Ceremonies December 17, 2006Posted by Guido in General.
There will be two ceremonies that we will be a part of. On December 31st, the day before the wedding, we will have small ceremony in the temple. Everybody is welcome to attend. The wedding ceremony itself will take place on January 1st. Below is some information for people that are not familiar with Lao ceremonies.
Before and during the ceremonies we will not be able to have much attention to explain to people about what’s going on and what to do. Anders Hakansson will help us during the ceremonies. He is quite familiar with what is going on in the temple and during the wedding ceremony, so if you want to know something or if you’re unsure what to do, please direct your questions to Anders.
The first ceremony is in the morning of the 31st and is a blessing by monks in the temple. It’s a simple ceremony that Lao people often do in their lives for many different reasons. In our case, we invite good fortune into our married lives by making offerings and receive blessings from monks the day before the wedding.
Everyone is welcome to attend. When you do, bringing food as an offer is welcomed. It can be anything you can find on the market: rice, fruits, barbecued fish, barbecued chicken, dessert, or any other food found on the market. We will go to the market early in the morning. You’re welcome to join us.
All the food that people bring will be placed on low round tables and presented to the monks. It is at the same time an offer to deceased family members. After the ceremony the monks will eat part of the food. After the monks are finished, people usually sit and eat together.
The second ceremony is in the morning of the 1st and is, of course, the wedding ceremony. This is not a Buddhist ceremony, but one that is uniquely Lao and predates Buddhism in Laos. This ceremony, called the “Baci Soukhuan”, is practiced on many different occasions and for many different reasons. “Baci Soukhuan” could perhaps be translated as “ceremony to call spirits to you”. The ceremony helps to restore the balance and harmony to the individual and community by calling back a persons 32 spirits. Lao people like to perform the “baci” for sick people, for people that embark on a journey, the birth of a baby, to ensure a successful new enterprise or undertaking, and of course a wedding. It is not uncommon for travelers to find themselves invited into a Lao home for a similar ceremony.
In Laos the wedding “baci” is held in the house of the bride. Our ceremony will take place in a simple traditional Lao house that is restored as part of the UNESCO World Heritage program, called the Heritage House. Here, Veo and her family will get ready in the morning. At the same time Guido and his family and friends will parade with music and dance from the guesthouse to the Heritage House, where he will find his entrance blocked by the gatekeepers. These gatekeepers are younger female family members of Veo and they will test Guido’s determination to marry Veo by asking for bribes. Guido will have to negotiate his entrance into the Heritage House.
The wedding ceremony will take place inside the house. The “Phakhuan” is a handmade arrangement of flowers and banana leaves surrounded by items of food and it is the centerpiece of the ceremony. Hanging from the “phakhuan” are many white strings that will be used later in the ceremony. Everybody is sitting on the ground in circles around the “phakhuan”. Veo and Guido will be sitting close to the “phakhuan” and next to them will sit the “Mohporn” who presides over the ceremony.
The beauty and scent of the “phakhuan” and the food attracts the spirits. The chant and prayers of the “Mohporn” will call the spirits and bring them back. At the right moment when the spirits return he will tie one of the white strings around Veo’s and Guido’s wrists to “capture” the spirits.
After the ceremony all the guests can take a string and tie it around Veo’s and Guido’s wrist while making a wish for the newly wedded couple. As you can imagine, a Lao ceremony without food is impossible, so we’ll have lunch right after the ceremony.