A wedding (àvàhamaïgala or maïgalakiriyà) is a ceremony marking the marriage of two people. The first Buddhists adopted the wedding ceremony current at the time. However, wanting to distinguish their weddings from those of Brahmanism, they left out the ritual requiring the bride and groom to circumambulate the sacred fire seven times. They also had the elders of both families officiate, rather than a brahmin. Astrology was often used to determine an auspicious time for the wedding, although the early Buddhists ridicule this practice (Ja.I,258).
The preliminary to the wedding took two forms. Either the groom went to the bride's house (àvàha) or the bride was taken to the groom's house (vivàha). In both cases there was a procession and much music and dancing (A.II,61; D.I,99). The essential feature of the ceremony itself was when the father of the bride took her left hand and with a ceremonial vase or pot (bhinkàra) in his right hand poured water over the couple's hands, a ritual marking the giving away of the bride to the groom (A.III,226; IV,210; Ja.III,286). In Sanskrit literature this ceremony is called `The Giving of the Hand' (Pàïipradàna). This would be followed by a blessing from the parents and elders. In the Jàtaka the Bodhisattva gives this wedding benediction: `May your friendship with your beloved wife never decay' (Ajeyyaü esà tava hotu mettã bhariyàya kaccàna piyàya saddhiü, Ja.VI,323).
In ancient India the bride's family sometimes paid a dowry (dàyajja) and at other times they gave her a dower (nahànamåla), although such customs seem to have been practised mainly by the wealthy. The Buddha made no comment on such practices although he did criticize the buying and selling of girls for wives (A.III,221; Ja.IV,363)
With some sympathy, the Buddha described the discomfort of the newly-wedded bride in her new husband's house. `When a young wife is led to her husband's home, either by day or night, for a while she feels great timidity and shyness in the presence of her mother-in-law, her father-in-law, her husband and even towards the servants and slaves'(A.II,78).
According to the Vinaya, monks were expected to attend weddings if invited to do so (Vin.I,140). Whether their presence was considered to impart auspicious to the proceedings or they were available to receive gifts in place of brahmins, or whether they performed some formal part of the ceremony is not clear. In later centuries in India monks did participate in weddings. The Abhisamàcàrikà contains a series of beautiful verses to be chanted by attendant monks as a blessing for the newlyweds.
Some features of the ancient ceremony still prevail in Theravàda countries, although mixed with local customs. According to the Buddha, monks and nuns should not get involved in `the giving or taking in marriage'(D.I,11) and they should not act as go-betweens or matchmakers (Vin.III,138). In most Theravada countries today it is unusual for monks to attend weddings. See Faithfulness.