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Northern Thai Wedding Ceremony

MARRIAGE IS THE tie that bonds a man and a woman together. Nearly everyone is aware of this definition, but like most definitions it is inadequate. The very essence of marriage is the personal relationship between a man and a woman -- not just a social bond. Marriages around the world differ in customs, traditions and practices, but this basic concept remains the same.

Different from other marriage ceremonies, the Northern or "Lanna" wedding has its unique feature. Northern people regard this function as an old tradition as well as a social gathering. The name of Lanna Wedding, "Kgin-Khaek" , literally indicates the Thai meaning. The word of Kgin is equivalent to EAT. It shows that Thai society is based on eating or food culture. Khaek means visitors or guests. (Incidentally, this word in modern usage has been applied particularly to Indians, Muslims, or Arabians who happened to migrate or visit Siam.) When the two words were put together, it meant the guests were invited to dine at the social gathering of a newly wed couple. The term is rather sloppy because it sounds like the only purpose is ..."to eat guests". On the other hand, wedding parties are alike with much merriment and feasting. The parents or hosts proudly announce to the guests that a son and daughter will officially and publicly become husband and wife.

The highlight of the spectacle is the "Pook Mue" or sacred cord tied around each wrist of the bride and groom by the guests. Both of them kneel and their arms rest on large pillows. Guests line up to tie the wrists with string which is made of 3-9 threads of cotton or yarn at about 10-12 inches wide. The sets of sacred cords are prepared in a tray and handed by the helpers to guests while approaching the bride and groom. All guests take the opportunity to congratulate couple with sincere wishes for future happiness, financial prosperity, promising business, good employment, wonderful health, and to have healthy children. As a matter of fact, the elders or very senior relatives are the first to start the procedure of tying the white string before other guests, i.e. grandparents, parents, close relatives, respectful person, and friends.

Before the congratulations of the Pook Mue ceremony has taken place, other ceremonies must be observed according to the nature of love, finance, or status of both bride and groom. There are three kinds of ceremonial offerings and accompanying ornaments used in the Lanna style wedding.

1 "Pid-Phee" Observance:

[13K] If the bride and groom had sexual relations before the official marriage, this indicates that both of them had violated propriety and tradition. They did not venerate their deceased ancestors who are referred to in the term of "Phee" meaning spirit or ghost. The parents or elders of the bride will inform the ancestors of the groom about the couple's "Pid-Phee" behavior. To make the future better for the couple, the groom must apologize to the ancestors according to ritual:
a) Present flowers, joss-sticks, and candles depending on the number of ancestors of both sides, e.g. 12, 16, or 32.

b) The amount of money given will total the same as flowers, joss-sticks, and candles.

c) The type of meat offered will be pork or chicken, depending on some ancestor's favorite food. Also, the side dishes should be cooked rice, whiskey, fruits, and desserts.

After the ornament arrangement is presented by the groom, it is taken to the spirit house or room where the ancestor spirits are accommodated. A prayer is spoken: "Mr.... and Miss.... have done wrong by violating customs and tradition. Their actions were disrespectful to our ancestors, please forgive them. Please accept them as our children. May your spirits protect all of us and grant us prosperity". After the worship and burning of joss-stick and candle is over, the whole party can ask the ancestors for permission to take the food presentation away to be enjoyed by the living.

2 "Soo Khor" Wedding:

[15K] After a young couple fall in love each other and they make the decision to marry, the next step will be consultation among the parents or guardians of both bride and groom. Therefore, the groom's senior elders will approach, "soo", the bride's parents or guardians for approval and permission. It sounds like ... "Let me have her = "Khor".
Finally, an engagement ceremony will take place before the wedding. However, it is common for the engagement and wedding ceremony to be performed simultaneously.

Ceremonial offerings presented by the groom to the bride's parents will be as follows:

a) Khaan Mun or Engagement Bowl full of fresh flowers with artistic decorations. The numbers of flowers must be an odd number.

b) Khaan Maak or Betel Bowl is another present to the bride's parents. The size of bowl or tray is a little bigger than Khaan Mun, however it is also decorated with fresh flowers. The presents will be two raw betel nuts, 12 silver leaves, 12 gold leaves, 12 copper leaves, two bags of rice seeds, two bags of white rice, two bags of beans, and two bags of sesame seeds.

c) Khaan Ngern Sinsord or Dowry Bowl is the most important container for it indicates how much he loves her, how much financial support he can offer the bride's parent or how much money the newly wed couple can use to establish their future family.

d) Bai Si Nom-Maew is a large tray 10-12 inches wide and holds banana leaves in cone shapes resembling cat-shaped blossoms, hence, Nom-Maew. The globe amaranth flower is used in the beautiful decoration to show eternal love for each other. Bai Si or Khow-Kwun (Khow = rice, Kwun = natural spirit) means a ceremony to restore a shaken spirit and calling for prosperity and happiness. Also in a Bai Si offering, there would be cooked rice, foods, dessert, fruits presented in odd numbers.

3 Northern Royal Family Wedding:

[20K] At one time a splendorous ceremony for the former northern dynasty was performed. Now this ceremony is held for the wealthy high society. In addition to the "Dai Pook Mue" ceremony already described, a procession is included. This is the "Rot -Naam" or lustral water-pouring ceremony.
A line is then formed for the water pouring ceremony. The queue is led by senior members of both families, with relatives and friends following. Each takes a turn to approach the couple and murmur a blessing for lifelong happiness as they pour water on the couple's hands from a conch shell. Small ornate silver bowls called "khan" stand on small pedestals called "pahn" to collect the water poured over the hands of the newlyweds. These bowls are filled with the petals of lotus (the blossom of fertility) and other flowers in elaborate patterns to symbolize the happy union. After the last guests proffer a blessing, a happy informal party with plenty of food, drink, and dancing begins.

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