Lao Wedding or Not?

by cubiclejot on January 21, 2012


Guess what! I’m getting married! I was trying to keep my wedding plans out of liveLAO’d, but the first thing on my mind this morning is the wedding. It’s getting close to the big day and I’m feeling nervous and excited at the same time. A lot of things are running through my mind right now, so why not share what I’m going through with all 1 million liveLAOD.com readers. As much as I am gangsta about showing my Lao Pride and incorporating Lao traditions in my life, this wedding of mine may not have any Lao wedding traditions incorporated, except for maybe having plenty of Hennesey.

My fiancé is a Filipina who grew up in Guam. Her idea of a dream wedding is a tropical island wedding, with palm trees and waves crashing around in the background. On the other hand my idea of a wedding,( I’m not going to say dream wedding because that would include elephants, contortionists, unicorns and hobbits) is to carry a sword wearing my traditional Lao wedding attire including the MC Hammer pants. As silly as it sounds I wanted to look like the King of Laos for the day. I secretly wanted my family and friends parading me down the neighborhood towards the brides house while they danced and sang the lyrics “Here comes the son in law”. I did envision my best man holding an umbrella over me while I carried my suitcase (not sure what goes in the suitcase but I figure a pair of clean underwear) walking towards the brides house. I pictured my dad negotiating at the front door of the brides house with excitement and flare, the back and forth banter with the designated brides family, following would be numerous shots of alcohol. The brides family would invite the entourage and the groom into the house and if the invitation to enter was to slow the entourage would bully their way through the door. This tradition has always been what I had envisioned for myself.

Now as the wedding day gets closer I continue to think about the traditions that I am missing out on, including the big, really big Lao wedding, probably with 400 people or more in attendance. After many long conversations between the two of us and our parents we opted out of the big Lao Wedding “for now.” We decided our wedding is going to be in Maui with a guest list of about 50 people, our closest friends and family. We figure what is more important, celebrating with 400 people in which 70% of the folks we barely know, or go somewhere tropical for rest and relaxation and have a nice intimate wedding in the process. Some of you are probably thinking, “boy, you are so Amelican.” and its true I am definitely straying from our traditions and this wedding will be very much a western wedding. There is still hope though, my dad hasn’t completely ruled out the big wedding and still has grand ideas. The Lao wedding may still happen,but if it didn’t what will I be missing out on? I decided to lookup Lao wedding traditions and found these really interesting facts, photos and history which I got from www.laos-guide-999.com/a>

*The ceremony starts with the Grooms Entourage parading him over to the brides house. Where back and forth banter takes place to get into the home. Drinking usually ensues.

*A traditional Lao wedding is usually held at the bride’s family home. The wedding ceremony can take place either in the morning or afternoon. In the past it was always in the morning which was believed to be best time for a joyful celebration such as wedding ceremony to take place, whereas the afternoon is considered the time for sad ceremonies like cremations.

*The wedding preparations start with the sou khor (bride-price negotiation) procession. The bride-price is usually money and gold, but it can be anything valuable. These days the practice is usually done for show and if there is gold or diamonds the valuables are for the bride herself and not for the brides family.

*The wedding date has to be on a good day in lunar calendar, so parents of either or both sides usually consult elders or senior ex-monks, who have good knowledge of Lao custom and tradition, before the wedding date is set. A wedding should not take place during the three months khao phansa (Buddhist Lent, late July – late October). (My dad and I went through this and you need to pick a day that has a full moon. The fuller the moon the better.)

*The night before the Lao wedding takes place, an informal ceremony is held at the bride-to-be’s home, and sometimes the groom holds the same ceremony at his place as well. This is call an oun dong (wedding or marriage warming) and it only involves close friends and relatives who come to help with wedding preparations as well as to eat and drink. The things to prepare include pha khoun (handmade marigold pyramid made of banana leaves), food for the big day and the new couple’s bedroom. In this room tradition demands the bed must be made by the mother of the bride or an older female who has a good family (with a good husband and good children and who is not divorced, or a widow).

*On the big day, the bride is dressed with a traditional Lao silk sinh (Lao skirt), and silk blouse, and has her hair tied up in a special way with gold decoration. This ensemble is finished off with a gold necklace, bracelets, earrings and a bell.

*The groom also gets dressed up usually with white or cream coloured silk shirt and a traditional silk salong (a pair of baggy pants). Sometimes grooms wear normal pants and suits as some find salongs uncomfortable.

*On the wedding day a Baci(also spelt basi) or sou khuan (a spirit enhancing) ceremony is held. After everyone is settled in, the baci or sou khuan ceremony begins. This involves the chanting by the master of ceremony (mor phon), the egg feeding (the bride and the groom feed each other an egg) and the tying of white strings on wrists to unite the couple. At the end of the baci, the elder relatives lead the couple to somma (a customary asking for forgiveness and thanking of parents and elder relatives of both parties). This process involves the giving of small money gifts (wrapped inside banana leaves, together with flowers and a pair of candles). During this ceremony, the elders, including the parents and relatives of both parties, give the couple good wishes.The bride and the groom somma their parents.

*The Lao wedding ceremony ends with the sending of the couple to their room. The elder female relative will lead the groom to the room and the bride follows behind. Traditionally, the couple is supposed to stay in their room until the next morning, however these days after the traditional ceremony the big Lao wedding reception begins.

Live LAO’d,
CubicleJOT

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