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Syrian Catholic Marriage Customs In Kerala

Updated on April 6, 2016

Kerala Catholic Marriage

Newly Wedded couple sharing the Wedding Cake
Newly Wedded couple sharing the Wedding Cake | Source

Syrian Catholic Marriages in Kerala

Syrian Catholics are one of the prominent catholic in Kerala. They follow or consider the pope of Rome as their spiritual head. There are three divisions of Catholics in Kerala.

  • Syrian Catholic
  • Latin Catholic &
  • The Reeth

Syrians says that, they have their ancestors from the Brahmin families, who had been converted to Christianity by Saint Thomas, in earlier times. Marriages among these divisions of Catholics are allowed. But if the Catholics are to marry other divisions of Christians like Jacobites, Orthodox etc., then they have to get additional permissions from the spiritual heads, as their rules are different from that of Catholics.

Traditional Kerala christian wedding attire

Wedding Couples - Kerala catholic wedding
Wedding Couples - Kerala catholic wedding | Source

Marriage - one among the sacraments

According to Christianity, Marriage is one among the seven (Koodashas) sacraments

  1. Baptism (Mamoodeesa)
  2. Holy Communion (Visudha kurbana)
  3. Reconcilation (Kumbasaram)
  4. Confirmation (sthairyaleepanam)
  5. Holy Orders (thirupattam)
  6. Marriage (vivaham)
  7. Anointing of sick (Roogeelepanam)

Marriage among relatives

In families, no one is allowed to marry among the relatives. Christians don’t marry among relatives, though it is allowed in other religions like Hindu and Muslim communities.

Age for Marriage

Usually marriages begin via seeking for bride and groom. When a girl or boy reaches the age of marriage, usually it is after degree for girls – between the age of 20 and 25years. And for boys, it is between 25 and 30 years; the parents seek for marriage.

Blessing the marriage - Kerala Syrian Catholic Marriage

Priest blessing the marriage
Priest blessing the marriage | Source

Marriage Advertisements

They put advertisements in newspapers. Sundays are the day in which newspapers will be filled with the bride/groom wanted ads. Apart from that, in the parish bulletins, parish newspapers also give facility to enter the ads. Nowadays, there are matrimonial sites, dedicated only for Christian people. Like chavaramatrimonial etc.

Once the advertisements are running, there comes the occasion – seeing the bride (pennukanal). Once the ad is okay, they will communicate via phone and fix a day, in which the groom along with close friends and relatives will come to see the bride. If both are okay, then further matters are discussed like, how and what next. In some areas, the bride’s party will visit back the grooms place to confirm, that everything is okay.

Marriage Fixing or Orappeeru

Then once everything is okay, then bride’s party without bride will visit the groom’s house, officially with all the close relatives. This is to fix the marriage and in Malayalam, it is said as Orappeeru. In the presence of both the relatives of bride and groom, the dates of betrothal and marriage will be decided. Even though dowry is not legal, it had now taken a new form – gifts.

Usually the gifts given among the rich families is like posh cars, property, bank balance etc. while normal family give bank balance and gold ornaments.

After the lunch at groom’s house, the bride’s party will leave. Before leaving, they are given black tea as a custom. It is one of the customs that is followed in Syrian catholic families before send off.

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Pre- Marriage Courses

Before the betrothal, both the bride and groom are supposed to attend the pre-marriage course conducted by the archdiocese. Usually the classes are for three days. Since nowadays, bride and groom, being working, the classes are conducted on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Bride and groom are to stay at some convention center/pastoral centers for the classes along with many other couples, who want to get married. Counseling and other classes are given for them by the priests and educated people in how to live a family life. The pre-marriage courses are compulsory for the Catholics to marry. During pre-marriage courses mostly bride and groom, get more opportunity to understand better.

At the end of the courses a certificate is given with a validity of 6 months and the same is needed for the marriage through church.

Betrothal - Kerala Catholic Marriages

During the betrothal function
During the betrothal function | Source

Betrothal

The next thing after the marriage fixing is that of Betrothal. Betrothal is done by the bride’s party, at bride’s parish church. Betrothal is giving permission in public. Both the bride and groom accept their willingness to marry in front of the church and their relatives and friends. Betrothal is usually done as a small marriage function itself. The groom and party reach the bride’s parish along with the letter from their parish priest.

Since this is the function conducted by the bride’s party, they take it or conduct it with all possible way to make it look and feel great. There will be a small function at church in which both bride and groom is asked their permission or acceptance to marry.

After the lunch, the groom’s party will reach brides home and where the groom is given an amount to buy dress by bride’s brother. Again any gift given as amount or property is handed over by bride’s uncle to grooms uncle. Later as usual, black tea is served as a sign of sendoff to the team / grooms party.

Announcing the marriage via church - Vilichu Chollal

Once the betrothal is over, before the marriage, the marriage acceptance is announced to the public/parish members of both bride and groom during Sunday mass. This needs to be done on three consecutive Sundays as a rule of thumb. But if there is any urgency, there is rule to bypass this custom. This is done so as to ensure that there is nobody opposing this decision. Like say if bride and groom is /had any prior marriage which is not legally removed, can be noticed to the concerned person or authority or to the church itself, if there is any objection.

Stage Decorations

Stage Decoration - Kerala Catholic Marriage
Stage Decoration - Kerala Catholic Marriage | Source
Stage Decoration - Kerala Catholic Marriage
Stage Decoration - Kerala Catholic Marriage | Source

Marriage Purchase

Mostly the gold and clothes for the marriage is purchased in the presence of both the parties. Gold is purchased by the bride’s party. The mathrakoodi (marriage Saree) is purchased by the groom and party. Also another Saree known as second Saree is also purchased by the groom.

Mathrakoodi – the Saree given as a sign of marriage. This custom came as part of the custom followed in Hindu marriages- known as pudavakodu – means give the Saree.

Wedding Ring and Thali

Again the wedding ring to exchange during the marriage is purchased and the name is embossed in the ring. The next important thing is the thali or minnu- made of gold. it is purchased by the groom along with a chain for the bride. The chains length should be up to the heart of the bride when worn in her neck. This is will be given to the bride at the time of marriage. Similar way, the bride’s party also will buy a chain for the groom.

The thali threaded using seven threads in mathrakodi and the wedding rings and the chain and the rosary is placed in a tray in front of the table.

Manthra koodi - Kerala catholic Marriage

Mathrakoodi ( the wedding saree), the wedding rings, Thali and the Roasary kept for blessing, during the marriage
Mathrakoodi ( the wedding saree), the wedding rings, Thali and the Roasary kept for blessing, during the marriage | Source

Getting blessing from elder people- Kerala catholic marriage

Sthuthi - praise to be to Jesus Christ
Sthuthi - praise to be to Jesus Christ | Source

Madhuram Veppu or Sweet Ceremony

Night before the marriage, at the brides and grooms house, the sweet ceremony is conducted. The bride /groom is placed in a special seat and then the prayers are done and the uncle of the bride/groom will ask to the group of close relatives, whether he shall give the bride/groom the sweet, It will be asked three times and then sweet is given to the bride/groom. Now a day’s mehendi function, just like as that of Muslim custom is also conducted along with madhuram veppu ceremony. It is actually a get together of all relatives and friends before the marriage.

Kerala Catholic Marriage

Ready for the Marriage - Entering the church
Ready for the Marriage - Entering the church | Source

Marriage

Marriage is usually conducted by the groom’s party, at groom’s parish. In the morning the bride and groom gets ready and do the prayer and get blessings from the elders. “Praise to be to Jesus Christ” is what is to be said to them.

After that, they are led to the church. The bride and party are to reach the church first. Once the bride reaches the church, the groom and party will start from their house. Both bride and groom will enter the church along with their parents.

The marriage is usually done along with the holy mass. The marriage is blessed in the middle of the holy mass, by the priest. The thali is blessed and then the groom will tie the thali in bride’s neck. Then as a custom, the manthrakoodi is also blessed and the groom, make it wear by the bride on her head. Later ring exchange is also done. Once the marriage is over they take oath of marriage, in the name of holy bible.

Giving the mathrakoodi to the bride & Tying the wedding knot

Tying the knot - Kerala Catholic Wedding
Tying the knot - Kerala Catholic Wedding | Source
Groom, giving the blessed mathrakoodi as a sign to protecting the bride.
Groom, giving the blessed mathrakoodi as a sign to protecting the bride. | Source

Welcoming the bride and groom - Kerala Catholic Marriage

Mother of groom, blessing both bride and groom
Mother of groom, blessing both bride and groom | Source
Bride and groom lighting the light
Bride and groom lighting the light | Source

Welcoming the newly wedded couple

Once the marriage is over, then bride and groom will do offerings to the church and then they are led to the grand feast of marriage. Where they will together, lit the lamp and also cut the cake and have it. Later they are given, traditional tender coconut water. Once the feast starts, the bride will go and change her wedding dress – usually cream /golden or white in color and put on the mathrakoodi.

Later after the feast, everybody gather at grooms home, where grooms mother will welcome both bride and groom, by blessing them and giving them the blessed rosary as a gift or memory of their marriage. Then at home, both bride and groom are given, sweetened milk and sweets.

Then comes, handing over of bride to the groom’s mother. The bride’s mother will come and hand over bride to groom’s mother. Also the bride’s mother will put a gold chain to groom. The groom will gift a Saree back to the bride’s mother. Later as usual black tea is served and the bride’s party will leave grooms room, leaving the bride at grooms house.

Kerala Catholic Marriage

Bride enter's groom's house with Lighted lamp.
Bride enter's groom's house with Lighted lamp. | Source

Visits or Virunnu

The day next to marriage, in the morning, both bride and groom have to join for the holy mass at groom’s parish church. Then starts the ceremony – “virunnu” or visits. Both Bride and groom will be invited by the relatives of both groom and bride’s relatives, in the coming days.

Bride and groom will visit every relative’s house and they will be treated specially on that occasion, with mouthwatering dishes. This process will last for months, as there will be so many invitations, for newly wedded couples.

Back to bride's home

After three days, the bride’s father will come and invite the couple, back to their home and along with that there is a custom, saying Adukkala Kanal – Seeing the kitchen. In which the bride’s father will bring in with some furniture’s or home appliances for the groom’s house, which will be later be used by the bride itself. The bride and groom will visit the bride’s home, once invited. And thus the marriage ceremony comes to an end.

Kerala Christian Marriage

Giving sweetened milk to the couple at groom's house
Giving sweetened milk to the couple at groom's house | Source
Handing over bride to groom's mother.
Handing over bride to groom's mother. | Source

Customs never end

This is how marriages happen in Syrian Christian weddings in Kerala. The traditions or customs followed is somewhat similar to other Hindu or Muslim customs followed during their marriages. There are many other customs, that are to come followed by a marriage.

Now I had tried to explain customs up to visit back to bride's home. there are many other related customs to come in future- regarding like, becoming pregnant, the baptism of first child, the celebration during pregnancy etc. That I will try to explain on an another hub.

Hope you enjoyed this hub.

© 2014 DEEPA JOHN

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    • deepateresa profile image
      Author

      DEEPA JOHN 4 months ago from Trivandrum, Kerala,India

      Syrian Catholics are one amongst the Catholic. In Catholics there are three divisions, Syro Malabar, Syro malangara and Latin. The Saint Thomas Christians, also called Syrian Christians or Nasrani, are a community of Syrian Christians from Kerala, India, who trace their origins to the evangelistic activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century. ... Saint Thomas Christians represent a multi ethnic group.

    • profile image

      mats 4 months ago

      'Kerala Catholic wedding' and 'Kerala Syrian Christian (Catholic or non-Catholic) wedding' are two different things, though many aspects are common. What is shown here is a 'Keral Syrian Christian Catholic Wedding'.

    • profile image

      Libin 6 months ago

      What is the historical background of Madhuramvepp ?

    • profile image

      Zia 7 months ago

      Hi Deepa, thanks for a lovely article. Am invited to a Christian Malayali wedding. Not being Indian, would it be ok if I wore a sari or another indian dress? Any colors to stay clear of? What about my husband? Could he just wear a pants and shirt? We have never been to India and never been to an Indian wedding, so anxious not to cause any offense! Thanks:-)

    • deepateresa profile image
      Author

      DEEPA JOHN 14 months ago from Trivandrum, Kerala,India

      Hey Mani, no special dress code is expected for guests. One thing to note is that, marriage process will last for more than 1 hr, it's a lengthy procedure :)

    • profile image

      Mani 14 months ago

      Hi Deepa, nice reading your detailed explanation of Malayali Catholic wedding. Was curious to know after I got an invite.

      Wanted to know if there is a certain dress code for the guests to be followed.

    • profile image

      shaji 2 years ago

      Hi deepa

      Please inform the custom and after the pregnant till birth

    • deepateresa profile image
      Author

      DEEPA JOHN 2 years ago from Trivandrum, Kerala,India

      No anjana...ring exchange happens during marriage...

      But now a days... Ring exchange do happen during betrothal... It is like adopting customs like "milanchi" etc from other religions...

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      Anjanaa 2 years ago

      Hi Deepa, I was wondering if any rings are exchanged at the Betrothal?