In the past, Lao people believed that the afternoon is the time for sad ceremonies, therefore the traditional Laos Weddings are usually held in the morning. The ceremony was always held at the bride’s house. Nowadays, wedding ceremonies in Laos are often held at the time which is convenient for the participants. It is divided into two parts. The first part is Baci when close friends and relatives come to enjoy the foods and drink. This part is followed by the reception which may be held at a hotel, a restaurant, or somewhere which can hold all people.
The Laotian Wedding Preparations
Sou Khor Procession before Lao Wedding
Before setting the wedding date the parents of the bride and groom have to agree with each other on the bride price. The negotiation meeting is called the Sou Khor procession. Asked by the bride’s parents, the bride price is considered as a refund for the love and all the effort they have spent bringing up the bride. The price depends on the family’s social status on both sides. Some parents even do not ask for that bride price.
Unlike in Western countries, engagement is not common. While some couples get engaged, some couples don’t. There is no official rule for it so many people do not bother with it at all.
Choose the Best Day for Lao Wedding Procession
Laotian think that the wedding date affects directly the happiness of the bride and groom. To choose the best day for the wedding, the parents of both sides always consult elders or senior ex-monks. They will choose the day which is expected to bring luck and happiness to the couple. The wedding date is often chosen during the time from late July to late October when the Khao Phansa takes place. However, nowadays the wedding is often held on the day which suits their busy lives.
Oun Dong Ceremony at Lao Wedding Ceremony
There is an informal ceremony called Oun Dong in the night before the big day. The close friends and relatives will come to the bride’s house to help prepare Pha Khuan (handmade marigold pyramid made of banana leaves and flowers), food for the big day, and decorate the new couple’s bedroom. The bedroom must be made by the mother of the bride and an older woman who has a good family (with a good husband and good children and who is not divorced, or a widow).
The Big Day of Laotian Wedding Ceremony
The bride will look gorgeous on the big day. She will wear a traditional Sink (Lao skirt), a silk blouse, and many jewelry items such as gold necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and bells. Her hair will be tied up in a special way with sparkling golden decoration. The groom will dress up in a traditional silk Salong (Lao pants) and a white silk shirt. Traditionally, Laos people often hold a Baci ceremony in the morning on the wedding date. However, now many people omit this custom.
Baci or Sou Khuan Ceremony
The Baci includes the chanting by Mor Phon (the master of ceremony), egg feeding, and the tying of white strings on the wrists of the couples. The Mor Phon is the first person tying the white string on the wrists of the couple and chanting a good wish. After that, the parents, relatives of both sides, and guests will take turns to do this. Then, the bride and groom will be lead to their room. A female relative will lead the couple to customary pay their respects to the bed and pillows. When that procession finishes, the family and close friends of both sides will take photos with the bride and groom in the bedroom.
Bride Price Giving Procession
When the Baci finishes, the groom will give the bride price to the bride’s parents. It’s called the bride price giving procession. After this exchange, the groom’s group will walk to the bride’s house while singing, dancing, and playing musical instruments along the way. This procession is called hae keuy. Arriving at the bride’s house, the groom has to drink with the bride’s party as well as going through a silver door and gold door. The groom must answer some questions and pay money to open the door. Then, the bride’s younger sister or any girl who younger than the bride will wash the groom’s feet before letting him enter the house.
Lao Wedding Reception
After the Baci ceremony finishes, the reception will start with tasty food, drink, and music. The couple will open the dance floor with Lam Vong (Lao style dancing) and others will join in. The party will last until late, guests will be drunk with whiskey and Lao Beer.
Tips for Joining a Lao Wedding Ceremony or Reception
Gifts to Prepare
If you receive a wedding invitation from a Lao friend, what should you do? Because Lao couples usually give out invitation cards a week or few days before the wedding date, you will have enough time to prepare. The best gift for the couple seems to be money because that will help them cover the cost of the wedding. You should put some cash inside the invitation envelop and return it to the couple on the wedding date. How much to put depends on many factors such as who invites you, their family or social status, and where the reception is held.
Clothes to Wear
Lao people often dress Laos traditional clothing when joining a wedding. You will see Lao ladies in a beautiful silk skirt and gentlemen with a formal suit. But many people just wear normal pants and plain simple shirts. If you are invited to a Laos wedding, you should wear a long dress or a skirt and a blouse. Make sure that you do not wear too informal at this ceremony.
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