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There is no specific marriage ritual established in the Buddhist religion. Historically, marriage was a secular observance, but modern Buddhists have developed services for those who wish to marry in the eyes of their religion. In the past it was customary that monks were invited by the couple and their families to chant sutras (classic Buddhist literature) after the secular civil or home ceremony, and, through the passing of time, this has developed into the marriage ceremonies used today. These ceremonies are NOT standard for all Buddhists, as Buddhism embraces a variety of groups with differing traditions.

The wedding ceremony explained below is the service developed by The International Buddhist Institute of Hawaii. Many sects use this version, which includes the bride and groom exchanging vows, the signing of a register, the issue of a marriage certificate and sometimes an exchange of rings. The wedding can take place during a Buddhist meeting, but more recently it has been normal for a separate ceremony to be held.

The service begins with chanting:

Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samma Sambuddhassa.

Reply: Homage to Him, the Exalted One, the Supremely Awakened One.

Priest: May the wisdom of the Blessed One shine within our hearts, so that the mists of error and the foolish vanity of self may be dispelled. So shall we understand the changing nature of this life and strive to reach that spiritual peace which the Buddha taught. Friends, we are met together today in the presence of this congregation, and in the sight of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, to witness the vows of x and x. I earnestly ask anyone who knows of any impediment to this marriage to make it known now, or else remain silent.

The priest then addresses the couple and says: Before taking of yourselves these vows, remember that it is the duty of the husband to support and cherish his wife, to be faithful to her, to comfort her in sickness or sorrow, and to assist in bringing up the children. It is the duty of the wife to love and help her husband, to be patient and gentle in her manner, and to be faithful to him always.

The priest asks the woman: Will you take this man to be your lawful husband and remain faithful to him always? Her reply: I will.

The priest then asks the man: Will you take this woman to be your lawful wife, and remain faithful to her always? His reply: I will.

Priest: Will you both undertake to sustain one another in sickness or in health, in happiness or in sorrow, and cherish one another at all times? They reply: We will.

If an exchange of rings is to take place, the following will be spoken

Priest to each in turn: I give you this ring that you may place it on the finger of this woman/man in token of your marriage to her/him, and may its circle remind you both of those things that are eternal.

The priest follows this by joining the couples hands together by placing a rosary (string of beads) round the wrists of their right hands and says:

Brother and sister, in the midst of worldly illusions with their fleeting glamour, try to preserve in your hearts the truths taught by the Buddha. Be compassionate to all, and set your feet on the Path which leads from illusion and sorrow to Enlightenment and Peace. Since you have both agreed to marry according to Buddhist rite, I pronounce you to be husband and wife.

The offering of lights will follow, and anyone who wishes to offer incense to the couple is invited to do so.

After this the Priest says: May the Blessed One receive you from this day forth as his faithful disciples, who take His teaching as your Guide. May peace be with you, and wisdom and compassion surround you at all times. Reply: Namo Amida Buddha (three times) or Namo Buddhaya (three times).

The five ways that a husband should minister to his wife are read out to the couple as taken from the Duties of Husband and Wife as described by the Buddha in the Sigalovada Sutta:

In return for being cared for, a wife is compassionate to her husband:

The marriage ceremony may conclude with chanting by the Community of Monks, followed by meditation.

Other Buddhist wedding ceremonies include the offering of flowers to the Buddha, the lighting of candles. Some services ask that the couple bow to each other in reply to hearing the pledges asked of them, rather than saying I will.

Ceremonies may include the couple chanting:

The Three Refuges or Tisarana as they face the Buddha:

I take refuge in the Buddha (the ideal of Enlightenment).
I take refuge in the Dharma (the teachings and practices of Buddhism).
I take refuge in the Sangha (the Buddhist community).

The Five Precepts or Pañca Sila may also be chanted:

I undertake the precept to abstain from killing.
I undertake the precept to abstain from taking that which is not given.
I undertake the precept to abstain from sexual misconduct.
I undertake the precept to abstain from false speech.
I undertake the precept to abstain from intoxicating drink and drugs.

My goal is to help all couples, regardless of their religious affiliation or non-affiliation. I respect all cultures and creeds and deliver a ceremony with dignity and respect, regardless of whether or not I share the same beliefs. Click here for a brief explanation of my beliefs.