Laotian Wedding Tradition

We love incorporating culture & heritage into wedding days! Check out the guidelines for a traditional Laotian ceremony, we were honored to be a part of this summer.           

In the Laotian culture, the wedding ceremonies usually take place at the bride’s household. The groom will parade around her house and announce to everyone along his path that there was a wedding and asking for their blessings. The groom is followed by his best man, family, relatives, and friends who join him in announcing this joyous day to the world.

            As the groom parades to the bride’s house, he is adorned with three essential items for a prosperous future together with his new bride. The first item is the sword, which symbolizes protection. As the head of the household, the husband leads the way and protects the family. The second item is the money bag, which symbolizes fortune. As the head of the household, the husband is the provider of the family. The third item is the lit candle, which symbolizes family spirit. As the head of the household, the husband carries his family spirit to light his future family spirit with his new bride. He must keep this candle lit until he reaches his bride. The white unity string is used to bind the two individual spirits as one. While this is happening, the best man shields the way for the groom standing beside him while holding an umbrella to protect him from the sun.

            As a sign of respect, before entering the bride’s house, the groom must have his feet washed to be cleansed. In order for the groom to get to his bride, he must first make an offer to pass through the Silver Chain Door. He must offer a gift to both guardians of the door as a symbol that he can overcome whatever obstacles that await them in the future. When approaching the Gold Chain Door, the groom must offer another gift as a symbol of perseverance over many obstacles that await them in the future. 

            When visiting someone’s house it is polite to offer the host a shot of alcohol as a sign of peace. It is also polite for the host to accept and offer in return the same amount of alcohol as another sign of peace. Therefore, in order to welcome the joining of the families, they must exchange a friendly toast with a shot of alcohol. Only on representative from each family is needed to participate.

            The Dagger symbolizes the changes and hardships the groom will endure for his bride. The groom is guided by the dagger and is led into the ceremony area to meet his bride. The candles represent the family spirit. The groom enters the ceremony area and greets his bride. Then both groom and bride light the two families’ spirits together. These two candles are unified by a white string which the groom and bride will hold during the ritual.

            As a sign of respect to any older siblings who have not yet wed, the younger sibling must offer a gift to request the permission to wed first. In return, the older siblings wish the couple good fortune and a happy life together. For encouragement, the couple wishes their older siblings to marry soon and be happy as well.

            The traditional Laotian wedding ceremony is derived from the Hindu teachings of Buddha. This ceremony reflects our traditions and methods of asking our Gods to bless the new couple, so that they may have a healthy , strong, happy, successful, and long future together. The speaker will recite the ceremony in the language of Buddha and guide us through the rituals. 

            The first ritual is sharing a single egg. The egg symbolizes purity and a new life. As man and woman become husband and wife, their bodies and souls are blessed and cleansed as they embark on their journey together. The single egg is split and shared to symbolize quality in the relationship. It is tradition for the wife to feed her husband first with her right hand, then the husband will feel his wife with his left hand.

            The second ritual is the toasting of alcohol. The shot of alcohol symbolizes acceptance. Both husband and wife receive a small portion of alcohol and drink it together as a sign of prosperity, happiness, and joy in their future together.

            The third ritual is the “Phou-Khain” which is the unity string. The parents of the groom present their gifts to both the groom and the bride, and the parents of the bride present their gifts to both the groom and the bride. The string symbolizes the bond shared by the bride and groom. The speaker will tie a white strong on the husband’s wrist and another string on the wife’s wrist as a blessing of unity so that they may love and cherish each other forever. Family, relatives, and friends who would like to wish and bless the newlyweds good luck are welcomed to tie a white string on their wrist.

            The fourth ritual is the “Suma” which is offering thanks. As a newly married couple, they must give thanks to all the people who guided them in their path. They  must apologize for all the wrong doings that they have done and ask for forgiveness for all of their sins. As a sign ro show their appreciation, both husband and wife offer a lucky gift to their families, relatives, and sponsors. The gift consists of 2 candles to light the path, 2 flowers to symbolize life, and 2 dollars to symbolize wealth.

            The ending ceremony consists of the speaker blessing the couple and concluding the ceremony.