Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: March 21st, 2013
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Thai
Informant Background: The individual was born in Bangkok, Thailand. She grew up there and still has family in Thailand. She said her family origin is Chinese. Her family still performs a lot of Chinese traditions such as: Chinese New Year, Ancestry Day, etc. Being in Thailand her family also practice a lot of the Thai traditions. She does not speak Chinese but she does speak Thai and English. She currently lives in Los Angeles to go to school. She has been travelling back and forth between the United States and Thailand constantly throughout the years because her family still resides in Bangkok.
Weddings in Thailand most of the time happens in one day. But there are different approach es depending on the size of the family.
Okay if you have a small family sometimes you would just go to the government building, you know like city hall here, and just dress semi-nice and get married there. They will sign the paper and then be done with it.
Bigger family usually dedicate the whole day for this event. Oh, way before the wedding day there are usually a lot of stuff the bride and the groom would do. Usually the bride will find her dress…usually people do both traditional Thai clothing in white with the western wedding gown type of thing…The bride and the groom would then have a photo session where they take photos in their wedding clothes in some nice place…some people do it at where they met, or a park, or a photo studio and what not. Some people even do different wedding themes…sometimes even casual clothes…some people even do their old school uniform you know…it really depends on the couple.
On the actual wedding day the day would starts with the groom and his family marching with money, food, and valuables to the bride’s house. Oh, the wedding usually takes place there. The groom and his group of people would sing songs as they march along. The size of the march depends on the groom’s family, friends, and relatives. They would have some Thai musical instruments. It’s like a marching band you know some wind instrument, drums, etc. And then these songs would be songs you only sing on weddings. The songs usually talks about how wedding is this idea of trading between family…the lyrics would be like “if you have lemons, you can trade for lime, if you have a daughter, you can trade for a son”…it’s kind of funny but most people still do it today.
Once the groom arrives he is faced with what we called “gate.” These “gates” are usually made by children of the bride’s family holding a string on two ends prohibiting the groom to see the bride. The groom would then have to give the children envelop with money inside. The number of “gate” depends on the number of children in the bride’s family. Sometimes the friends of the bride would set up the “gate” as a dare for the groom where he has to do jump rope, drink weird stuff, or push-ups to pass. It’s almost like a prank.
After that then the groom can see the bridge and the ceremony will then start. The two will be on their knees in front of the invited guests… And then the bride and the groom put their hands out on top of a small pedestal where the adults of both family pour water into their hands…while pouring the water the adult give consent, advice, and wishes to the bride and the groom…This usually begins with the oldest family members to the youngest. Sometimes close elderly guests participate as well.
After that the bride and the groom can sign the marriage papers stuff. Sometimes you can even book the government officials from your district to be at this event so they can bring you the paper to sign…so you know you don’t have to go to city hall to sign before or after the wedding day…so everything can happen on the same day.
There is also certain district with good names that people want to get married in. The most popular is this district called “Bang-Rak” which translates to something like “area of love” or “place of love” or you know something like that. This district is so popular that people would go there to get married even though they live like an hour away.
Oh, usually after the traditional Thai stuff the bride and the groom would change into the more Western wedding clothes…you known tux and gown…for their wedding reception with dancing, food, and cake.
This is a common Thai marriage tradition observed by the informant. The march with valuables represents the groom’s family size and wealth. It also symbolizes how these valuables is the bride’s price, or how much the groom is paying the bride’s family. The march differs in scale from less than ten people to about a hundred. The “gate” serves the same purpose to present obstacle for the groom and how he must have wealth to get the bride. And that the value of the bride come at a price where the groom must be willing to pay and does to get to her. The adults play an important role as they give consent and pass on wisdom to the next generation. Having the oldest member of the family start the ceremony also reflects the value of the elders in the Thai culture. This is also a ritual where both sides of the family can get to know each other, especially the older generation, to create the joining of two families.
Since there are many religions practiced in Thailand, sometimes the wedding takes place in multiple forms to accommodate different believes. The informant said that since the traditional Thai wedding ceremony ritual stems from Buddhist traditions, those usually occur in the morning with close family. Then the reception will take place at night where all invited guests, family and friends, attend. The reception is then host more similar to the American wedding reception with food and music, and the wedding cake.
This wedding ritual, in my opinion, reflects how the importance of marriage transcends the bride and the groom. The march of the groom singing songs involves a small community. It shows how so many people have to come together for the two people. It also shows wealth and connection within the community. The dare by the bride’s family shows how her strong family ties and emphasizes this idea of trading the bride through money and wealth. The kneeling before adults shows the importance of the older generation to the new and upcoming generation. The ritual shows how the importance of the wedding day focuses as much on the people around the bride and the groom in comparison to the bride and the groom themselves.
Without the traditions the bride and the groom can just go to city hall and get married legally as the informant pointed out some small family would do. But I can see the importance of the wedding becoming an event that is for the micro-community. The legality of the day is much less importance than the traditions performed on the day.
The different traditions also show how the local tradition is infused with the international tradition. Having both shows how the people want to keep on their tradition while being open to new ones.
The photos taken before the wedding seems very strange in my opinion. As seen in many wedding traditions the day is deemed as very exclusive, sacred, and sometimes religious. The clothes that the bride and the groom wear at wedding are also exclusive to the day. I feel that to take photos before the actual day in wedding apparel loses the importance of the actual wedding day.