5 Wedding Ideas Pulled from Southeast Asian Traditions
Finding wedding ideas can be a challenging and rewarding experience. A surefire way to throw an event to remember is to incorporate traditions from cultures outside your own. Steer clear of cliche ceremonies and take a peek into some Southeast Asian wedding traditions for some inspiration for your own nuptials. Each tradition is founded in history and heart — you’re sure to find something that speaks to your own love story.
Vietnam – Dam Hoi (Tea Ceremony)
A common tradition in Vietnamese weddings is the Dam Hoi ceremony. After the exchange of rings couples will pour wine or tea into the cups of attendees as a symbol of respect and sharing. The couple will serve their respective in-laws as a thanks for raising their children and to their new grandparents to show respect and to embrace of their new family. The family return congratulate the couple with jewelry and gifts. Some unique gifts are received among the Vietnamese couple such as nuts and betel leaves, these are to be chewed to symbolize dialogue between the couple and parents. Other more common gifts include wine, tea, fruits, pastries, a whole roasted pig, and sticky rice.
Laos – Baci Ceremony (Spirit Calling)
In Laos, betrothed couples prepare for the big day in a 30-60 minute ceremony held days before the actual wedding.The Baci Ceremony is meant to honor the spirits and reinforce harmony. Otherwise known as “spirit calling,” the Baci Ceremony gathers family and friends to prepare for the upcoming nuptials and to wish well upon the couple.
A handmade ‘pha khuan’ centerpiece made of marigolds, bamboo sticks, banana leaves, thread, and rice will hold folded banana leaves and candles placed within. Known as the ‘maak beng’, folded banana leaves will be the foundation of white string to be tied among the couple and guests. The pha khuan is placed on a white linen in the center of the room where the Baci Ceremony is held. The master of the ceremony will present a small amount of whisky and money wrapped in a banana leaf along with candles and flowers to the couple to invite wellbeing.
He then ties the white strings attached to the maak beng to connect all participants to form a continuous bonding of all attendees to the couple to offer blessings and wishes for the couple. Rice is thrown to represent the spirits and to wish good luck. Finally, as the procession finishes, an elder will make future predictions by looking at a formation of chicken wings and claws. This ceremony is then followed by the invitation to eat, drink, and dance in typical Laos fashion.
Cambodia – Hai Goan Gomloh (Groom’s Parade)
Traditionally, Cambodia is known for arranged marriages, the giving of dowry, and having weddings that last from one to three days. They hold multiple ceremonies to symbolically unite the couple and their families. One common tradition is the Hai Goan Gomloh, or “Groom’s Parade”. The Groom, along with friends and family bring silver and gold trays of fruit, desserts, and gifts to the house of the bride’s family. Gifts are then showcased throughout the house to show pride and richness brought from the Groom.
Another common Cambodian wedding ritual is the “Sien Doan Taa” or Tea Ceremony where families bow, burn incense, and offer tea to honor and call upon their ancestors to bestow good wishes and blessings upon the couple.
Malaysia – Berinai Ceremonies (Henna Staining)
Henna staining ceremonies called “Berinai” are very important in Malaysian culture. Henna is extracted from the henna leaf, regarded as a blessed item to cleanse and protect from evil, and is applied to represent unity in marriage. Typically henna is applied by close relatives, usually women and special friends of the couple, and takes place over three days. The first day is applied by close relatives called, “Berinai Curi.” On the second night, “Berinai Kecil,” henna is applied by neighbors and friends. Finally the most important henna ceremony “Berinai Besar” is held after the marriage ceremony. Family members on both sides take turns applying henna and a mixture of rice and flour to the palms and foreheads of the couple as a blessing.
Thailand – Rod Nam Sang (Shell Ceremony)
Before the wedding ceremony in Thailand, many couples have white string draped between their heads to symbolize independence of each person and their destiny of becoming one. Afterwards, an elder fills a conch shell with holy water and guests — starting with immediate family and ending with friends — pour the holy water over the hands of the couple to symbolize unity. The ritual is known as ‘Rod Nam,’ meaning to soak with water. After the Shell Ceremony each guest places a gift into a basket, typically the gift is a symbol of social status, the higher the status the more wealth they give to the couple.