Elephant Blessing in Sri Lanka
For international couple, Cath Cutten and David Curren the world is their oyster – they were born in Ireland and South Africa, currently live in Qatar and got engaged in Kenya, so not surprisingly they chose an exotic location to say “I do”, in a traditional ceremony made even more special by having an elephant to bless them both.
FINDING THE ONE
We met in Thailand, I say it was love at first sight, but he says no – he says he needed extra time to suss me out!
David proposed to me at the Masai Mara in Kenya. He tried to encourage me to go for a romantic post-dinner stroll, down to the Hippo Pools; (a dam with hippos and elephant wandering around.) We had decided that we weren’t doing Christmas presents as our group was going to go Hot Air Ballooning on Christmas morning, so when he said he got me a gift, the female frustration began to rise. Thankfully, I turned around to see that he was on his knee with the ring! It wasn’t totally unexpected, as we had chatted about getting married, but at the time, he definitely managed to take me by surprise.
Dave is Irish, I’m South African and we opted for a short engagement. Family and friends had already booked holidays and we wanted to work in our own time frame, so we explored overseas options. We love Asia so we were looking at the various regulations for getting married in each country. Sri Lanka was the most straightforward. We had been there and knew how beautiful it is, so it was quite an easy decision. I wanted beach and Dave wanted jungle – so our choice of the Reef Resort in Sri Lanka was a good compromise.
We liked the wedding package that Reef Villa & Spa had to offer, and selected a few things that suited us. Other things, like photography, we had a few connections and did our research. The hairdresser was Lucy Bonner, a friend from Qatar, who lived in Sri Lanka so it just made sense to use her. We did our own travel arrangements.
We didn’t take any guest with us. We invited family only, but it was only my mum that was able to make the day. She stayed at a neighbouring hotel, down the road.
Getting the look
I had been on a girls’ weekend to Dubai to get an idea of the style of dress that suited me best. I went for a simple yet elegant look. I ordered the dress itself from a ‘pre-owned’ website, however it was brand new, never worn and with all the tags on, so I really did hit the jackpot. It is a David Tutera dress. As for my hair and make-up, I’m not the biggest make-up person on a good day, so my friend Mel gave me lessons for about a month before the wedding, so I was able to do my own make-up. Thankfully I didn’t have to do my hair – I let my friend Lucy do her magic, which I was thrilled about. Even with all the humidity, it looked great.
Something old, something new?
Something Old were the pearls from my granddad, New was the dress, Borrowed was the make-up a friend lent me and Blue was an aquamarine from my gran passed down from my dad.
Groom & Bridesmaids
David wore a tailored grey suit with an aqua tie. I didn’t have any bridesmaids.
We were aiming to theme our wedding with hot pink and aqua/turquoise accessories, but when in Asia, nothing is guaranteed, so we had to roll with any and all pinks. For my wedding flowers, we had to be very mindful of the season in Sri Lanka so we opted for Gerberas. For our wedding cake, Piya Siri, the head chef at Reef Villa & Spa, made the most delicious carrot cake.
We had two ceremonies, which took place at Reef Villa & Spa – an English Civil ceremony for signing the register, with a reading and traditional Christian vows, which we wrote ourselves, followed by a Buddhist Blessing in the garden outside, overlooking the Indian Ocean and the palm-strewn sandy beach. We were married by the local registrar of Wadduwa for Panadura.
After signing the register David and I lit a traditional brass oil lamp to signify a bright new future together. We had Kandyan dancers and drummers ahead of us as we proceeded into both the Plantation House as well as into the tropical gardens for the Buddhist Blessing. As part of the Buddhist Blessing we were asked to stand on a bed of rice that had been carefully prepared. The Buddhist celebrant, who is called a kapuwa, tied our little fingers together with golden thread to symbolise the bond, and holy water is then poured over the fingers. As part of the blessing we also had to hand each other seven betel leaves which were neatly stacked and then throw them on the grass. The seven betel leaves are offered to the Gods with a request that protection is provided to the seven generations that will originate from the marriage. Once the blessing was finished the celebrant broke open a coconut as a symbolic gesture to drive away evil spirits. Another added extra we chose, was to have Monica, the local temple elephant, join us for the photos. A great ‘Asian’ touch. I had a bespoke ‘dress’ for Monica, the elephant, made to match her colour scheme. The wedding team from Reef Villa & Spa had to go to the elephant’s home to obtain her measurements and email them through to me.
We didn’t really have a reception as we decided to just have a special meal in Summer Breeze, Reef Villa & Spa’s al-fresco restaurant that evening. My mum joined us and we still talk about the amazing dishes that were presented. We had a six-course candlelit dinner with Champagne.
We had Duminda Nawarathne take our photos and his team put together the most incredible video too. We initially weren’t going to go for the video, but with our family not with us, we needed to film the wedding. Duminda was so much more than we expected – professional, prompt and artistic. We love the photo of us on the bench. We were so hot by then but the light and the greenery in the background, reminds us that we were in Asia.
The Buddhist Blessing with all the unusual, yet beautiful traditions was one of the best memories of our wedding day. The Buddhist Blessing was held in front of a flower arch near the beach that David and I had requested. Funniest moment was when we played rock, paper, scissors to see who gave the ring first. We always play best of three, but I’m sure we went to five. Dave wonJ
The wedding cost £5,000. We didn’t really set a limit but we made sure we got everything that we wanted.
My mum went home the day after the wedding, and we stayed on for our honeymoon, spending a week at The Reef and then another two weeks travelling around the coast of Sri Lanka.
Provided by Reef Villa & Spa
Reef Villa & Spa
Tel: 00 94 382 28 4442
UK Tel: 020 8874 7000
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“After signing the register David and I lit a traditional brass oil lamp to signify a bright new future together. ”
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