#77 - attending a traditional lao wedding!

Luang Prabang Travel Blog

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Vithoun picking me up in the morning

Vithoun picked me up at 8:30am and we got ourselves all sorted by renting a nice, new motorbike for the day.  He was worried that riding on his old, somewhat broken bike would be too uncomfortable for me - so we rented a new one.  I'm not going to lie - I was definitely nervous about going on a motorbike with him for an hour out to a small little village 35k outside fo Luang Prabang!  However....once we started going, I defintiely settled in.  I had a helmet on - I used my northface black jacket that I still have with me (that I was starting to feel like I needed to send it home because it's so hot here!) as my "motorcycle jacket" - and Vithoun promised he would drive safely.  :)  Which he totally did.  It was such a peaceful beautiful drive out to the wedding!  The last couple km though were a bit bumpy & dusty.

the wedding invitation
  I had to get off the bike even at one point because we couldn't make it up a hill (Richard, insert overweight joke here.  :) )  Anyway, we made it safely to the wedding & I proceeded to have one of the MOST incredible experiences I've ever had.

It's hard to put this experience into words actually.  I'm of course going to try, but please know that anything I type could not possibly capture how amazing it felt to be a part of the wedding & so welcomed in by this group of Lao people. 

So, the village was a bunch of thatched type houses, nothing fancy at all of course & just your basic Lao village.  They had some tarps set up where a lot of the women were just sitting under, hanging out. They do that crouched down position so well - I'm in it for a couple minutes & I'm dying!  Anyway, then there was a group of men sitting around a table drinking whisky (lao lao) and beerlao.

ta da! that is my motorbiking outfit
  So hilarious.  After a little while, I asked Vithoun when the ceremony would happen & what I should expect.  That's when he told me that the ceremony was going on in one of the little houses & everyone was waiting for it to be over so they could eat & dance. 

I of course wanted to see the ceremony.  When I walked in the little room, everyone turned and looked at me & people started saying "Sa bai dee".  They were all smiling and very welcoming.  I of course stood out tremendously because I was the only foreigner there (they call us farang).  At first I was very nervous about taking pictures, so I asked if I could & they all assured me it was fine.  I started trying to capture the experience - I hope in these pictures you can get a sense of what it was like.

the happy couple

The bride and groom - who were 18 and 19 by the way, they have known each other for 3 years - were sitting on the ground dressed in beautiful red & gold outfits.  They were sitting in front of these arrangemetns of banana leaves & flowers - that were in the shape of little pyramid type things.  There were two officiants from what I could tell.  An older man & an older woman.  I found out later that typically it's someone who used to be a monk that performs these ceremonies.  And it definitely has to be an older person. I'm not sure about the woman & what her role was.

Anyway, there was all sorts of chanting, the bride & groom exchanged food at one point, they had their hands together at one point when some more blessings were said, & the older woman threw rice in the air & they all cheered at different points in the ceremony.

groom getting good luck ribbons tied on him
  It was really gorgeous & I just loved looking around at all the people.

While this was going on, the men outside continued to drink.  They actually summoned me outside at one point and made sure I got a couple shots of lao lao.  Ack!  It was defintiely strong, but hey, when in Rome!!!

I went back into the ceremony when they did the string tying part of the ceremony.  They passed out white string to a lot of the guests & everyone had to go up to the bride and the groom & tie the string around their wrist and wish them good luck (chok dee!).  It was so sweet, when I went up to the groom, he asked me "What is your name?", "Where are you from?" and he thanked me for being there.  It was SO SO SO SO sweet.

bride getting good luck ribbons tied on her
  I went up to the bride as well and tied a string around her wrist.  She also thanked me so much for being there.  As I was finished with the bride's wrist, the older man & older woman who ran the ceremony came over to me & started tying them on my wrists!  I really got choked up because as they were tying them they were chanting different prayers, making knots & just continuted to tie them on.  It's considered very good luck and they were so sincere when they were doing it & so appreciative of me being there.  It was really such a special moment!!!

After the ceremony, the bride & groom went up to the "stage" area where the band was & they made some announcements.  Then it was time for the first dance.

the girls reading the books i gave them
  They did their first dance with their moms & it's the traditional style Lao dance...they pretty much just step around a circle and move their hands.  That's actually how we danced for most of the party after that - it was SO interesting!

So, then there was a big feast & people drank a lot & there was a lot of dancing.  Pretty much like any other wedding!!  Same same, but different.  :)

I danced with many different people & the band even dedicated a song to me called "Farang, my friend".  Again, I welled up a bit.  It was just so unbelievable.

Another highlight for me that day were some of the kids that were there.  I had brought some books with me that I bought at Big Brother Mouse that are to help kids with their English & I gave them to a few of the kids that I had been playing around with.

that's me doing the traditional lao dance
  They were SO excited and we spent a lot of time going through the books with them pointing at things, me pronouncing what it said, and them repeating it.  They were very thankful to get the books & it was just an amazing way to connect with them.  :)

I took a million pictures so I'm not sure I'll be able to post them all here.  I'm sure I'll be blowing a lot of these up!  It was just so incredible.

Oh - one more thing - for gifts, people give money.  They have the big wedding box where people put the envellopes.  Another tradition that is definitely done at other weddings I've been to (Steph - you had one, right?)

Anyway, I was at the wedding with Vithoun until 5:00!  What a day!!!!  We drove back to the city & right when I got back I wanted to go hear the monks chant at one of the wats.

we were having a great time reading
  Vithoun dropped me off right there.  He is just the best.  So so so glad I met him. 

Unfortunately, I missed the monks chanting, but I did run into Brian who was there as well.  It was fun to catch up with him & tell him about the unbelievable day I just had.  We decided to get a bite to eat (I was actually starving because I didn't eat too much at the wedding - I liked the food but after it had sat around for awhile & there were some flies on it, I stopped diving in as much!) & we walked along the Meekong & happened upon the Big Tree restaurant where Kor worked!  He was there so we chatted with him a bit & decided to eat there.  I had a DELICIOUS larp (minced chicken thingy) and some yummy spring rolls.

vithoun & me. :)
  Once again, so fun to chat with Brian & it was such a great way to end the day!

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Vithoun picking me up in the morni…
Vithoun picking me up in the morn…
the wedding invitation
the wedding invitation
ta da!  that is my motorbiking out…
ta da! that is my motorbiking ou…
the happy couple
the happy couple
groom getting good luck ribbons ti…
groom getting good luck ribbons t…
bride getting good luck ribbons ti…
bride getting good luck ribbons t…
the girls reading the books i gave…
the girls reading the books i gav…
thats me doing the traditional la…
that's me doing the traditional l…
we were having a great time reading
we were having a great time reading
vithoun & me.  :)
vithoun & me. :)
one of the bridges we went across …
one of the bridges we went across…
the lao wedding ceremony
the lao wedding ceremony
all the women sitting inside watch…
all the women sitting inside watc…
all the men, sitting OUTSIDE where…
all the men, sitting OUTSIDE wher…
the groom & bride - they are 18 an…
the groom & bride - they are 18 a…
this is me, putting my envelope in…
this is me, putting my envelope i…
you know, me & the girls just hang…
you know, me & the girls just han…
a shot of the scenery
a shot of the scenery
the wedding decorations & buffet t…
the wedding decorations & buffet …
drinks at the wedding
drinks at the wedding
the man who perfomed the cermeony
the man who perfomed the cermeony
i love this one...hes in his fanc…
i love this one...he's in his fan…
im not quite sure if this is the …
i'm not quite sure if this is the…
a little friend i made!
a little friend i made!
thats me & the happy couple
that's me & the happy couple
happy couple
happy couple
this was the food that was served.…
this was the food that was served…
i was hanging at the boys table.  …
i was hanging at the boys table. …
thats vithoun & the girls he work…
that's vithoun & the girls he wor…
the couples first dance...they do…
the couple's first dance...they d…
more of my new friends
more of my new friends
vithoun dancing!
vithoun dancing!
YUM.  i loved these dried mushroom…
YUM. i loved these dried mushroo…
dancing!
dancing!
one of my dance partners for the d…
one of my dance partners for the …
me & vithoun
me & vithoun
yes, its a chicken foot
yes, it's a chicken foot
thats me trying the chicken foot!…
that's me trying the chicken foot…
vithoun playing some music
vithoun playing some music
more new friends
more new friends
vithoun showing us his belly
vithoun showing us his belly
they LOVED getting their picture t…
they LOVED getting their picture …
the kids reading another one of th…
the kids reading another one of t…
thats the groom taking a picture …
that's the groom taking a picture…
lao version of the electric slide!
lao version of the electric slide!
vithoun & his girls
vithoun & his girls
thats the bride cleaning up, whil…
that's the bride cleaning up, whi…
yum - beerlao!
yum - beerlao!
Luang Prabang
photo by: oxangu2