The wedding

Posted: January 21, 2012 in Laos
Tags: , ,

Last Sunday we went to the wedding we’d been invited to. Not that  we would not have been welcome if we had not been invited: just walking by will get you dragged in and refusing to party is not an option. From the moment we arrived, there was a torrent of booze headed our way. Apparently, eating, drinking and dancing is the main part of the whole wedding. The tables are filled with food, beer and ice. Every couple of minutes someone drops by where you’re seated, and hands you a glass of either beer or the local rice whiskey, laolao. Again, not drinking is not an option. (Unless you are pregnant, sick or considered an senior citizen. If you’re a fit, big foreigner, saying no is not an option.)

Then, just at the moment you think that standing up or walking might be a bit awkward, the master of ceremony calls out to you and your ‘family’ and invites you to lead the next dance. This way, they show respect for the fact you took the trouble to show up and join in the most festive day of the newlyweds.


As everybody is very poor, and all the booze and food costs a lot of money, it is expected of you to make a small contribution, by donating some cash to the couple. This money is stuffed under an elastic bracelet, so the couple ends up walking around with moneybracelets at the end of the day. The amount a certain family has contributed is shown by stacking up crates of beer on the dancefloor when you are called out to lead the dance.


We were called out as the Saelao family, thanked by the parents of the bride, and expected to dance. The dancing is done in two concentric circles, the men dance in the inner circle and the women in the outer. The dance itself is mostly shuffling to the beat while twisting your hands and wrists in front of your belly. Devie danced with the father of the bride, while Jasper was passed around between a few Lao women. Sometime during the dance a snack was brought out, deep fried beetles! Luckily, this was one of the few times during the wedding when saying no was an option.

The ceremony itself started in the morning. Sadly, we misunderstood that and didn’t arrive till about noon, when the whole party got started. By one o’clock,’wasted’ is an euphemism for the state thst would describe most of the guests. This also means that by then everybody and their old mom will be trying to physically drag you onto the dancefloor, especially if they are lecherous old men and you are Devie. Again, saying no is not an option.


Ever been force-fed alcohol? Go to a Lao wedding, at a certain moment the bride comes by and actually puts a half-full lemonade glass of laolao to your mouth, tilting it and your head back so you have to drink. Afterwards you must open your mouth to show you’ve swallowed your drink. And as soon as she’s gone, someone else shows up who repeats the process.


We met a Lao woman who lives in Canada nowadays, who was visiting her relatives and helping keep up the Laolao tradition, by forcing people to have another shot of Laolao or two. She invited all of us to come for dinner at her house later in the week, but passed out and was carried off from the party before she could show us where it was that she was staying.

At about 5, when more guests were being carried away because they drank themselves into a stupor, we decided we’d call it a day and snuck out. Back home we collapsed on the couches and spent three hours recovering before we actually felt fit enough to go to bed.

If you got the impression that a lot of alcohol is involved in weddings here, you’re right… But it sure was a lot of fun!

  1. Mam says:

    Goodness would I ever pass as a senior? otherwise I’d never even get past the door. the very smell of the Heineken brewery in the old days was enough to get me into a tizzy or three. it all sounds very facinating. love mam

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