A Buddhist Wedding

On Sunday February 29, I attended a service at the Tam Bao Buddhist Temple in Baton Rouge. Through this temple, I was given the opportunity to attend a Buddhist wedding ceremony. This was a unique occasion not only for me, but also for Thay, a monk at the temple. This was to be the first wedding Thay would participate in since he moved to Baton Rouge about 10 months ago. This is also the same made who had so kindly invited me to attend the Sunday ceremony when I talked to him on the phone. He believed that attending the ceremony would be a great opportunity for me to see observe a less commonly seen ritual of Buddhism.

At about 11 o’clock in the morning on Sunday, I arrived at the temple. It was a one story brick building with a red roof. One of the first things I noticed was a very large, white marble statue of Buddha. I later learned that this statue was hand carved from a hill of marble in India. It was beautiful. Around this statue, members of the temple hold services as well as mediation sessions. As I walked toward the back of the building, where the wedding was being held in an average sized room, I noticed a small shed-like building to the right of the temple. Inside this shed there were offerings, statues, and flowers. I was told that members of the temple go inside this room to receive a fortune giving them insight into their life. On and around the main building, I noted a theme of red and yellow all over the building, especially on the doors. The monk performing the ceremony was also dressed in a yellow robe, and there were golden lotus flowers on the doors. I learned that the red around the building is meant to chase away evil. The yellow represents holy vibrations, much like the yellow light that is typically seen coming from the halo’s of angels. There was also Vietnamese writing on the doors that a member of the temple translated as meaning “The path that is darker erases sin” and “Within this door things remain peaceful”. Placed just outside the doors, there were two small, evergreen-looking trees. These particular trees represent long life to Buddhists. Inside the doors I could see about twenty barefooted people with their hands folded and their heads bowed. At the front of the room, placed relatively high above the ground, there was a golden statue of Buddha. Around the statue were fruit and flowers which had been placed there as offerings to Buddha. There was another statue on the alter, which stood before the bride and groom. This white statue is a figure that represents compassion and love. I thought this was an incredibly appropriate statue to be placed in front of the bride and groom. As I learned more about the details of the temple, I was moved by the symbolism that is used in Buddhism. These were some of the things which made the largest impressions on me.

There were many aspects of the actual wedding ceremony which I found very interesting. The first thing I noticed was the dress of those involved. The bride was dressed in a modern, white wedding gown, complete with a veil. The groom was dressed in a white tuxedo. There were also two flower girls beside the bride and groom who also wore white gowns. Some of the guests were dressed in a more traditional, Asian style dress. However, most were wearing a more American style of clothing such as jeans, a medium length skirt, a blazer, or a suit and tie. The priest conducting the ceremony wore a yellow robe, while the other monks wore the more typically seen brown robe. I was surprised by the mix of traditional and modern dress in this formal ceremony. Throughout the wedding, there was a lot of standing and kneeling to pray. The priest spent most of the beginning of the ceremony singing hymns and chants that were all in Vietnamese. During certain hymns, the guests joined in with the priest. These hymns were translated for me as being mostly about the expectations for the couple to Buddha as well