A wedding rich in Sri Lankan traditions

My smile widened as I read the pretty poster invitation from Thanam Visvanathan Suresh with a WhatsApp message that said, “Hi Peggy, Do please accept this invitation to my daughter’s wedding, Aug 15.”


The signage with directions to the event venue

A wedding invitation!


I do so enjoy wedding celebrations and did not hesitate to accept.


It was significant that after two years of uncertainties, this was a wonderful opportunity to meet again as guests at the traditional wedding celebration of Suhanya and Ryan Trowbridge.


When international travel reopened early this year, Thanam and her husband, Suresh Gunaratnam, travelled to the United Kingdom to witness the wedding of their only daughter, Suhanya, to Ryan in a charming English-style wedding ceremony.


Only married women should carry the trays

Then in August, the young couple were in Johor Baru to celebrate their union, witnessed by family and friends, in a wedding ceremony rich in Sri Lankan tradition.


On my arrival at the event venue, I found my way to the event hall by following the posters with directions and was amused by a hashtag coined from the bride and groom’s name with a clever play on words in the Malay language #SuHanyaSayangRyan.


Groups of guests were gathered in the foyer and my eyes were riveted to the glitz and glamour of traditional Indian costumes and accessories worn by both men and ladies.


The proud parents,
Thanam and Suresh

It was a wedding celebration after all, and a very good reason to dress to the hilt.


While I was familiar with seeing Thanam dressed in the elegant saree at formal events, this was the very first time I saw her dressed in a stylish saree of fuchsia-red shot with gold threads, complete with handbag in matching bright colour and her ears, wrists and neck, dripped with glittering gold jewellery.


I must confess that I almost did not recognize her because her hair was swept up into a grand coiffure, adorned with gold-bling accessories, as was fitting for her role as Mother-of-the-Bride and newly-minted Mother-in-Law.


As soon as she acknowledged my high compliments for her dazzling ensemble, it was back to business for her as I watched her oversee the final arrangements for the start of the traditional (should I add, elaborate?) wedding ceremony.


A brief ceremony at the entrance with music 
by live traditional musicians

I could not help overhearing as a number of ladies assembled to carry trays filled with various traditional wedding items like flower garlands, flower posies, whole coconuts and fresh fruits, among other paraphernalia for the ceremony.


“Only married women!” I heard someone say clearly and understood that traditionally, only married women were to hold the trays for the walk-in parade to the wedding ceremony.


The ceremony was about to start so guests were being ushered into the ballroom, to go to the tables assigned to them.


The bridegroom and his brother-in-
law had hands linked by their pinkies

I was given a small card with the floorplan that indicated the carpeted pathway that ended at the Main Stage with my assigned table, DOME 5, highlighted in colour.


As I figured out its perspective, I was pleased that this table was close to the stage and right next to the carpeted pathway for me to enjoy a good view of the happenings during the ceremony.


Based on the event programme and my previous experience in Hindu traditional weddings, I was well prepared for a long and elaborate ceremony.


While guests were ushered into the ballroom, I hung back for a bit to observe a brief ceremony conducted at the entrance, accompanied by live traditional musicians beating drums and blowing trumpets.


It was interesting to watch as the bridegroom arrived with his hand linked by their pinkies to that of his brother-in-law, Sanjeeva.


The bridegroom and his brother-in-law
seated on the wedding dais with
the groom's family [Right] looking on

Led by the ladies bearing the various trays, the groom and his brother-in-law, walked into the ballroom – with their hands linked – followed by an entourage that included the groom’s parents and brother, to the tune of traditional musicians.


This entourage took their places on the grand wedding dais set up on the stage for the start of the Muhurtham or traditional wedding ceremony (from 7pm to 9pm).


When I reached my assigned table, I was delighted to meet the familiar faces who would later share dinner with me.


Edey Suresh [Centre] and distinguished guests
shared the table with me

I guessed Thanam had put much thought into the seating plan because the gentlemen at the table included the Iskandar Malaysia Social Heroes Awards (IMSHA) co-founder, Edey Suresh, along with distinguished gentlemen who are associated with IMSHA as Council Members, award winners and keen supporters.


A glance around the ballroom showed me that the guests gathered at this wedding celebration was a veritable Who’s Who in Johor Baru that included NGO representatives and IMSHA award winners and associates.


Allan and Miin with young Lewis at the event

I fondly recalled that in May 2015, I had the pleasure to witness the wedding celebration for Allan and Miin and this August, I was delighted to meet this lovely pair again, this time with an energetic youngster in tow.


As the traditional ceremony progressed, guests were still trickling into the ballroom and then when Thanam and Suresh made a discreet exit, I anticipated the next exciting part of the ceremony… and then the moment we were all waiting for.


The bridal procession into the ballroom was led by lovely pairs of bridesmaids followed by the blushing bride, resplendent in her wedding saree and veil, along with an entourage and her proud parents.


The bride and groom on the wedding dais

The traditional wedding ceremony continued when the bride’s brother stepped away from the dais for the bride to take her place next to the groom.


As I watched from afar, I was sure that each step of the ceremony had its traditional significance but did not understand as much until my friend, Ajith Baskaran, arrived and joined us at the table.


Well-versed in Hindu traditions, Ajith was in his element when he pointed out what was going on as the priest directed the newly-weds through each step of the traditional ceremony.


An interesting part of the ceremony,
not for our eyes...

There was a ripple of excitement when a group of ladies started to distribute small pouches among the guests and when I saw its contents, I understood why.


The pouch was filled with traditional crisps – murukku and omapodi – and a cube of coconut candy, a welcome snack and appetizer before dinner. Then at about 8.30pm, our vegetarian dinner was served.


I must confess that my favourite part of the meal was its dessert of payasam, a traditional must-have pudding for special occasions and a fitting end to a grand celebration such as this.


Thank you, Thanam and Suresh, for letting me be a part of this special celebration and best wishes to the newly-weds, Suhanya and Ryan, as you start a new chapter in your lives together. #SuHanyaSayangRyan


Note: The delay in sharing this memorable wedding experience was due to attending to work-in-progress for Book Three of My Johor Stories and the review of my manuscript to ready it for publishing in partnership with MPH Publishing Kuala Lumpur.


Look out for the soon-to-be-released, My Johor Stories 3: Proudly Johor, Then and Now, the final instalment to complete the trilogy of My Johor Stories. 

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