LAOS WEDDING CEREMONY
Laos wedding ceremony is vary from place to place because every ethnic group has its own customs and traditions. That makes Lao culture more impressive and special.
Place and time
Instead of holding in restaurants or hotels, A Lao wedding is traditionally taken place at the bride’s family home in the morning or afternoon. Lao people believe that morning is the ideal time for a wedding party, whereas the afternoon is considered the time for sad ceremonies like cremations. However, living in a modern life does not allow people to have much free time, they often give priority to the suitable time for most guests. Generally, 10:00am and 4:00pm are usually considered the best times.
Before the Wedding Ceremony
Apart from other European countries, engagement is not that common in Laos. Some couples get engaged before their wedding while many others don’t bother with the engagement at all. There are no set rules really, especially nowadays when life style of many Lao has changed.
In Laos culture, (after the proposal) SouKhor, a traditional procession (an envoy of the boy sent to the girl to ask if her parents will allow the marriage) is arranged before several days or even months before the wedding.
The bride-price is usually something valuable such as money and gold, which is a way to refund for bearing and raising the bride to her parents. This depends on the family financial situation of both sides. Nowadays Soukhor is simpler, it is organised just for the sake of Lao custom or tradition.
Oun dong ceremony
Oun dong is a wedding or marriage warming, which often takes place at the bride-to-be’s home or sometimes groom’s place as well. Only close friends and relatives who help families prepare for the wedding ceremony are invited to eat and drink. Something need to be done including Pha khoun (handmade marigold pyramid made of banana leaves), food for the big day and the new couple’s bedroom. Mother of the bride or an older female who has a good family make the bed for the couple.
On the big day, the bride is dressed with a traditional Lao silk sinh (Lao skirt), and silk blouse. Her hair is 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.
Hae keuy procession
After the small baci ceremonies in both families finish, the groom’s family send a convoy to give the bride-price to the bride’s parents. The convoy usually consists of few older men and women, who could be the groom’s parents and relatives who are good and know a lot about Lao customs and traditions. The leader of the convoy would politely say something like “we come with horses, buffaloes, cows, a pile of silver and gold to give to you in exchange for our son coming to live with you” or something similar. While this exchange is taking place the groom’s group is formed and waits somewhere nearby.
The groom’s group begin to walk to the bride’s home after being informed. They play musical instruments, sing and dance along the way. Everybody is laughing, cheering and smiling in the most joyful way. The groom walks under an umbrella carried by his friend. This is the most interesting part in Laos wedding ceremony
When they arrive at the bride’s house, both families and relatives meet each other in a silver door and a gold door set up and closed. The elders from both sides talk in a customary, polite and friendly way even it is not true. The groom is not allowed to go inside without drinking with the bride’s relatives and giving them money to open the doors. This is like an entry fee but it does not cost a great deal.
However he has to have his feet washed by the bride’s younger sister or the female relative of the bride who is younger than she is. He also pay to them to enter the house.
After that, the groom and the bride are led by a female relative of the bride to the place where the Baci takes place. She is seated on the left side of the groom while the parents and relatives of both sides sitting nearby. During the seating process the bride’s relatives and friends will give her a slight push to make her to lean on the groom unintentionally, and the other party will try to push the groom the same way. It is believed that the first to touch the other one in this ceremony will have more power over the other party in their married lives.
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.
People believed that if the receivers keep this white strings for at least three days after the baci, their wishes will come true. When it comes time to remove them, they should untie instead of cutting the strings as the good wishes might be severed. After the ceremony, the Phakhuan (handmade marigold pyramid) is kept until it dries out or at least for three days before it is thrown away because of the same reason.
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.
After the baci is over, it is time for the party to begin when the guests are invited to eat, drink and dance.The couple is sent in their room at the end of the wedding ceremony.
Today, most people devide their wedding into two parts: a traditional Laos wedding ceremony and a modern Laos wedding party. Some have the traditional Laos wedding ceremony at home and invite only close friends and relatives to join the ceremony in the morning or the afternoon. After that, the party is held at a hotel or a restaurant in the evening when more guests are invited.
The couple has traditionally lived with the wife’s or the husband’s family until
her first child is about a year old. The groom helps with farming in the bride’s family for several years until the couple feels they are economically ready to establish a separate household. Even then, they may continue to farm jointly with the older generation and either divide the harvest or eat from a common granary. A bride may sometimes move into her husband’s household.
When the couple has children, parents or grandparents usually help raise their grandchildren before they reach school age. Grown-up children usually also live in until they get married and sometimes even until after they have their own children so that the grandparents can help raise them or sometimes until they save enough money to build their own house.
However, the youngest daughter and her husband often have responsibility of taking care for parents and ultimately to inherit the house. The moved-out children support their parents by sending money back if they live far away, otherwise they come to visit and eat together as a family very often. All the children divide lands and other valuables.
In Laos, there is no social security or other welfare, such as homes for the elderly provided by the government. However, as our family bonds are strong and everyone in the family helps everyone out it is an important part of our culture to take care of our aging parents and grandparents. Lao families tend to change due to the modern life. Instead of extended families most families are replaced by nuclear ones as people have fewer children these days.