Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Finally! Pictures of the Thai Wedding

Disclaimer: What follows is most definitely the longest post EVER! But it was hard to leave anything out because it is all so fascinating and beautiful. The ceremony was very elaborate so, there are a lot of pictures! I broke it up into several storyboards followed with a description of what is going on in the pictures, but feel free to take a break and read it in installments!


In my previous post I showed you some of the 'gifts' that we had to carry in the procession to the ceremony site. Well here are the pictures of the procession itself! The top left photo is showing part of the dowry that was presented. All of the groomsmen, bridesmaids, the groom's parents, the groom and some random friends and family formed a long line, with each person carrying a 'gift'. The groom and his mother carried the dowry, which was the most important part of the gifts.

The point of all this was to arrive at the ceremony with enough to convince the bride's family that the groom was serious about marrying her and was willing to give gifts to show what she was worth to him. Most of it was just for show and tradition, but it was still fascinating to be a part of.


When the groom reached the entrance to the ceremony there were several 'gates' that he had to pass through. In order to do this he had to barter with the 'gate keepers' with envelopes full of money. They screeched and made noises at him to try and scare him away, to test if his intentions were true. He had to convince them that he would do anything in order to get inside and marry the bride.


Thankfully he made it in! Yay! We made our way to the stage at the front, handing off our gifts to other family and friends of the bride. Once the groom and his parents were up on the stage the father of the bride went and got her. He led her through the crowd of people to the stage to meet the groom.

Now one of the more interesting things I found was that the guests did not sit during the ceremony. There were no neat rows of chairs- they just stood in a large mass at the edge of the stage. It made everything feel more like a performance and a spectacle, especially when they would hoot and holler and make a lot of noise in general. The feeling was very communal.

So the parents of the bride and groom sat on chairs and the bride and groom knelt on the floor in front of them- with the dowry being center stage. The groom's parents formally presented the dowry to the bride's parents and then it was all thrown onto a gold cloth. Then other people came and threw flower petals and more money onto the cloth before it was wound up into a sack and presented to the mother of the bride.

Part of the dowry were the wedding bands so they were fished out of the sack and placed between the bride and groom. They bowed to each other and then exchanged rings. It was all a little crazy and even though I was only a couple of feet from them I couldn't hear if they said anything to each other as they placed the rings on their fingers.

Then the bride and groom had the bow before each of their parents to receive their blessing. The parent would place their hand on each of their backs to signify they approved of the union.


After the ring ceremony the bride and groom left for a few minutes. When they returned the four chairs from the earlier ceremony had been replaced with red and gold benches. They sat on a lower bench and leaned over another in front of them. The parents of the bride placed rings on their heads, with a string that attached the two rings.

Afterwards a gentleman came and placed three dots on each of their foreheads. Then all of the guests came and took turns pouring water from gold shells over their hands. This was to wish them luck and bless their union. It took a while since there were hundreds of people there. There were lots of women up on stage helping to fill the shells and shuttle them back and forth on the stage.

I loved that they placed a beautiful bouquet of flowers beneath both of their hands so that the water dripped off of their hands and onto the flowers.


After the water ceremony was complete the bride and groom went and changed into their reception outfits. The rest of the night was very much like a typical American wedding. The bride and groom were announced as they entered the reception and there was a head table set up on the stage where the bride, groom, groomsmen and bridesmaids all sat to eat dinner. Later on they cut the cake, had their first dance, and the bride threw her bouquet to all the eligible ladies.

There was tons of food and dancing to Thai music and the party went well into the night. Everything was so different than anything I had ever been to before, but the same basic emotions as an American wedding were there- everyone was happy and joyful to be celebrating this new union.

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