If I had only been a Marriage Celebrant all those years agao, I could have shared in Stephen and Soe’s beautiful wedding day. It was great to be part of the wedding however and have lasting memories of a wonderful day.
Stephen has shared his wedding days for this blog, and I am very thabnkful for his contribution
Many moons ago, when Soe (my wife today) surprisingly accepted my offer of a future life filled with crap jokes, messiness, weird music, and intermittent periods of grumpiness, we decided to make all family members happy by having ceremonies, and parties, in Thailand and New Zealand.
Both were special occasions for a variety of reasons, but as many have never experienced a Thai engagement celebration – this story will cover the Bangkok leg only.
Our mid-November party was attended by more than 400 people including a rowdy, cosmopolitan contingent from Singapore, my lovely family from New Zealand, and my good friend Pietra, a citizen of the world. Keeping with Buddhist tradition, celebrations began at the crack of dawn with the Khan Maak street parade/march from the top end of the street to Soe’s family home 500 meters away.
We were led by a group of bright pink clothed drummers. I was escorted by my Thai pals, Awi and Chubby, and Awi’s dad – in behind them were my family, and friends many carrying symbolic gifts for Soe’s family including banana plants.
Along the way we were challenged by Soe’s friends who asked questions about our courtship and relationship. I presumed a wrong answer would lead to an early, terminal end to wedding plans – turns out however, that I had to offer them cash as well (in red envelopes), so on continued the show. When we reached home, I was astonished to see how much effort had been made to decorate the garden and courtyard with colourful flowers, balloons, and lights. Soe’s friends and family did an amazing job.
The last part of the march was up the stairs of the beautiful old teak wood home to meet Soe. To be honest, I didn’t recognize her at first. She wore her mum’s wedding dress and looked stunning.
Bride collected, we walked down stairs to the living room filled with monks in tangerine coloured robes who began prayers and chanting for the next hour or so.
During the prayers, I heard a mobile phone ringing – one of the monks had forgotten to mute, or turn off his device. I whispered “it must be a message from Buddha” to Soe – she was not amused.
Prayers completed, we spent the next 45 minutes lighting candles, and incense in the garden and paying respect to family from the past and present.
Next up was the water blessing ceremony where guests, in pairs, pour water on your hands and offer nice blessings. It’s a gentle, sweet, touching way to interact with guests. There’s a small downside however – after 400 people have poured water on your hands, the hands take on an ET-ish look and feel.
Formalities over, the party proper kicked off in the garden.
In the months leading up to the engagement, Soe’s mum invited popular/whacky street food vendors she had seen on TV, to set up a stall at the party. She did a great job, the yard featured 15+ vendors serving a wide range of Thai street food classics from noodles, to satay, to salads, and more.
They were a big hit with the guests and added a carnival atmosphere to the day.
Two standouts were the ice cream and noodle jugglers – they would toss their ice cream scoops, or noodles, high in the air and catch them in their bowls. During the eating, and socializing, Soe invited me to meet her family – she told me the wider family was big but I was like a deer in headlights when I saw the 70+ family members for the first time. The party slowly wound down at around 12.30pm and we both had a kip before hosting another party for visiting guests in the evening.
It was a terrific day, and most memorable for me was how traditions/cultures old and new, and guests from all parts of the world, came together in natural, simple way – there was no need for six-figure party budgets, lights, limos, and other nonsense. Everyone embraced the occasion and many still have fond memories of the day – you can’t ask for more than that – it was exactly what we both wanted.
This is a great story from a dear friend Stephen Meng-Yee who married Soe. I had the honour of attending Stephen and Soe’s NZ wedding, and again lots of laughter and memories remain.
Grant Hobbs Marriage Celebrant