Tibetan Marriage Custom

In Tibetan culture, Marriage custom is an important part of all the lay people everywhere and likewise, Tibetans also consider it as a very auspicious and important event. Marriage traditions have changed in many ways. In the old days, most of the marriages were arranged by parents and only a few were a love marriage. Polygamy – something that still exists in Tibet – was also common in many areas of Tibet.

In the past, many families chose this form of marriage so that the household could remain big and strong as the family properties wouldn’t have to be divided in the Tibetan culture. Through astrological calculation and divination, parents check if the couple has the right karma to live together and people are very careful to avoid marriage between relatives.

In traditional Tibet, the bride does not know about their future spouse looked like until the wedding ceremony. The marriage is usually arranged by her parents. She is usually in her early teens. After the ceremony, she returns to her parents’ home and will join her husband(s) after puberty. With arranged marriage parents believe that the couple can develop their love even though they didn’t know each other before and the rate of divorce was quite low as it was considered shameful and sinful.

Nevertheless, the new generation of Tibetans particularly in the urban cities have the new concept on marriage and they are more free of choosing his or her partner with romance for years.   

The Tibetan traditional wedding ceremony is grand and sacred, wedding customs are little bit defers from place to place, but the primary procedures have remained the same. The day before the wedding, the engaged are not allowed to see each other at all. During the day, Buddhist spiritual masters pray for their marriage to dispel any bad lucks.

On the wedding day, the groom’s family will invite a person with a good reputation and a group of riders to fetch the bride. A well-decorated pregnant horse with the color suitable with the bride’s zodiac attributes is also brought along for the bride. A colored arrow (covered in a five-colored Khatas), matched with a mirror, precious jade and some jewels will also be taken. Upon entering the bride’s house, the colored arrow will be placed onto the back collar of the bride. The jade piece is placed onto her head to symbolize that she belongs to the groom’s family. When the bride leaves, her family will take the colored arrow and a gigot upstairs and shout repeatedly ‘Don’t take our good luck away’ until she is out of sight

On the wedding day, a showman repeats Tibetan rhymed congratulatory words for the new couple. Then, it is the time for guests to show their best wishes to both the bride and groom by offering khatas, or ceremony scarfs.

Then, the performances begin, from the beginning to the end of the ceremony, singing and dancing go on day and night. The couple’s parents and relatives toast with the guests. The evening ends with a toast made by the new couple. After the wedding, all the relatives, friends, old classmates, and colleagues gather at the new couple’s home and celebrate until that late night. In Tibet, a new couple is not allowed to leave their home for three whole days—a test for both as to the strength of the marriage. If they persist, then Tibetans believe that their marriage will last forever.

Our Other Post on Tibetan Culture & Customs

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A khata is a traditional ceremonial or offering scarf used widely in Tibetan culture and in Tibetan Buddhism for different purposes.

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