Well, here it is… the big day. Well, the second big day since Su and I already had an American wedding last year. But that doesn’t make it any less special. In fact, I have really been looking forward to this, to be able to participate in a very different ceremony from what I’ve seen and done in the U.S.
We all got up very quickly, showered, dressed, and were out the door a little after 5AM. Su and I were both dressed in traditional thai wedding clothes. I was very nervous about the amount of sweating I was going to be doing. I sweat in the winter time, so the thought of me spending all day completely soaked through was not appealing to me at all. I ended up wearing a white Under Armour shirt underneath everything. At the very least it would help keep some of the sweat off of my suits. But, I had to be very careful and make sure I drank tons of water and Gatorade. (In the end it was the perfect solution.)
Su went to her house while Mom, Yim, and I were diverted to her grandmother’s house. As the groom, I get my own procession and escort posse to the ceremony, which is quite cool. We hung out for about 20 minutes with another 30 of Su’s relatives while things were being prepared (Su included) at the house. When it was time, we formed a truck caravan and drove to the house. The trucks in the groom’s caravan all had red cloth on the front of the car, and I was lucky enough to have two huge pink bows and a ribbon on mine. I mean, c’mon… you know that just fits my personality perfectly. 🙂 (It’s all good, believe me.)
We got near Su’s house and piled out of the truck. My posse lined up carrying flowers and the dowry, and one of Su’s aunts was tasked with holding an umbrella over me to keep me shaded. I felt bad for her since I am at least one whole foot taller than her, so I ended up holding the umbrella for us both so her arm wouldn’t fall off. Someone lit of a huge string of firecrackers (the same kind that you see during a Chinese New Year celebration) that scared the crap out of all of us. There’s nothing like almost soiling your rented, white suit!
As we walked up to Su’s house to start the ceremony, several people were lined up in pairs, holding gold chains that blocked my entrance to the house. The idea here is that I’m supposed to offer a bribe of sorts for permission to enter the house and marry Su. The first two people were men. Na Suun, one of Su’s uncles, had brought a bottle of whisky, while I had envelopes of money. When I got up to the first two guys, I gave them a choice of either envelopes with money, or the whisky. Take a guess at which one they chose?
I went through another chain (these were two women), and then Na Suun’s son took some water and washed the front of my shoes before I could take them off and enter the house. For this I gave him an envelope with money; I’m sure he loved that. One more chain to go after that. One of the aunts was very smart, asking me for TWO envelopes of money (thankfully I had enough). I successfully navigated and bribed my way into the house, and we were able to relax just a little bit before the rest of the ceremony began. Lots of last-minute preparations going on, so Mom and I basically hung out and watched everyone scramble to get everything done. The plan was that some local monks were coming at 7AM to perform the morning ceremony. The rolled up about 8AM, so things got started just a little bit later than planned.
The ceremony itself lasted about two hours. The only downside to the ceremony was that I had to spend all of it either kneeling or sitting down on the floor, and my back is just not used to that. I had shooting pain all up my back and my quads the entire time. (On a side note, I really wish I could figure out how to eliminate this pain, as I also experience it when Su and I go to Thai temple on Sundays. It’s quite frustrating and I don’t know why it happens every time.) I did the best I could and certainly didn’t let it ruin the morning. I can’t remember everything that happened during the ceremony, and to be honest a lot of the significance was lost on me and I wasn’t about to ask anyone what was going on and ruin the moment. I will say that water plays a very large role, probably having something to do with it being the giver of life and all that good stuff. There were offerings to the monks, offerings to Su’s parents, my Mom, and Su’s uncles and aunts. Lots of prostrations and “wai” to everyone (including each other). Wedding rings were exchanged, dowry was given, and I gave Joy her ring.
When all of that was finished some of us went upstairs to perform another small ritual. A large plate of food was put between Su and I, and we had to feed other a few bites. Again, I apologize for my ignorance; I have no idea what the significance of this gesture is. I guess I have some research to do!
After that we were technically considered married (again) in the eyes of the Thai people. But the ceremony wasn’t over. We then went outside and sat next to each other on these ornate wooden benches and leaned over, putting our forearms on another set of ornate benches. Our hands were over vases filled with roses. A friend of the family came and performed more of the ceremony. He used some kind of powder to put three dots on our foreheads, and then said a prayer as he looped a rope over our heads. I do know that the rope signifies us uniting as one and being together. Wedding guests were invited to come up and say a prayer for us while pouring water over our hands. Su later told me that one uncle commented that my “wai” was very good, which I take as a high compliment.
Once this was done we were able to relax and take pictures with everyone. I have to say, everyone really made me and my Mom feel like family. Lots of smiles, everyone wanted to take pictures with us, and lots of good wishes. Say what you want about the stereotype of Asian people taking a lot of pictures; I mean, they do, but looking back on my life now I really wish that I had taken a lot more than I did. My memory is not good at all.
The morning ceremony was over, but the evening festivities weren’t starting until around 5PM. That meant we could go back to the beach house and relax for a while. A bunch of Su’s friends were staying with us for the night and leaving early the next morning, so we all piled into a nice van taxi they had rented and went back to chill out. I think we all took a nap for a few hours.
As our preparations for the evening were going on (showers, makeup for some, suits for others) it started to rain. I’m convinced that there is no such thing as a “sunshower” or a spattering of raindrops in Thailand. There isn’t even any warning save for some ominous looking clouds. The rain comes fast and hard and you never know how long it will last. We were all a bit nervous that this was going to spoil the night – I should mention that it was being held outside under a bunch of rented canopy tents – but wouldn’t you know it that the rain stopped while we were on our way back to Su’s house. Gotta love it!
The evening’s festivities are almost beyond description. Over 1,000(!) people attended the reception. Su’s mom had rented 130 tables – each seating eight people – and after one group of people were finished eating they would get up and leave so another set of people could come in and eat. Su’s mom even hired a professional half-karaoke, half-live band to provide entertainment for us.
Su and I stationed ourselves at the front of the reception area, along with Su’s mom and two of her aunts, to greet everyone that came in. Lots of greetings and “wai,” and even more pictures. This was red carpet treatment all the way. I felt like this reception was just as much for Su’s mom and family as it was for Su and I, and I think that’s great. They all put so much hard work into making the day a lovely event, not to mention the fact that it’s her first daughter to get married (to a farang, no less), so any and all praise and good feelings she got from everyone who attended was well deserved. Everyone also made my mom feel very welcome and accommodated her as if she was a super VIP. One of Su’s aunts even got my mom on the dance floor for a little while. Nothing like seeing your mom do the Roger Rabbit and the Running Man… just kidding!
Some time went by – I truly have no idea how long – when Su, me, my mom, and Su’s immediate family were pulled up onto the stage where the karaoke people were performing. This was our official introduction to all of the reception guests. The way they do it in Thailand is that the bride and groom write down some brief biographical information about ourselves, and two announcers tell our “stories” to the guests. They also introduce our families to everyone. Lots of smiles and clapping. Rock star Thailand style!
Su’s mom had one more surprise up her sleeve, which was a visit by the mayor of Khanom and another local politician, who came up on stage, gave brief speeches about being happy and healthy, and wished us lots of luck. This is a pretty big deal in Thailand, so it was quite nice that Su’s mom was able to do it for us. The announcers asked us to say a few things. My speech was quite short (“Hello, thank you for coming”) and Su expounded quite a bit. I don’t know everything that she said, but I do remember her saying that we met through our mutual friends Tony and Lilia. Did I mention that Tony and Lilia rock? Just in case you didn’t know, they do.
Once our stage performance was finished we did some more meet-and-greet at the door (which also including a ton of “thanks for coming” for those on the way out) and then they set a table up for us to eat. I really wasn’t that hungry, to be honest. I think the heat, excitement, being tired, and the time difference messed me up. This whole trip, in fact, I haven’t really been eating much (and that’s going to bite me in the butt big-time later on, just wait and see).
We hung around for a little while longer and packed it in around 9PM, I think. Apparently the party went on past midnight, but we were all way too tired to finish out the party. We bid our farewells, thanked everyone for their hard work, and went back to the beach house for some well-deserved sleep. It ain’t easy being a rock star even for one day; I can’t imagine how people doing it every day actually stay sane.
Just to make sure I’ve said it a million times, thanks to EVERYONE who helped out. Everything from the tent setup to food prep to Ton and Noon for taking pictures, to Su’s parents for organizing the whole thing, it was an amazing day and one that could have gone wrong in many ways but didn’t. I can’t thank you all enough, but I will try!