A Wedding Story: Rural ThailandParties, Festivals & Events, Thailand — By Patty H on March 8, 2010 at 10:00 am
In her travels through Thailand, Lost Girl Adrienne Supino was invited to a local wedding. At the ceremony she discovered the ins and outs of how Thai people tie the knot…
by Adrienne Supino
I chose Thailand for the weddings. Well, that isn’t completely true. Yes, I wanted to go to a foreign wedding, but not just a foreign wedding. I also wanted to go to a foreign funeral, foreign birthday parties, foreign dinner parties, foreign festivals-I wanted to be immersed in a culture so completely different from mine that it made my head spin. So after pouring over ESL (English as a Second Language) blogs for months searching for the perfect place for me to teach English, I eventually concluded that according to the web, Thai people were the most welcoming people out there. So, I went to Thailand.
And, the bloggers were totally right. The Thai people were friendly and open to visitors-especially in the Northeastern countryside (the region known as Isaan) where tourists and Westerners hardly ever venture. It was here in the small rural town of Kaeng Khro that my dream of attending a foreign wedding came true. It didn’t happen quite as I had imagined. In fact, I didn’t even know the bride or the groom! As it turns out, the bride knew me, or at least she knew of me. Actually, most of the people living there knew of me and the two other foreign teachers, Sharon and Tess. Granted, we stuck out like little, exotic, English-speaking sore thumbs in their village and had thus acquired a bit of a celebrity-like status.
So I guess it shouldn’t have been too shocking to me that one day after a few long hours of teaching I was approached by a small Thai woman who introduced herself and promptly told me that Sharon, Tess and I were invited to her wedding. From what I gathered of this conversation, she was marrying an Australian man whose family wasn’t able to attend the event and to make him feel more at home us foreigners were to be the stand-in Westerners.
Slightly puzzled, I showed up at school the next day to learn that our attendance at this wedding had been arranged by one of our fellow Thai teachers. It was all beginning to make sense. This type of “arrangement” wasn’t surprising because our Thai teachers made it a habit to invite us to traditional events quite often so that they could share their customs with us. But, what was particularly unusual about this invitation were their instructions to wear jeans. “You will just be observing the reception. The actual ceremony is at 6am, before you arrive.” they said.
Accustomed to the formal attire of Western weddings, we figured we’d meet half way and show up in skirts and T-shirts. And sure enough, we were overdressed. It probably worked out for the best though because “observation” was not exactly what the bride had in mind. She wanted us to be involved in her wedding reception. In fact, we were so involved that upon our arrival we were ushered into the tiny home where we were kissed by old Thai women that we didn’t know and told to pose behind the bride and groom, next to the wife’s family for the wedding photos. It was as if we were the guests of honor. This became especially apparent when, after the photos, we were seated with the bride and groom for lunch and then served BEFORE them!
After lunch, the bride led us to the field where a large stage was set up. One of our Thai teachers then brought us onto that stage with the family, and asked us to share our thoughts on Thai weddings. As our words were translated into Thai, some of the guests began to cry. Though we were still somewhat confused as to why we were invited to this wedding, it seemed that the guests were happy that we appreciated their kindness and enjoyed experiencing a piece of their culture.
Once the string of speeches was over, we sat in the shade drinking Spys (Thai wine coolers), until this little old woman came up to us and dragged us to the dance floor uttering the only English phrase she knew: “same, same.” We spent the rest of the afternoon dancing with the bride’s family and friends, feeling extremely lucky that we hadn’t been roped into singing “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic on the stage. (The bride asked us to sing it earlier in the day, but fortunately we didn’t know the words and the karaoke machine wasn’t working.)
That day I learned that, to quote Sharon’s speech, “Thai weddings are very different from Western weddings, but still very beautiful.” I also learned that life in the rice patties of Thailand could never be boring for foreigners who embraced the people and the lifestyle.
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