Saturday 9 June 2018

Wedding Traditions In Guyana

Denominative Differences

Although the three main religions in Guyana are the Hindus, Muslims and Christians, there are smaller sects within these groups. The wedding ceremonies of the different denominations are typically the same, but with some minor differences.

It is customary for couples married according to Christian rites, to kiss in the church after being pronounced man and wife. Catholics do not kiss in the church. If the ceremony includes mass, the priest asks for the "sign of peace," where everyone shakes hands with their neighbours. In addition, some Catholic brides place flowers on the shrine of the Virgin Mary; this can be done either before or after the actual wedding ceremony.

For Methodist Christians, one difference is the practice of lighting the unity candle. That is, the bride and groom each take a lit candle and use it to light one candle. As for Anglican couples, there is a prayer book which has a specific chapter for weddings. Apart from readings from the bible, this chapter must be read. This is according to Shirley Thompson, a witness to many Anglican marriages.

Two Hindu sects " Arya Samaj " and the Hare Krishna Movement (commonly referred to as "Haribole" in Guyana) have similar ceremonies to the "Sanatan Dharm" Hindus, the most common denomination of Hindus in Guyana. However, one difference with the Arya Samaj wedding is that they do not have a "Maticore". Instead, they have a "Havan", a prayer ceremony, on the Friday night. It is then followed by the dye rubbing ceremony. One difference with the Haribole wedding is that it is mostly done in the temple and not at the bride's residence.

There are two main Muslim denominations, the "Sunnis" and the "Shi'as". However, it does not appear that these sects exist in Guyana since most Muslims identify as simply Muslims.

The Evolution of Weddings in Guyana

While traditional wedding ceremony practices still have merit, changes are noticeable when contrasted with modern ones. Traditional ceremonies are still practiced, but there are elements which have been adopted from other cultures, and also changes made because people yearn to be different.

According to Pastor Eldon Anderson the bride is usually " …attired in her white which speaks of purity. She may come with a veil on her head, but most brides would have worn veils then which is a sign of purity (meaning that they are virgins) now it has become a custom. " In addition, any colour is worn as some people tend to choose their favourite colours or follow trends.

For the Hindu wedding, one ceremony that is rarely performed now is the " kanya dhaan ". This is a ceremony in which the virgin bride sits on her father's lap, performing a ritual signifying the handing over of his daughter. In the words of Pandit Gopinauth Prashad, " It is sad to say that these days we do not know whether the individual is a "kanya" (meaning virgin). "

The Muslim wedding has remained very traditional. However, one thing that has changed is their way of dress. According to Imam Ramzan Alli, " Islam doesn't prescribe any special dress for weddings, but the bride must at all times be properly covered. " However, traditionally the bride wore a " lehenga " or " shalwar", while the groom wore a " kurta ". A large number of Muslim brides and grooms now wear wedding dresses and suits.

A wedding planner, Randy Fredericks of Velvet Décor advised that weddings have changed because of foreign influences. He stated that " people are now placing a lot of emphasis on lighting, deejays and decorations. More people are now hiring professionals to do these things instead of the family just getting together and do it. "

A Comparison of the Hindu, Muslim and Christian Weddings

For the purpose of this project, wedding ceremonies of the three main religions in Guyana were studied and observations were made. The Hindus, Muslims and Christians have different wedding traditions and customs. However, similarities exist, and over the years, some religions have even adopted some customs from others.

The Hindu wedding includes a variety of events, like the " Maticore " on Friday which is a cleansing ritual for both the bride and groom and is done at their separate homes. The actual wedding ceremony, called " Vivaah Sanskar" usually takes place on Sunday at the bride's residence, followed by the " kangan " on Monday. The " kangan ", the day the girl returns to her parents' home, is also the day their fast is broken as they feast on meat and celebrate. The girl returns to her husband's residence until the following Sunday, referred to as the "Second Sunday".

The Muslim wedding, also known as the " Nikaah ", and the Christian wedding are fairly simple and done in one day, unlike the Hindu wedding. However, like the " Vivah Sanskar", the " Nikaah " is also held at the bride's residence, while the Christian wedding ceremony is normally performed in a Church. 
Another similarity between the Muslim and Hindu weddings is the custom of gifting. For the Hindus, the gift (called a " dowry ") is given from the bride's parents to the groom. On the other hand, for the Muslims, it is the bride who receives the gift (called a " mohar") from her groom. These gifts may be in the form of money, gold or cattle.

Additionally, some Muslims and Christians now have a "dye rubbing" ceremony, which is typically a Hindu custom. This was seen in the Christian wedding which was observed for this project. Likewise, some Hindus and Muslims now have a reception, which is a Christian tradition.

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