Traditional Thai Wedding Part 2

Earlier this week, I gave observations on a Thai wedding, focusing on the processional the groom made to arrive at the house of his bride. In this post, I will give my observations of the intimate ceremony with the family. In a Thai ceremony, which varies depending on which region of Thailand you are from, the only people who attend the actual equivalent to a wedding ceremony are family members or representatives of the bride and groom. Representatives in this case would be the same as the wedding party in a Western Wedding. In the north of Thailand, this ceremony is called the wrist tying ceremony. In Central Thailand, the ceremony is called the water pouring ceremony. These names refer to the part of the ceremony where blessing is spoken over the new married couple. We’ll get to that part shortly.

At the wedding we attended, the groom entered the house after paying his way in and through the different levels to access his bride. The levels are usually a wood level (the entrance gate to the house), a silver level, and a gold level all requiring a particular payment. The groom and bride then sat behind a table to await a blessing. Usually the blessing is chanted by a monk, but in this case the bride’s uncle played the part. He chanted a traditional blessing out of a notebook reading along as he went. Sitting and watching, I got the sense of rich tradition as well as long held beliefs about the sacred nature of a marriage. I wondered what spiritual elements were included in this type of blessing.

When the chanting concluded, the groom approached the parents of the bride to offer the bulk of his bride price. When they accepted the payment, the couple both bowed before her parents. Then the groom turned to his bride and gave her the jewelry portion of the bride price. He placed a necklace around her neck, a bracelet on her wrist and finally slid a ring on her finger. She reciprocated and slid a ring onto his finger. The uncle followed this by putting a wreath on each of their heads that had a string connecting the wreaths.

At this point, each member of the family came forward to tie a string around the wrist of each the bride and groom, the name of the ceremony. As they tie the string, they pronounce a blessing over the newlywed couple. Tying the string signifies the tying on of a blessing. After each person that holds significance in the couple’s life comes through and blesses them, the couple goes into the bedroom for the final part of the wedding ceremony.

In the bedroom, the parents explain to them the things that a married couple needs to value and soon consummate now that they are a married couple. The parents then show the newly married couple how to lay on the bed, and then make the embarrassed couple lay down together. It is hard to think of this as an outdated ritual since most young adults have heard about sex long before this point. However, I found it an interesting part of how traditional Thai families honor the intimate nature of a marriage.

After the ceremony with close family and friends concluded, the party began. The family of the bride provided lots of food and entertainment. The bride’s sister took advantage of the karaoke stage to sing and dance for all the friends who came to revel in the wedding and reception festivities. The bride and groom even sang a duet. I have to say my first experience at a traditional Thai wedding was fun.

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Traditional Thai Wedding Part 1

We experienced our first traditional Thai wedding this week. We were so glad we could be with our friends as we missed their Christian wedding the week before we returned to Thailand. This last weekend we met the bride and groom in the bride’s hometown to do the traditional Thai wedding for her family and friends. Her father is a well respected man in the community, so he wanted to have everyone over for a big party.

Wedding may not be the best word to describe the ceremony in Thailand. Basically, the ceremony is for family and close friends and marks that the bride and groom are now married. The ceremony carries a lot of symbolism none-the-less.

First, the date and time are chosen by the family according to lucky numbers and dates. The ceremony we attended began at 9:29am on August 8. Everything was set in place for the perfect time. As friends of the groom, we sat with him as he dressed in the traditional Thai outfit for the day. He gave me 10 envelopes to hold for him. These envelopes held the money he needed to pay the family to buy his bride. Prior to a wedding, the family will set a bride price that the fiancé needs to pay in order to be given his bride. In addition to the set price, key members of the family will block the groom’s way to his bride until he bribes his way through, thus the envelopes.

The groom also had flowers to carry with him as he and his family and representatives proceeded to march to his brides’ house. As we walked, some people banged on symbols and gongs letting the neighborhood know something significant was happening. Fireworks even went off as we marched toward the house where the bride waited. As we approached, the groom took his envelopes from me to pay off family members. Each person was paid off a portion in order to allow him through the gate and into the property, and finally into the house. They asked him why he came. He replied, I have come to get your daughter.

In part II of this post, I will take a look at the ceremony in the house with the family and friends.