A Bhutanese wedding is much more than a simple exchange of vows and rings. It includes a number of religious rites performed by Buddhist monks and lamas. This represents the importance of the bond between a husband and wife (or same sex partners). This ceremony is also used for renewing marriage vows. Please note this wedding blessing ceremony is not legally recognized outside of Bhutan.
The actual wedding ceremony and the blessing for a lifetime of love and happiness will take place at either the auspicious Kyichu Lhakhang (temple), located few kilometers from Amankora in the Paro valley or at the Khuruthang Lhakang near the Amankora lodge in the Punakha valley. Kyichu Lhakhang, a 7th century temple, bears splendid witness to the arrival of Buddhism in Bhutan and is one of the 108 temples built in a day by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo to pin down a treacherous ogress – it is one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites in Bhutan.
The ceremony begins with a Lhabsang, which will be performed by the monks in the morning before we arrive at the temple. During the ceremony the monks will recite mantras and they will light fumigation outside the temple. This ceremony is to please the local deities. Bhutanese believe that only if our deities are pleased we can have their blessing and enjoy good health and wealth. The fumigation is to please their sense of smell and the grains we add to the fumigation are to quell their hunger.
Once we are in the temple, we will light butter lamps after we do the prostrations. The lighting of butter lamp is an offering of light to deities and is one of the most common means of increasing merits.
On arrival at the Lhakhang, the monks will perform Thrisor. It is a rite of purification and cleansing. This rite will clear our bodies, speech and minds of all our sins.
Changphoed is the offering to the gods and deities in a form of Ara. After on offering is made to the deities, the ara will then be served to the bride and the groom in a traditional wooden phob (cup), which they will share. This symbolizes the faith and everlasting bond the husband and the wife will share for the rest of their lives.
The bride and the groom will then exchange their rings which will bind one another with love and friendship for ever.
This is an elaborate ritual ceremony for a long and prosperous married life. The head monk will bless you in the course of the ritual for the same. This ritual is performed in honor of Tsepamey, the God of longevity.
Zhugdrey Phunsum Tshogpa
When Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyel, The Unifier of the Country, first arrived in present day Punakha in 1637, he was deeply impressed by the gathering of the people and by the variety of products. He said that the gathering was very auspicious omen and named the place Punthangkha, which means Mouth of the Plain of Gathering.
Zhabdrung instructed everyone to be seated in rows and served food items including a variety of fruit, while special prayers dedicated to his spiritual lineage were being recited.
The meal hosted by the Zhabdrung on this auspicious day of gathering was the origin of the ceremony known as Zhugdrel Phuensum Tshogpa.
During the Zhugdrel ceremony, following the auspicious day, various food and drinks are to be served and offerings made to the guardian deities for their blessings.
As the food items served during this ceremony are considered very auspicious, we should not show any gesture of refusal. Interrupting the Zhugdrel, looking sideways, cracking jokes, and laughing are improper.
First fruit to be served will be an orange because oranges are aesthetically attractive, tasty, and the segments inside are united, representing a close bond that is securely protected, ensuring the couple of grace, glory and wealth. In case there are no oranges available, bananas can be used.
The ceremony will conclude with the presentation of the Dhar Naynga, the symbolic five colored scarves. The offering of the scarves wishes the bride and the groom a long and prosperous life.