Getting married can be an expensive event for everyone involved. Set aside the sin sod which the groom has to pay to the bride’s family, there is the matter of the nine monks you have to bring to your house and then feed with the finest food. That doesn’t come cheap. Then there is a parade to organize and catering for all the many guests.
When Gor and Tai got married their parents decided to do everything in one go and the whole event was finished by 1 p.m. I believe his grandmother told me that it cost them about 50,000 baht. In Thailand, weddings are not usually one day affairs. They can go on for several days. The first part, which is the blessing by the monks, usually takes place in the bride’s family home. Only relations and close friends are invited to this. However, in Gor’s case we did it as a live web cast and people from all around the world watched on his thailandlife.com web site.
For many couples, the wedding party, where many guests are invited to a meal and karaoke singing, can take place a day or two later. If you are invited to a wedding in Thailand it is probably this second part which you will be asked to attend. The couple are already married by this time but you can take your turn to bless them and wish them a good future by pouring some water over their hands. When you go to a wedding, you can either take along a present or put some money into the same envelope that you received your invitation in. That way they know who the money is from!
This morning I had the pleasure of attending the wedding of two teachers from my school. It was a different kind of wedding as there were 18 couples getting married at the same time! Doing it this way is a lot cheaper. It only cost them 1,200 baht, though they also had to slip a hundred baht or so in pink envelopes for each of the nine monks. Some people might give each monk more like 500–1000 baht each. Since that period of time when Gor was a monk, I now look at this very differently. Dollar signs were flashing. One monk times 18 couples. Easy money. They were probably laughing all the way to the bank. Unless of course they were “proper” monks and they donated the money to worthy causes.
The day started early at 6.30 a.m. Actually, my day started at 4.30 a.m. as I had to drive into Bangkok to meet the couple. Luckily the traffic wasn’t so bad at that time. They got married at a hospital for monks on Sri Ayuttaya Road. Before the ceremony started, they went up to one of the wards to present hospital food to the monks that were ill in bed. They went around the ward giving the trays of food to about eight monks. After this, they went back down to the main hall where they sat in a long row with the other couples. This is probably worth noting for foreigners who don’t like the idea of sitting on the floor for hours on end. A traditional wedding in the home can be very painful on the knees. At this hospital, the monks were on a raised platform so it was it perfectly alright for the wedding couple to sit comfortably on chairs.
The ceremony started with the couples taking turns to light the incense sticks. This was then followed by a long period of chanting. The couples then took turns again to present each of the monks with flowers, candles and an envelope of money. Back at their seats, they poured water from one container to another in order to pass the merit they had just made onto dead ancestors. Some more chanting followed and while this was still going on, each couple took turns to be blessed with water by the head monk. The wedding ceremony finished with the couples going outside to pour the water onto some plants as a final act of transferring any merit made to people not present.
In all it took about 70 minutes to complete. I was pleasantly surprised that the events were much the same as traditional weddings. If you ever get a chance to attend a Thai wedding then do so. If you don’t know any Thai people, then maybe try visiting this monk hospital early in the morning to see if there is a wedding going on! The periods of boredom during the long chanting sessions are worth it for the overall cultural experience.