What to Expect at a Buddhist Wedding

A Buddhist wedding honors the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama and expresses the couple’s devotion to wisdom, compassion, and harmony in their partnership. Unlike other spiritual traditions, Buddhists consider marriage to be a secular matter, meaning it is the individual’s choice and not a sacrament. Rather than having strict proceedings, a Buddhist ceremony is a joyful, fluid occasion that reflects the heritage of the partners.

Buddhist marriages are most common in Asia, Southeast Asia, and India. The partners often combine modern elements (like a wedding cake, or popular dance music) with centuries-old rituals, such as making offerings in front of a Buddha statue. “Our wedding in Penang, Malaysia paid tribute to the city’s multiculturalism,” says Hong Kong-based wedding coordinator Katherine Luk. “My husband and I wore Chinese garments and received blessings from three Thai Buddhist monks.”

Meet the Expert

Katherine Luk is a destination wedding planner based in Hong Kong. She and her husband Jacky Cheng run Alexander Hera, a young and creative team of photographers, stylists, and makeup artists. They specialize in organizing weddings for Asian clients and have offices in Penang and London.

A Buddhist wedding usually includes local customs, such as binding the wrists with string in Cambodia or sipping three cups of rice wine in Japan. Most end with live music and a generous banquet. Although Buddhist weddings may seem quite different around the world, the couple always shows respect to family and friends and commits to awakening their self-potential together. Wondering what else you need to know before attending a Buddhist wedding? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions. 

  • What should I wear to a Buddhist wedding? Buddhist weddings can take place at a variety of venues, from a Bali beach to a Taipei ballroom. Check the invitation to see if there’s a suggested dress code or ask the couple if you’re unsure. “My husband’s groomsmen wore Chinese chang shan, which are long tunics with side slits and a mandarin collar,” says Luk. “Other guests wore Western-style suits and evening dresses.” If all or part of the ceremony takes place at a temple, Luk recommends dressing modestly out of respect. Guests should keep their shoulders and knees covered, and may be asked to remove their shoes before entering.
  • Should I bring a gift? A wedding gift is welcome. At Asian and Indian festivities, guests most commonly give money in a denomination ending in one. “My Chinese ancestors believed “0” signifies the end, while “1” marks the beginning,” explains Luk. “Receiving an amount ending in “1” encourages a positive start to the marriage.” In Asia and Southeast Asia, it’s customary to put cash inside a red envelope with gold decorations.
  • Do Buddhist marriages take place in a temple? For the most part, Buddhist weddings do not take place inside a temple. They are typically held in a home or rented hall. Some ceremonies, however, take place partially or entirely inside a temple, such as the Zen services offered by Kyoto’s Shunko-in.

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