After having written the previous text to you, we had the opportunity to go to a new wedding. This time we were able to attend the entire Buddhist ceremony and we had the honor of even being invited to the bride and groom's house to have dinner with their family two days before. We met the groom at Dipjoy's wedding. He too studied in Finland but now lives in Laos and works for the government. They told us more about weddings in Laos and traditions:
- When a couple decides to get married, first the most important thing is to put the papers on the civil side. Only after the marriage is approved by the government can they move in together. Here the issue of religion has no impact, there are many people who, for lack of money, do not even get married religiously and this is not frowned upon by society. On the contrary, if they live together before the marriage is legally approved, they can be fined up to €5,000.
- If you wish to marry religiously, as in Thailand, you should ask a village elder for advice on the date, it can be a monk or someone older who is also called a fortune taller. For this the elder analyzes the birthdays of both and other relevant aspects. If they are not happy with the date, they can consult another elder or, as was the case with Tock and Tong, decide as a family the best day. As Tock loves football and always plays with the number 11, this turned out to be the chosen day.
- Here, as in many other parts of the world, the groom pays the bride's parents a sum in order to marry. But marriage is for love, not an arranged marriage.
- On the day of the celebration, everything is done at home. The bride and groom, who in this case already live together, get ready at the same time, without formalities and then the groom leaves the house and makes a kind of stop with his friends where they dance and drink along the way. The groom takes a bunch of flowers, a close friend, usually the best man, takes an umbrella over the groom. Upon arriving at the house, the friends pay the bride's family and friends to let him pass and right at the door are the children who also ask them for something to let the groom pass.
- In the room where the ceremony takes place are the parents and the elderly, joined by an elder who will pray for the bride and groom. The bride, who has remained in the room until now, is called, beautiful, with her hair up on top, her silk clothes. The ceremony starts and during this one, people talk to each other, laugh, etc... only the bride and groom seem to pay more attention to the prayers.
- Among the various traditions, there are two that call our attention the most: one in which all the guests attach a white thread to the bride and groom's wrists, which they believe brings good luck. Some people hold money, after the ceremony the bride and groom withdraw the money but the threads are kept, which they don't pull out but fall through them. If at least one of the strands lasts more than 3 days to fall out, the wishes of the bride and groom will come true.
- The other tradition is for the bride and groom to give money to people in the room who believe the money is blessed and who will often buy a lottery with it. This money is offered as an apology to the elders and their blessing.
In Laos there is no word for a friend or a friend. They address those close to them by family names. If he's a friend, he's called a brother, if he's the father of a great friend of ours, he's our father too. This is very well regarded and a huge sign of respect when we call someone father or mother. And it's a sign that we understand how their society works. We found this very curious and quickly understood that this tradition goes much further than names and forms of address, when on the morning of the wedding all Tock's friends were involved in setting up the tables and the space where lunch would be served, while all the women prepared the meal to be served.
The reality is that we were fascinated by these people, so calm, and respectful of their elders. You don't see anyone yelling, arguing, and they're always telling us to take it easy and enjoy. For them it is even frowned upon not to enjoy life, to be a workaholic. It was something our brother Tock told us when he let us go to his wedding: that we were invited and that we should enjoy and dance.
After all the ceremonies, the party part quickly arrived. The groom had asked us to do a same day edit to show the guests and we could barely go to the hotel to get everything ready. We arrived excited about the video and showed it to the groom who was overjoyed and decided to show it right at the beginning of the meal. The video started, it lasted 10 seconds and someone stopped it and the bride and groom started their first dance.
We didn't notice anything, nobody explained to us very well what happened. Later, after we insisted with some friends who were at the wedding and who know the culture of this people, they explained to us that respect for elders is something very internalized. And that this eldest may not even be family, it could be a boss or someone else, and that in the case of our video it was someone like this who stopped it because it was made by Westerners.
We realize that this respect sometimes amounts to obedience and that it can delimit our life. Don't think that people didn't like us, on the contrary, the parents of the bride and groom were excellent and made us feel very welcome. They danced with us, taught us how to dance, drank, took pictures together, and even hugged us at the end. We felt like we were family. And it was, without a doubt, a day when we felt that the purpose of this trip made perfect sense.