Sri Lanka is home to a large community of people from different cultural and religious backgrounds.
Weddings are held according to the traditions, customs and religion the bride and groom follows.
The Sinhalese make up the majority of the country’s populace. The rest are Tamils, Burghers and Muslims.
Although the Sinhalese are of one ethnic group not all follow the same religion. Some are Buddhists and others Christians (Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Pentecostals, etc).
Most Sinhalese Buddhist brides choose to wear a sari for their wedding although it’s not uncommon for Sinhalese Christian brides to do the same.
Ramani Fernando Bridal Show 2009
Wedding saris worn by Sinhalese Brides
The sari originated from India and means ‘strip of cloth’ in Sanskrit. Between 5 to 7 yards of fabric is used for the saree which is commonly worn by many women inSri Lanka.
The sari is worn as casual wear, for special functions and weddings. It's worn over two pieces of garments: a tight fitting blouse called a sari jacket and a long loose fitting skirt similar to a petticoat.
There are two types of wedding saris worn by brides in Sri Lanka. One is the Kandyan Sari also known as the Osariya and the other is the Indian Sari.
Kandyan Sari (Osariya)
This sari stands out from the rest because of the exquisite lacework used on the sari and the Kandyan Bridal Jewelry Set worn with it.
Brides who wear the Osariya do not wear a veil but a beautiful headpiece known as the Nalalpatha.
This gold piece of jewelry looks similar to a choker necklace and is placed on the forehead of the bride and fastened at the back of the bride’s head with two gold colored chains found on either side of the headpiece.
Besides the Nalapatha brides wear other pieces of jewelry including earrings, rings, pendants, and up to seven necklaces which can be found in the Kandyan Bridal Jewelry Set.
Raja Jewellers - Bridal Jewellery
The Indian sari is a popular wedding sari worn for its beautiful embroidery designs using beads, pearls and sequins. The sari is worn together with a veil.
The main difference between the Kandyan sari and Indian sari is the type of sari jacket worn and the way the sari is draped over the shoulder.
The sari jacket worn with the Indian sari only covers the bust line exposing the navel. One end of the sari is pinned on to one side of the petticoat and then draped around the waist once and pleated at the center. It is pleated about 8 times and tucked into the center of the waist. The balance piece is draped loosely across the shoulder.
The traditional sari jacket worn with the Kandyan sari has puffed up or long sleeves and covers the midriff. But in the present day many brides choose to wear a sari jacket which exposes the midriff. The sari is tucked at the center of the waist with a number of pleats and the balance piece is draped neatly over the shoulder.
A popular jewelry set some Indian brides wear with the Indian Sari on their wedding day is the Kundan Bridal Jewelry Set.
A wedding sari can cost from $100 onwards.
Saris with Swarovski stones, diamonds or pearls embedded in it are more expensive.
The bride should take the following into account before buying her wedding sari.
Tips for buying a wedding sari
- Oyanga, Silk, Brocade, or Manpuri saris are recommended for slim brides of normal height.
- Chiffon, Georgette or Chignon sarees are recommended for overweight women as the fabrics are light. Sarees with thick material should be avoided as this will make the bride look heavier.
- Net saris are recommended for brides who are overweight.
- Saris with a large border at the base are not recommended for brides who are short or on the heavy side.
A bride has the option of buying her sari online, from the store or having it professionally sewn.
Online saree shopping
If you plan to buy sarees online remember to buy from a reputed online store. There are an overwhelming number of sites on the internet which sells wedding saris with the promise of providing high quality sarees but this is not always the case.
It’s always best to buy from an online store which has a street address and is well known in its area.
Store bought sarees
Search for a reputed and well established store which sells sarees. Shops which specialize in selling Indian sarees are ideal for purchasing an Indian wedding saree.
Kandyan sarees are hard to come by if the bride lives outside of Sri Lanka. If this is the case the bride has three options:
- Order it from a reputed online saree store which sells Kandyan wedding sarees.
- Request a relative or friend living in Sri Lanka to send the sari.
- Ask a relative or friend who is traveling to Sri Lanka to bring one back.
Few things to remember before sewing a wedding saree
- Choose a fabric which suits your height, complexion and your figure.
- Decide on whether you prefer to wear and Indian saree or Kandyan saree. Remember the Kandyan wedding saree is worn with many pieces of jewelry which is heavier than jewelry worn with the Indian wedding sari.
- Find a qualified seamstress to sew your saree. A normal saree requires around 5 to 7 yards of cloth which is a lot of fabric to work with. So make sure to find a professional seamstress who has experience in sewing wedding sarees.
Tips for washing your wedding saree
Hand wash or dry clean a sari but never machine wash as this can ruin the fabric as it goes through the spin cycle.
When hand washing first mix a teaspoon of baby laundry detergent in a large basin of water. Soak the sari in this for 3-5 minutes. Then rinse with water until all traces of soap suds are gone. Gently squeeze out the water and hang to dry.
Some sarees like the cotton ones may color the water when hand washed for the first time. This is normal and will not ruin the saree.
Wash saris separately and never together. The colors and starches from the saris can mix together with each other ruining the original color of each one.
Tips for ironing your wedding saree
Have a separate cloth to be used for ironing your saree. Place this cloth over the saree and iron over the cloth. Never place the hot iron directly on the saree as the heat can burn the fabric.
© 2011 Suranee Perera
Hillary Burton from UK on October 21, 2014:
Lovely hub. Stunningly beautiful pictures, I like them all! Sinhalese especially worn with a petticoat as I am very fond of petticoats and slips.
saree review on December 11, 2012:
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Here you will find a great collection of saree from very basic styles to the most complicated and fashionable style revewied for you.
Suranee Perera (author) from Kandy, Sri Lanka on December 26, 2011:
Hello KrystalD. Thank you for stopping by and you are very welcome for the information :)I'm happy to have shared with you the types of saris worn by many of the brides here in my country :)
Krystal from Los Angeles on December 25, 2011:
Thank you for this information. These are beautiful customs :)