Party Night of Wedding Day

An evening reception follows Thai traditional weddings, and that afternoon Lady Baby and I wandered back and forth, between the frigidity of our room and the outside enveloping heat, to watch the party preparations. Workers cloaked tables with pink cloths, strung flowers and placed flower arrangements, and we watched a man insert hundreds of real orchids into the display where photos would be taken.

wedding flowers image

wedding flowers text

Guests looked so fine at this party. So many Thai women, including the bride’s mother have beautiful silk dresses, and she was lovely in a dark lavender long skirt and embroidered top. The bride looked the perfect picture of a modern bride in a strapless long, frothy-bottomed dress with silver belt, and her bridesmaids wore hot pink dresses in different styles. Farang men sported great new suits – products of an afternoon spent with a tailor in Bangkok (delivered overnight). The groom wore a tuxedo from the same tailor.

Maggie translated after-dinner wedding toasts from Thai to English or English to Thai. The bride’s father welcomed us in English and gave his blessing to the couple. The groom’s father, who had been practicing Thai for weeks beforehand, wished the couple long life and happiness and, in Thai, thanked the bride’s parents for “giving our son a chance.”

Friends of both bride and groom spoke of their deep affection for them – the groom’s friends good-naturedly jostling for title of “best friend.” The groom thanked everyone for coming so far, and told of beginning to worry on the plane about how this trip would be. He said he knew traveling with family could have some tricky  moments, but it always worked out – he wasn’t sure about this group. But then, as he watched his friends pile out of the van, he realized they were family – and it would be fine!

The bride tearfully thanked her parents, and all the guests. The band played, the young couple danced. Then, to our surprise and delight, the bride suddenly appeared on the stage in a short pink dress with a microphone and, backed up by her attendants, belted out “Loving You Is Easy”!

More dancing – an Alaska rap song, and the elders retired.

A Traditional Thai Wedding – With Farang

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.

Wedding procession

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.

Transition Day – on to Suphanburi

Suphanburi, the bride’s hometown, lies some two hours north of Bangkok along a corridor of commerce. Air conditioning in our vans cut the heat a little, and Lady Baby soon snoozed. We arrived at our destination – Ruen Pair Resort, a small place with bungalow flavored buildings set amongst a jungle of palm and fern – and retreated to air-conditioned rooms.

And that afternoon we, the groom’s family, met the bride’s parents for the first time, at their house in the countryside, surrounded by green rice paddies and fields.

Intimidated by photos we’d seen of the bride’s father – a former helicopter pilot in the Thai Air Force who was usually pictured unsmiling in aviator shades, we were a little nervous.

But at his house he revealed a great grin and smiled a lot! The bride’s mother is beautiful and gracious – and welcomed us. We met the sweet bride’s aunts and cousin, saw her childhood room (and photos of her as smiling six-year old and saucy teen), and stumbled through impossible communication. The bride (she must have been exhausted) forever translated and smoothed the way for all of us.

Thai boxes-2

That evening we were happy to see the bridegroom’s aunt and cousin, newly arrived from afar to the wedding party. Hosted by the bride’s parents, we dined on the river, drinking much Singha, and feasting on huge plates of lovely food.

The bride’s mother wore clothes of striking color and elegance – and clothes were much on the guests’ minds. In the lead up to the wedding, through emailing of measurements and selecting of colors, the bride arranged for traditional Thai outfits for all of us (everyone, Lady Baby, the two little boys, the “elders” and young people), and that afternoon we’d received our outfits.

It seemed like being costumed for a play, for assuming a role, making us part of this event. The usually flip-flop and t-shirt clad crew would be transformed for the wedding day!

Joy and Jet Lag

elephants revisted

A day after we returned from our younger son’s wedding in Thailand, I received a photo showing Lady Baby doubled over in Mrs. Hughes’s lap, titled “Jet Lag: A Portrait.” Jet lag does double one over, causes bury-the-head fatigue, and fogs the brain clock by arguing with the geographic clock. Sunshine resets the biological clock, so January Northwest weather does not help.

All by way of explaining that I am home, and more coming soon. I keep wrestling for some one word – or three – to sum up the trip: splendid, heartwarming, fun –  an adventure, a delight, a joy!

But I need a lot more words (many posts about this trip I think), and a little more sleep before offering you something about the week. And it was only a week – not enough time to visit Thailand.

So my tale isn’t tourist Thailand, it’s family in Thailand. A lot of the experience was a Lady Baby-flavored time in Asia. (A good flavor.) I’ve been debating about the Downtown Abbey names, but it tickles me to think of the Downtown Abbey staff in Bangkok, minus a few of course. And it was an inspiring trip.

Maybe instead of words, or phrases to sum up, I will just say – I can hardly wait to go back!

elephants revisted again