The Essential Sri Lankan Wedding Guide: Bridal Attire and Jewelry

2015 Jul 14 - by Nadya
The Sri Lankan bride, whether Sinhalese, Tamil, Moor, or Malay, is a beautiful blend of Western and Eastern tradition. From their distinctive Western-style veil to their gorgeous silk sari varieties, the Sri Lankan bride is unique and eye-catching.

Photo via Tharshini & Dushant's Wedding

Sri Lankan Wedding: Introduction

Sri Lankan Wedding Engagement and Pre-Wedding Traditions

Sri Lankan Wedding Traditions

Sri Lankan Bridal Attire and Jewelry - You're here!

Sri Lankan Groom’s Attire

Sri Lankan Wedding Food and Desserts

The bridal look that precedes the British colonization of Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, belongs to the Kandyan tradition. Kandyan weddings take many cues from Indian Hindu weddings but with their Poruwa ceremony they maintain an unmistakable Sri Lankan identity.

The Kandyan bride wears a sari variation called the osariya, which is also known more generally as the Kandyan sari. These heavily embroidered silk dresses often feature a peplum-style ruffle around the waist and a longer blouse, which creates a modest look and a curvier silhouette. The silk itself is weighed down with beads, pearls, stones, and sequins. The bridal Kandyan sari generally comes in gold and silver and is worked with gold and silver metallic embroidery.  The blouse also features puffy princess sleeves, in line with royal custom.

Some brides also opt for the traditional Western white wedding dress. Sri Lankan brides usually favor princess-style wedding dresses in these cases.  The Western wedding veil is also popular among Sri Lankan brides of all communities.

Photo Courtesy of Southern Light Photography

To add to their luxe look, Kandyan brides are also covered head to toe in jewels. From their headpiece, their Nalalpata, which stretches across their forehead, to their layers and layers of gold chains with heavy Padakkam, or pendants, Kandyan brides are resplendent.

The Nalalpata comes from Sri Lankan regal traditions and was traditionally gifted to noble men when they came of age. It is heavily studded and resembles temple jewelry from South India. The bride's mother places the Nalapata on the bride's head at a previously determined auspicious time. She pins all three branches of the jewelry piece back, one along either side of the bride's forehead and one along the parting of her hair, and add the two circular gold pieces, symbolizing the sun and moon, to either side of the bride's hair. Tradition dictates all of these pieces be studded with red gem stones but modern jewelers experiment with other styles.

Photo Courtesy of Sanka Studios

Each of the many chains the Kandyan bride wears has its own unique significance. The Peti Mala is the longest and encircles the rest. It represents a flower garland, like the one exchanged during the Jai Mala of Hindu weddings. The Nalapata pendant is the largest and sits in the middle of the the other necklaces, near the bride's heart. Each of the chains beween the Peti Mala and the Nalapata are gifts to the bride and feature locally traditional aspects like a Hansa, or swan, design. The Hansa represents beauty and purity, perfect for a new bride on her wedding day. Other chains include the Agasthi Malaya, which is made of agate. Some chains also feature seeds placed at intervals along the metal.

Kandyan brides also sport a variety of bangles. The Gedi Valalu is a bangle of fruits and is made up of various local seeds strung on a wire. The Seri Valatu is a broad bangle with three smaller bangles joined together. Kandyan brides also wear arm bands and bazubands to ward off bad luck.

In all the jewelry pieces the bride wears, there have to be an uneven number of gemstones. Odd numbers are considered auspicious in the Sri Lankan tradition, and using the right amount of gems on the bride's jewelry is vital to maintaining the luck imbued in each piece. Often the bride also wears fresh flowers in her hair, similar to the Tamil tradition. These symbolize beauty, youth, and purity.

Photo Courtesy of Salon Susee

When the couple return from their honeymoon, the bride exchanges her gold and silver dress for a pure red one, marking her transition from bride to wife.

Now we're done with the bride, on to the groom!

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