A traditional Thai wedding begins early and lasts long, a Thai-like combination of utter formality, ritual, and relaxed tolerance (specially regarding farang missteps).
The setting was a two-story, open-air pavilion on the river at Bann Thai Resort. We entered through an archway of flowers, past posts made from lacquered trees with stumps of branches, and took off our shoes. We climbed the stairs into a large, roofed space with shiny wood floors, sides open to the outdoors, festive with pink and green bunting and huge arrangements full of pink flowers.
Sometimes guests sat, but others milled around – multiple cameras clicking, positions changing, even talking. In the middle of the room, on a broad platform raised about a foot, nine saffron-robed monks sat cross-legged facing the couple in ornate chairs.
The monks began to chant. It must be mind-altering to sit in those chairs and be the focus of the chanting – receiving blessings directed at you and your life. It certainly transfixed Lady Baby.
The chanting ended, and guided by important elders from the bride’s side – the governor of the wedding and his wife – the parents and the Thai and farang elders began to dish out rice, and set up a meal for the monks. The monks sat cross-legged in two circles on orange mats and tucked into trays and plates of food.
Meanwhile, the bride and her groom moved behind tung rod nam tables, the traditional water pouring tables. The chairman and his wife placed intricately woven, u-shaped necklaces of flowers, ending in red rosebuds around the couple’s necks, and the bride’s attendants crowned the couple with mong kol, ceremonial headdresses. Both headdresses (already blessed by the monks) come from the same piece of cotton, so a piece loops between them to signify the joining of the couple.
Finally the water pouring – the moment after which the couple becomes husband and wife. They placed their palms together on the table, and a series of elders gently poured water from thumbs to fingers while offering blessings. Vases of pink roses captured the run-off water. My favorite chanting came next – individual monks holding beautifully decorated fans.
Then a break for a snack downstairs! Lady Baby took this moment to collapse against Mr. Carson and sleep in her Ergo. The rest of us left the building, walked down a nearby road, along a path to a pier, and embarked on a journey – both symbolic and real.
All the farang – the bridegroom’s party – boarded a flat-bottomed boat with benches round the edge. In the middle a wooden table stood laden with large plates of dessert-like food. Rock music blasted and Maggie, a young Eurasian young woman with a microphone, explained what had just happened and what was next.
The boat chugged away, then turned back toward the pavilion, passing homes on stilts and fishermen poling small boats. In spite of the music, or because of the familiarity of it, it was a relaxing few minutes cruising the river back to the resort, preparing ourselves for the khan makk procession.
Carrying the dishes of sweets and fruit from the boat as ceremonial gifts (offerings that represent the important things of life like health, fertility, and longevity), our entourage disembarked in a cheerful parade.
A doorway downstairs in the pavilion stood in for the door of the bride’s family’s house, and the groom was stopped there for joking and teasing by the bride’s family.
Back upstairs the bride’s family was ready to receive the dowry placed on the khan makk tray. Baht spread out in a circle, gold coins, the wedding rings –proof of the groom’s financial ability to care for his wife. More baht and a roll of dollars from a friend filled a gap in the circle. Much laughing ensued, with good spirits all around.
The dowry accepted, rings were exchanged, and the newlyweds received blessings from everyone. We parents sprinkled the offered mixture of flower petals, sesame seeds, and nuts – symbols of love, longevity, and happiness – on top of the dowry. The elders of both families tied cotton strings to the bridegroom and the bride’s wrists. In return, the couple offered gifts to parents and elders.
This wedding was so joyfully accomplished – the couple well and truly married with all possible support – many smiles all day.
We celebrated with lunch under a roof on a floating dock, and then retreated to Ruen Pair to wait for evening.