Christian Marriage Ceremony in Kerala
Guide to Christian weddings in Kerala
Barring some variations in religious customs and practices Christians of Kerala have immersed themselves into the customs and practices of other two communities in Kerala – the Hindu and Muslim.
The marriage proposals are first mooted through a broker. Preliminary selection of bride or groom is vested on the parents as in the case of Hindu and Muslim. The investigations on both sides about each other are extensive and flawless. Extensive discussions take place on various aspects, including dowry, between the two sides. The discussions and informal agreements between the families are subject to the condition the boy and girl approved each other. As a second course the boy is directed to visit the girl’s house and see the girl. If both the boy and girl are in concurrence, final discussions between the two families take place. If they agreed upon wedlock relations, both the families inform their respective local church of the decision. If both the churches are satisfied, sanction is given.
A Kettukuri (official intimation) given by the local church of the boy is to be entrusted to the local church of the girl.
Athiroopatha (Headquarters of the Archbishop) administers marriage preparation course to the boy and girl. This course covers the entire ambit of marriage life including plus and minus and how to face adverse situations. Thereafter a day other than Friday is fixed for Manasammadam (willingness of each other). A Kurbana (prayer) is conducted prior to the Manasammadam. The Vicar of the church asks the boy and girl separately whether he or she is willing to take the other as life partner. On positive reply from them Manasammadam is recorded in the church register with two witness from each side. In the succeeding 3 Sundays the Vicar will announce the Manasammadam (an equivalent of betrothal in Hindu religion) during the congregation. The content of announcement will also be put on church notice board. If anybody has any objection to the proposed alliance it can be raised before the Vicar. In the case of any objection the church will conduct a discreet enquiry and take a decision either positive or negative. On reasonable ground either party can nullify the Manasammadam.
Following the above formalities a mutually agreed date is fixed for the wedding. Wedding is held either in the local church of boy or girl.
Both the bride and groom along with their relatives and friends and neighbours numbering 100 to 500 reach the church before the appointed time on the wedding day. The bride, wearing gold ornaments and white sari and the head covered with a white veil and arch type crown, and the groom move to the altar. Soon the Vicar enters the altar to perform the wedding ceremony. He reads psalms from the holy Bible and renders sermon. In the sermon the sacredness of the wedlock is dealt with. Thereafter the couple is directed to hold their right hands and make solemn affirmation to remain in life-long loyalty to each other and remain as one in thick and thin. The blessing follows. The next step is the exchange of wedding rings blessed by the Vicar to be followed by the tying of Thali or say Mangalsutra by the groom around the neck of the bride. Thali is a leaf shaped gold pendant with a cross embossed on it. Thali is connected on a gold necklace. Soon the Matrakodi (wedding saree) is handed down to the bride by the groom. The Mantrakodi is to remain with her till the end of life. Mantrakodi and Thali are the only items at the expense of groom. All other dresses to the bride are purchased by the parents of the bride. After all the formalities are over the Vicar (priest) directs the couple to drink both a single tender coconut simultaneously. They drink using two straws.The Vicar conducts Divyabali (holy sermon).
The marriage rituals in the church are conducted after a holy mass.
After the marriage is over, a sumptuous vegetarian lunch is served by the bride’s family.
Soon after the lunch the groom and party along with the bride proceed to the groom’s house.
Afternoon a party consisting of bride’s relatives, neighbours and friends go to the house of groom to bring back the couple. They are served with a tea-party here. After the tea-party they return along with the couple. The next day the groom together with a brother of bride go to the house of the groom and return the same day. The groom will remain 4 or 5 days at bride’s house and thereafter the couple go the groom’s house.
The dowry system in Christian community is highly prevalent like in the case of Hindus and Muslims. In the Christian system the dowry is fixed in terms of cash and not in terms of gold as is the case of Hindus and Muslims. The dowry is decided in advance. Out of the decided amount, a small part is used for purchasing gold ornaments and the balance is given in cash. The value or quantum of the ornaments will be decided by the groom’s side. The ornament is purchased by the bride’s family in the presence of groom’s family members.
The quantum of dowry depends upon the financial status of both sides. Rich people give Rs 2.5 million upward. The upper middle class Rs 1.5 to 2.5 million and mid-middle class Rs 8 to 15 lakhs while the lower middle class gives Rs 5 to 8 lakhs. The weaker section contented with Rs 1 lac to 2 lacs.