremony was compared, by a member
of the church, to the part in a Christian wedding when the priest asks if
anyone has an objection to the marriage.  If any member of the family
refuses the tea it is symbolic for their disproval of the wedding.  I
thought that this was a beautiful way to respect and honor the couples’
family.  Although this wedding ceremony was very different from any that I
had previously attended, it was very beautiful.  It became increasingly
exceptional as I learned about many of the underlying meanings within the

After the ceremony, I sat down with two American monks who I had been
introduced to.  These two men offered to speak with me in order to answer
any questions that I may have had about the ceremony which I had just
observed.  As we were discussing the meanings behind some of the methods of
Buddhists, another man approached our table.  He invited all of us to join
the members of the temple for a lunch inside which is held for members of
the temple after every Sunday service.  I thought this was an incredibly
kind gesture.

As a complete stranger to these people, I had been openly
invited to share in their customs.  I joined several monks, as well as
normal people, at a table.  Once I sat down women began rushing to me with
soup, salads, greens and cakes.  I learned as I ate that everything being
served was vegetarian because Buddhists do not believe in taking any life.
Over lunch, I conversed with the monks about their background, as well as
my own.  At the end of lunch I chatted a little more with Thay, the monk
who had invited me to attend this special ceremony, about a few more
questions that I had.  I left the Tam Bao Temple with a great impression of
the kind and generous people who I had met there.

I found the similarities and differences between a Buddhist wedding
and Christian wedding very interesting.  One of the biggest differences was
the building in which the ceremonies were held.  A Christian wedding would
typically be held in a large church with large stain glass windows, and
lots of pews filled with many people.  The Buddhist ceremony however was in
a much smaller and more simple building.  However, like any other church,
it was rich in culture, tradition and symbolism unique to their faith.

There were very few people at the Buddhist wedding and none wore shoes.
Another difference I observed was their method of prayer.  In a Christian
church, members typically sit and stand for only certain occasions and
kneel only when in prayer.  The Buddhist ceremony also seemed less
organized than most weddings that I had been to.  There were constantly
people walking in and out of the doors, children from Sunday school running
around and shouting, as well as some confusion for the bride and groom
during the ceremony.

I do not know if this is typical of a Buddhist
wedding ceremony; however, it seemed to coordinate with the more relaxed
temperament exhibited by the people at the temple.  Despite many
differences, I also noticed several similarities.  Already I mentioned the
similarity between the opportunities for objections of the family and the
similar dress of the bride and groom; however, the most important
similarity between the two ceremonies is their meaning and importance.
Both ceremonies, despite the specific religious orientation, are about the
union of two people as well as honoring their families and the beings which
they honor.  My visit to the Tam Bao temple gave me a greater understanding
and appreciation for the Buddhist religion as well as its people.

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this essay please select a referencing style below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Leave a Comment