Sunday, January 23, 2011

Thailand engagement and wedding customs


Thai Buddhist Marriage Ceremonies

Semi-arranged marriages are normal in Thailand. That is, families will conspire to ignite passion between a couple by allowing them to enjoy time together, and generally demonstrating their approval for the match. Marriages do not commonly take place without the blessing of the parents from both families. The man will appoach his girlfriend's family and request that she join him in marriage. They then negotiate a kind of 'reverse dowry'. And if he fails to come up with the funds the marriage is put on hold. In rural Thailand many couples live together without completing formal religious or legal marriage ceremonies. Nevertheless, these couples are often considered by the local community to be married. Originally Buddhist monks did not attend Thai marriage ceremonies. Monks attend to the dead during funerals, and their presence at a marriage was once considered bad luck. The couple would simply seek a blessing from their local temple around the time of the wedding. Monks do now commonly attend marriage ceremonies but weddings still do not normally take place at a temple. Couples will often consult a monk for astrological advice to set an auspicious date for the wedding. On the big day couples nowadays usually dress themselves in attire similar to that for western weddings.
The ceremony begins with the couple bowing before an image of the Buddha. They then recite Buddhist prayers, and light incense and candles before the Buddha image. The couple's parents place twin loops of thread upon the heads of the bride and groom, symbolically joining the couple together. The Buddhist monks then unwind a length of thread that is held between the hands of the assembled monks. They recite Pali scriptures intended to bring merit and blessings to the new couple. The thread terminates with the lead monk, who connects it to a container of water that has been blessed especially for the ceremony. Merit is said to travel through the thread into the water. This blessed water may be mixed with wax drippings from a candle lit before the Buddha image, as well as other ointments and herbs, to create a paste. A dot of this paste is applied to the the bride and groom's foreheads. Thai Buddhist monks are prohibited from touching women, therefore, the bride's mark is created with the butt end of the candle, rather than the monk's thumb. The couple offers food and flowers to the monks attending the wedding. A cash gift, placed in an envelope, is presented to the temple at this time. The highest-ranking monk present may offer words of encouragement or advice, at which point the Buddhist portion of the ceremony is concluded.
Thai weddings take place early in the morning, as the ceremony must be concuded in time for the monks to eat. They are not permitted to eat after midday. There will also be a non-Buddhist component to the wedding service rooted in folk traditions. These traditions centre around the couple's family.

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