As soon as we entered the celebration I was greeted by three smiling women with a clear plastic cup of beer. Maybe it was the way I shimmied to the quick music as I walked underneath the pink and white flowered archway. It could’ve been my excited smile as I turned around to take a quick picture with another guest to the wedding. Whatever it was, the hundred or so guests knew that I was ready to have a good time and it naturally became their mission of merit to show me just that.
Walking into the area of tables surrounded by men in button up shirts and women with beautifully done up faces, I instantly drew attention. They smiled at me honestly and we exchanged “sabaidee”‘s.
Before the other travelers and I had reached our special traveler table, I was nurtured by the arm. “Come dance with me!” a jubilant older Lao man urged. Knowing its rude to ever refuse an offer of friendship, I tossed my purse to a friend and followed him to the dancing area at the front of the crowd.
Quick music boomed out of two large speakers as a man, who had clearly already had his fair share of beer (who cares that it was only noon) sang romantically from the microphone. I joined the single, younger women while the men we were dancing with stood across in another line. The women smiled as I tried to mimicking their hand circular gestures. It was then (and many times before) that I humbly thought to myself, I love my life.
For being such lively music, it was a very tame dance-off. Mostly stepping from side to side mixed with random wrist circles, rolling your hands in whichever direction they pleased. There was absolutely no touching, as custom in Lao culture. So romantic. After the long song finished, I was thanked by my dance partner with a bow and excused to walk back through the other admiring guests to my foreigner table.
I didn’t make it far before i was urged by the chief of the village to be blessed. He was a modern chief, wearing dress pants and european shoes as were the test of the rich men at the table. They sat me down, quickly passed me the shared glass of beer and grabbed my wrist. “This is Lao culture”, he told me. He then turned my palm to face the sky and places my beer inside it. Then, he began tying a white fabric bracelet around my wrist. His friend, friends’ father and two others did the same. Now with five simply but very meaningful laces on my wrist I was to chug my beer in one gulp. As I did, the men said, in very good English, “these will bring you good fortune, good health and happiness in the new year. Humbled by their generosity and good spirit, all I could say was “kop jai lai lai” (thank you very, very much).
The rest of the celebration was full of plates of all aspects of cow, which was killed in honor of the new young couple, just the day before. As for the newlyweds, they remained inside the only wooden room the entire wedding. The party was really for friends and money-giving. They too were covered in simple bracelets, which I rolled a bill into and slid underneath the cloth.
The couple was young, maybe 16. The wife, with her long navy skirt embellished in bright stitching and the husband, in his clean white button up and black slacks sat together on the cement floor to accept their givings. Never showing any affection for each other and hardly ever smiling, it was still obvious, as with most people in this heavenly country – they were happy.