Lao has become a popular destination for vacations and trips recently. Its natural beauty, language, food, and traditions have mesmerized people worldwide, gaining much attraction and attention. Another thing that is very unique and noteworthy in Laos is the Lao wedding traditions and if you are traveling to Laos this season for your friend’s wedding, you have come to the right place!
In today’s blog, we will go through all the traditions followed in a Laos wedding, from the preparation at the bride’s home to the Baci ceremony, along with some wedding vocabulary for you. Going through this blog will give you a deep insight into the traditional Laos wedding culture and improve your vocabulary, offering you a chance to flaunt your skills in front of the locals. So, if you are ready to learn, let us not waste any more time and jump right into it!
Lao Wedding Traditions
We all love to incorporate culture into weddings. So do the Lao people. Laotians are very strict when it comes to weddings as it is considered a sacred day where two people vow to love and protect each other throughout life. Both the bride and groom have specific roles to play in the wedding ceremony, where everything symbolizes something important.
However, in recent times, with modernity gushing in, urban people have started neglecting a few traditional rituals, opting for simple modern weddings. Nevertheless, most people in Laos split their wedding into two different parts. At first, they follow their traditional Laos wedding rituals, and the second is the modern reception function. The traditional Laos wedding ceremony usually takes place at the bride’s house, while the reception to which many more guests are invited takes place at hotels and halls.
In this section, we will go through all the traditional ceremonies that take place at the bride’s house, along with the modern Laos wedding party that starts after. If you are interested, continue reading!
The Bride Price- Sou Khor
Before fixing a date, the Laotians go through the bride price negotiation, known as Sou Khor in the Lao language. This is the ceremony where the bride price, gold, money, or anything valuable, is negotiated between the two families. It is traditionally asked by the bride’s parents as compensation or refund for the food that has been provided to the bride since her birth. The number of valuables usually depends on the family status.
While it is a traditional ceremony, most people nowadays skip this process and seek happiness in their daughter’s well-being. And when both families agree on a particular point, the negotiation ends and the families move forward to the next step.
Engagements take place when a lover proposes to their partner for marriage with a ring or flowers. While it is a grand gesture of love in the west, nothing matters in Laos. Engagements are not common in the country, and some couples don’t even bother getting engaged.
There are no specific rules regarding when one should get engaged, and most prefer direct marriage. However, some couples do get engaged before their wedding date. But again, it is not mandatory, and with time, people have changed their lifestyle rules.
Once the bride price negotiation is complete, the families talk about the wedding date. Choosing the perfect wedding date is very important in Lao customs. A couple cannot just decide on any day of their choice to get married. Traditionally, the best date to get married in Laos must fall on a good day in the lunar calendar. And to decide on that, both families consult respected monks who have a great idea of such traditions. Once the monk has approved of a particular date and time, the wedding date gets decided.
While most families rely on such elderly monks to provide them with the holy date, modernity has changed a lot of things. With busy schedules and fewer holidays, most couples agree to get married on any date, even during the three prohibited months of Buddhist Lent- Khao Phansa ( July-October).
Wedding Preparations- Oun Dong Ceremony
Before the formal wedding night, there is an informal ceremony that takes place in the Bride’s house. It is called the Oun Dong ceremony and is more like a day when the wedding preparations start. It usually involves only close friends and relatives who attend the ceremony to help the bride’s family prepare essential things for the wedding.
The first one is the handmade marigold pyramid made with banana leaves and flowers, known as Pha Khuan. They also start preparing the food for the wedding day, decorate the couple’s bedroom, and enjoy a little good food and drinks.
In most cases, the decoration of the room is handed over to the bride’s mother or an elderly who is not divorced or widowed.
The Main Wedding Day
Coming to the big day, the bride dresses up in a traditional silk skirt, known as Silk Sinh, topped with a silk blouse. The bride is also expected to tie their hair up in a specific way with lots of gold decoration items on it. The entire outfit is completed with silver and gold bells, heavy bracelets, necklaces, and earrings. The groom also dresses lavishly in a pair of traditional Silk Salong (baggy pants) and a silk shirt, usually white or creamy.
Once the couple is ready for the formal wedding with their perfect attire, there is a small Baci ceremony- Sou Khuan ceremony conducted separately both at the groom’s and bride’s house. Traditionally, the small Baci or Sou Khuan ceremony begins in the morning as a spirit-enhancing ritual performed before the formal marriage.
Bride Price Giving Procession
After the small Baci is over, a group of people from the groom’s side visits the bride’s house ahead to offer the Bride price. The group consists of adult people, usually the groom’s parents and relatives, who have a good sense of Lao weddings and traditions. The person leading the convoy of people usually sings and utters verses that are used since ancient times.
At the same time, when this bride price-giving procession is going on, the groom and their group start gathering and forming a convoy somewhere nearby. They start moving once the procession of the bride price is complete.
Groom Parade- Hae Keuy
After the previous ceremony is over, the groom’s team gets informed, and they start walking towards the bride’s place. It is a like a parade of joy where they use musical instruments, sing songs, and dance as they walk through the lanes. There are even specific wedding songs made for the parade time. It is the most fun part of a Laos wedding, where people scream with joy and happiness. The groom traditionally walks under an umbrella held by a friend.
Once they reach the bride’s house, the groom encounters the bride’s relatives standing at a silver door and a gold door. It is a tradition followed, which does not allow the groom to enter the door without permission. The permission is granted when a fun bargaining session takes place between the bride’s and groom’s family members. Usually, the groom is asked to pay a sum to the door attendants, drink with the bridal party, and answer silly questions asked by the bride’s relatives.
Lastly, after he has paid and drank with the bride’s party, he has to have his feet rinsed by the bride’s younger sister. This is the final step that allows the groom to enter the house. It can also be another female person chosen by the bride. Here again, the groom is expected to give some money to the sister.
The Baci Ceremony- Sou Khuan
Once the groom has entered, the main Baci or Sou Khuan ceremony takes place. The groom is led towards the Pha Khuan, where the Baci will take place. Similarly, the bride is guided by a female elder member towards the Pha Khuan from the room.
Now the seating process takes place where both the groom’s and the bride’s relatives push the couple towards each other. Here, the bride’s relatives will slightly push the bride to make her fall on the groom unintentionally, and the groom’s relatives will do the same. It is said that the first one to touch the other has more power in their married lives. After this, the bride is seated on the left side of the groom, with relatives and parents seated nearby.
The Baci ceremony is the process that involves chanting by the Mor Phon, the master of the ceremony, egg-feeding, and tying of white strings on wrists. The Mor Phon ties white strings on the wrist of the couple first and then comes the turn of the parents and relatives. Lastly, at the end of the Baci ceremony, a customary Somma procession takes place where the couple asks for forgiveness and thanks elders with small money gifts.
Newly Wed To Bedroom
Finally, the traditional Laos wedding ceremony ends when the couple is sent to their new bedroom. The groom is led by an elder lady, and the bride walks behind. They enter the room and start paying respect to their bed and pillows. Later, people take turns and click pictures with the couple in their bedroom.
Traditionally, the bride and the groom are supposed to enter the room and not leave until the next day. However, with time, such traditions have also changed.
Finally, when all the ceremonies and the Baci is over, the Lao wedding reception begins. Guests are invited to eat and drink, the dance floor opens for the guests, and the newlywed couple starts the Lum Vong, the Lao dancing style. It is a dance where pairs and line performers go in a circle. The dance and party go on late, and the elders consume whiskey and Lao beer to have the best time.
Lao Wedding Vocabulary
Here are useful words for you!
|Bridal party||ງານລ້ຽງເຈົ້າສາວ||Nganliang chao sav|
|Engagement||ການມີສ່ວນພົວພັນ||Kan mi suanphuaphan|
The Laos wedding rituals are very unique and fun indeed. From engaging every relative to dancing with all the guests, what can be more wholesome than this during a wedding day? However, it is to note that the traditions mentioned above are followed by the ethnic Lao population, and may vary for different groups.
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