First published 13 March 2022
We've had two funerals in the village over the last ten days. One literally finished, and that night another lady died, and everything was moved across a few streets, and it all started again. That four-day event finished yesterday, just in time for all the marquees, tables, chairs and cooking equipment provided by the village (moo ban) and temple to be set up for today's wedding ceremony. Honestly, you'd be hard pushed to pick the difference between a funeral and wedding. Both events have endless food, drink and loud music and people seem to be much the same with their enjoyment of the day.
We attended one of the funerals and were invited to the wedding this morning and the story associated with it is one of my absolute favourites. The mother of the bride is a friend of the family and a dance partner of Gaun in the days we used to have village street parties.
Her daughter's birth a couple of decades ago, was premature and she was only one kilo when born in a Khon Kaen hospital. The baby was taken away and mum headed home thinking that her daughter had died. Three months later she got a phone call from the hospital asking when was she going to collect her baby! This is the girl who is getting married today 555.
In this post I will only touch on the protocol of Isaan weddings, because this is a subject I have covered before, and focus on the fun happening at this event. I did have covid at the back of my mind, but at some stage we fully vaccinated people have to just get out and rejoin life, with as much care as possible.
I have added too many photos, but they are quality and really give you an insight into this very special day for a young Isaan couple.
Beer at 08:00. Yes, I must be in Isaan. The guy in red is the phuyaban, or headman of our village which is called Ban Chomphutong.
The lovely bride having added a few kilos from her start to life.
The bridesmaid on the right is the daughter of a friend of Gaun, who works in Taiwan. She was super shy as a youngster, and almost never talked. She has grown a lot and I almost didn't recognise her in the wedding gear. Not a LOS Thai. We printed two of these photos and bought frames this afternoon to give her as a reminder of the event, because she rarely has this opportunity to dress-up.
Gaun and mum, a good friend and party animal when not being formal at her daughter's wedding.
I hope she doesn't read this, but that's her in the front on the ground with probably whisky and an inflated condom 555. No comment about the guy (?) on the right. This is a Bun Bang Fai (Isaan rocket festival) street party in the good old days. For those regulars who follow my personal posts, you might recognise my sister-in-law Yuan next to me.
Very few invitations had been sent out for the ceremony because of covid. Normally, this would be a packed event. Very sad that this special occasion has to be limited.
The usual selection of food, which appears no matter what the occasion. I ignore it all and focus on the beer.
Money is donated and recorded in a book, by people on the way in. It is used to help pay for the occasion.
My wife Gaun, who swings into dancing mode as soon as the music is turned on.
The wedding reception is held the night before, and the groom and bride have separate parties. The groom and his party travels to the bride's house, which is what is happening here.
The walk to the bride's family home is timed to start at 09:09, nine being a lucky number.
The grooms group is all ready to go, assembled in front of my family's home on the right.
And they're off. The groom always has his own umbrella.
The walk to the house.
There are usually several challenges to pass before groom gets to bride. Designed to extract as much money as possible, in a fun way. Entry past these silver and gold chains can only be gained by the passing over money filled envelopes. Four chains in this case.
No big deal. Probably 100 baht in each envelope. You can see the lady on the right has a stock of them for the occasion.
Easy money for the kids.
Lots of photo opportunities.
And a washing of feet before the groom enters the wedding ceremony room - another envelope required.
Meanwhile, out the back the cooking and serving crew are in full swing.
The new arrivals all have to be fed and given drinks.
This guy will lead the ceremony. I call these 'spiritmen', usually old village residents, often with a background as a monk. They will be asked to get involved in things like land and house blessings, weddings of course, funerals and monk ordinations. They get paid, so it's a nice way to include the elderly in the activities of the community and give them a bit of extra money to supplement the 700/800 baht a month pension!
The majority of people stay outside and enjoy themselves. It's the close family and friends that get involved or observe the ceremony itself. There was actually a connection between these two. Sometimes bride and groom seem a bit overwhelmed by the whole event and never even look at each other.
A selection of my favourite photos of the young couple.
The groom will pay sin sod to the bride's mother, a donation of money to replace the assumed support the bride would have given the family had she not married (this is nothing to do with 'buying' your wife as some uninformed westerners think), but gold is given directly to the bride. You buy gold in a weight called 'baht' here. If you want to know, information is readily available as to the sin sod amount and the gold baht given to the bride.
Back outside Gaun on the left and others were helping out. Yuan, my sister-in-law second from the right, was hoping to finish early because she had work at the farm before it got too hot (37 forecast today). Jan, on the right is the lady we bought our house land from in 2013.
Unfortunately for Yuan, she was needed to help out. Gaun tells me that fewer people are volunteering to help out at events like this and that sometimes, employed helpers are arranged. That's very sad, because when I first came here seven year ago, time was donated on the expectation that help would be returned when required. Isaan is slowly catching up to our western ways, and traditions are falling away.
Run out of gas? No problem, Jan owns the corner shop 30 metres from here. She hopped on a saling and swapped bottles. No nonsense Isaan ladies.
Typically, it's the guys with the sports cars that get to chat up the young ladies.
Thanks for reading.