Ever since arriving in Sri Lanka, one of the things on our to-do list while living here has been to attend a traditional wedding. After a year in the country, it was looking like it was not going to happen (I’ve even played matchmaker between a guy I work with at the hospital and our landlord’s daughter – no dice though). It was looking bleak until my VSO volunteer colleague Mark showed up on our doorstep one night unannounced a few weeks back with some news:
Shaun: “Hey Mark. What are you doing here standing outside our gate in the dark? Are you okay? Are you injured? Have you come to rob us?”
Mark: (With wide grin and big eyes) “No. Everything’s great. I have some news though. You should sit down first.”
Shaun: “Oh, okay. This sounds interesting.”
Mark: “Yeah, well, do you remember Vindy (the lady I met a month ago)? Well, we’re getting married in a few weeks.”
Shaun: “Holy shit you work fast!”
This is the way things work in Sri Lanka. You meet someone, you hit it off, you share some curry with their family and then you marry them as fast as you can.
In a culture known for taking awhile to do most things, marriage is certainly an exception to the rule. And because things had to happen so fast, and Mark had no time to select a more upstanding, moral guy, I became the defacto witness and best man at the engagement ceremony on May 9. (While the actual wedding ceremony/reception will happen this fall, the engagement ceremony is where the marriage becomes legal and the official forms are signed.)
To help me out in my duties as a Sri Lankan best man, Mark emailed me a list of 14 duties to perform on the day. I took duties 8 and 9 the most seriously:
8a. To personally dispose of any alcoholic drinks offered to the Bridegroom, I’ve been reliably informed that Vindya’s two brothers may try to ply with alcohol during the Ceremony. I’m determined to limit myself to just one alcoholic drink, given this is a situation clearly fraught with the serious danger of making a fool of myself.
8b. To intervene appropriately if I’m making a fool of myself
9. After the Register has been signed to arrange for a white stallion to suddenly appear so that me and Vindya can ride off into the distance. I understand that this might be difficult to arrange at such short notice
While duty 8 (I’m pleased to report) was handled with the utmost professionalism, unfortunately, duty 9 slipped through the cracks as the stallion got stopped at a checkpoint while traveling on the overnight bus from Jaffna. Rumour has it you will see it in your local neighbourhood Perahera very soon.
All in all it was a great experience and day (as you can see from the pictures below). The VSO volunteers and Vindy’s family very much enjoyed each other’s company and will no doubt pick up where they left off at the wedding reception this fall.
Three cheers for Mark and Vindy! And three jeers to my disappearing stallion!