Readers' Submissions

The Wedding



This submission is a little overdue but, frankly, I have been quite busy. The wedding was in January. It was much the same as any other wedding that has been described here so I won’t bother with a blow-by-blow accounting. What I do want to do, though, is just talk about some of the things and whether I liked or disliked them and to talk a little about monetary considerations and how they fit into the picture.

First off, let’s talk about the gates. The number of gates differs with each party. In our case, CG set the number of gates. The smallest amount of money for any gatekeeper was 500 baht. The highest was a few thousand. All of those that she selected to man the gates were either in school or paying to send someone to school and the money was to help them a little. To me, knowing how she chose the gatekeepers, and why, just reinforced the feelings I had about her as far as compassion is concerned. I’m sure there were others who probably felt that they should have been able to put up an additional gate. In fact, there was one impromptu gate thrown up later but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. When I was asking what I needed to bring and how much money and what denominations, she told me not to worry because she would arrange everything in advance. On the day of the wedding, she told me about the gates, and told me not to pay anything if anyone decided to throw up an additional gate. But, after the ceremony was over someone dragged two little boys over to put up a gate and she did give them 100 baht each.

After clearing the gates, a young girl washed my feet and an additional payment was made. This was a young cousin whom I already knew (and like). She was also in the wedding party.

Next, the wedding party. I’m not sure what to call them. In the US, it would be analogous to bridesmaids and a best man. The young cousin accompanied me on my trek through the village and there were three young girls attending to CG. All were students and, once again, all were given some monetary remuneration (up to several thousand baht).

Because of how / why all of these individuals were chosen, I had no negative feelings about giving any of them money.

Now, I’d like to back up a bit and talk about the first thing that bothered me. Some Thais reading this may take offense at what I’m about to say. No offense is intended but, if any is taken, I really don’t care. It concerns the monks. They were requested to arrive at a specific time. In fact, they arrived quite a bit early. We were 20 kilometers away – getting dressed up (all clothing rented) and the girls all having their hair and makeup done. Someone comes to hurry everything up because the monks are there. My attitude was ‘so what, let them wait’. Whose fault was it that they showed up early? Their own. But you can guess that my opinion was not very welcome. ‘Monk not wait for people, people wait for monk’ was the common refrain. And, sure enough, the monks did not wait. They started without us. They will go anywhere and bless anything as long as you make a suitable contribution to them but then they decide to show up early and start without the bride and groom. I don’t understand this. And I don’t understand the Thai attitude that this is somehow ok just because they’re monks.

Hardly any of the guests were known to me, outside of the immediate family and some cousins. For that matter, CG didn’t know that many of the people there. The only problem I had with this, and it probably isn’t much different anywhere else, is that most of those who came couldn’t have cared less about the ceremony. They were simply there to eat, drink and (for some) dance. Mostly drink, I think. At least they all seemed to enjoy that part of things. To me, almost everything that was done was a waste of money. Of course, it was all done for CG and it made her happy. There was live music, singers, and dancers. I think they were all female but I don’t actually recall seeing them. Nor did CG and I even find time to eat except for a little fried rice and some fish when that was about all that remained. To be honest, I couldn’t even tell you what all had been served.

Aside from this, the thing that bothered me most about the guests was the gossip. Oddly enough, none of it seemed to be directed toward me. And, of course, it was only a minority. Or I should say I was only aware of a minority. Maybe there was more of it going on. But it was all about CG. Some were saying she had her nose done (she hadn’t) and others were saying she had her breasts done (she hadn’t). This did give me a laugh though. She was saying tits and not breasts. And I thought she was saying teeth. Several times she mentioned it and I just couldn’t understand why they would be talking about her teeth. When did I finally realize what she was talking about? When she grabbed her breasts and made the comment that they were bigger since getting pregnant. This is not the first time I misunderstood what she was saying. When we first got together, she told me that she liked Cheddar Grill and I spent two weeks trying to find one. It was only when she took me to one that I realized she was saying Chester’s Grill. But even though I know what she’s saying, it still sounds like Cheddar Grill to me even now.

Now, let’s get down to the matter of money. Let’s get the sin sot out of the way. I have flip-flopped on this issue so many times. In the end, I needed to know that the money was not the most important thing. It was ok if the money was important, just not that it was the most important. I had everything ready, all the gold and the money. Only the money had not been converted from dollars. Funny how walking around with thousands of dollars in currency for months never seemed to bother me. Anyway, someone in my family needed money. I used this as an opportunity to test the waters. I informed CG that I had sent the money to my family. Replacing the money was not a problem. In fact, I could have just transferred additional funds and not touched the sin sot money but I had to know. Of course, I did not mention that I could readily replace the money; only that I no longer had it. Now this lead to some serious fights and some tears. We were in the week leading up to the wedding and it was about to be cancelled. The parents intended to keep the sin sot, just so you understand what is going on. Of course, I wasn’t entirely thrilled by this but I could have lived with it. Finally, I said the hell with it. If the money was so important to them, more important than your happiness, then I just didn’t care if we got married or not. Of course, CG had long ago told me that she would not leave me so I had nothing to lose by taking this position. My intent was not that her parents would not get anything. Why? Because I had already promised CG to help her parents by providing sin sot. What I was saying initially was that I didn’t have the money on hand to make the big show at the wedding. Want to cancel? If it’s that important to you, be my guest. Then the mother says they don’t care about the money for themselves. They will give it all back but the money has to be on display. But, since they were not going to keep the money, and instead give it all over to CG, they requested that she pay for the ceremony. I knew what was customary in this village for sin sot. So I told CG that I would get the money, they could put it all on display and that she could give her parents this customary amount. The rest I expected her to use for herself and the baby. And this is what we did. If anyone harbors any resentment over this, I have not seen / felt it.

Last we come to the envelopes. Stick, I’m sorry, but your oft-repeated mantra that the money from the envelopes covers the ceremony just was not true in this case. I think the money that was collected covered approximately 20% of the actual wedding-day expenses. In fact, I think it just about covered the flowers and the photographers. I don’t know but I think a Bangkok wedding might be more likely to cover the expenses.

So, for those of you contemplating getting married, I just want to say this: do not count on the money in the envelopes covering your expenses. If you are on a budget (I was not) it would be best if you planned everything without any thought to the envelopes. If your funds are limited, it would be best to just put the envelopes completely out of your mind and budget only with the funds on hand. We had last minute expenses come up and you could too. I suppose you could put the envelope money toward these, should there be any. Of course, this all assumes that you are paying any of the expenses but I suspect that you will be. If you are marrying someone living in Bangkok, with all / most of the family in Bangkok, then maybe you can figure some of this into your budgeting. This was only my experience; your mileage may vary.

Stickman's thoughts:

Hehehe, I'll rephrase it then. The money in the envelopes SHOULD cover the cost of the wedding. In fact, when one attends a wedding, one should have an idea of roughly what the per head cost is, and contribute about that amount – or even a little bit more…