Having spent three days updating the format of the blog it is a joy to return to writing a post before I get back into admin again. As it is cold with grey skies outside, in a weird brief spell of winter that has no business happening this late in January, it’s no hardship to be in front of the computer writing this blog. This is the first time that the benefits of a well insulated house is to keep the heat in rather than out. It is 15 degrees outside, single figures at night, as it has been the last two days. Inside is a comfortable 21 with no heating.

Peng, my stepdaughter, in full cool weather gear.

Peng, my stepdaughter, in full cool weather gear, much of it brought over for her from Australia.

Mind you it has been a lot cooler at Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s highest peak a couple of hours drive from Chiang Mai that I wrote about HERE.

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It is also a pleasure to share the events and photos of a small Isaan wedding between Apple, a cousin of Gaun – a lovely young lady, and her husband to be, a local man living just down the road from us.

The formal invitation made an appearance and I had to laugh at being referred to as “Uncle Tony”. It was a nice acknowledgement that I had a some place within my Thai family group.

Apple's wedding invitation

Apple’s wedding has brought back happy memories of my wedding to Gaun HERE and I will include a few photos of that day in 2014 to illustrate some aspects of this one.

For those of you who have been to an Isaan wedding you will be aware of the reverse order of events, compared to a western one, which unfolds over two days. If you are a newbie then I will explain so you don’t miss out on the fun when you are invited to or maybe even end up as, more likely the groom, but maybe a bride at an Isaan wedding.

Me, Peng and Apple on my wedding day.

Me, Peng and Apple on my wedding, Valentine’s 2014.

Firstly I learnt some new things about Thai weddings, which is nothing unusual as I am hardly an expert on the subject (but getting better). In the case of my wedding, as a farang without a base or family in Thailand, I didn’t have any celebrations separate from Gaun. The evening party the day before and morning breakfast on the marriage day were a combined event in that Gaun and I enjoyed them together, but this is not the norm evidently. Usually the Thai man and lady will organise completely separate affairs and they only combine resources and guests for the formal ceremony itself. It’s a bit like an extended bucks and hen’s night in that the couple party separately but instead of the split being male/female here the invitees are split into the friends and family of the bride and groom.

The event itself is held over two days. The first day leads up to the main evening party, a reception in our terms, which kicks off once the music gets going in the afternoon and goes into the night. This is what caught me out on my big day. I presumed the party would be AFTER the wedding, as it mostly is in Australia and elsewhere, but here once the official ceremony is complete the whole thing packs up and shuts down. The formal wedding ceremony is on day two.

We got involved on the day before the ceremony, which had all the volunteers getting ready for the evening party and the breakfast the following morning, the latter being the main meal of a wedding in Isaan.

A local farm truck making deliveries. Note the all purpose removable engine on the front.

A local farm truck making wedding deliveries – chairs, table and cooking equipment borrowed from the temple. Note the all purpose removable engine on the front. This also acts as a pump to extract water from ponds or bores (wells) and small tractor to plough fields.

Lud, my brother-in-law, getting fields ready for planting.

Lud, my brother-in-law, getting fields ready for planting powered by that little diesel engine. Note the workboots.

Some of the supplies available at the local temple.

Some of the supplies available at the local temple.

The family pick-up loaded up for my wedding. Lud,

The family pick-up loaded up for my wedding. Lud, Apple, Gaun and Yuan.

The marquees are borrowed from the village.

The marquees are borrowed from the village’s community supply.

Essential for any Isaan party. If you're not breaking windows you're not having a good time.

Essential for any Isaan party. If you’re not breaking windows you’re not having a good time.

What always amazes me about celebrations of this type where large numbers of people get together to eat and drink is the amount of food which is effortlessly produced from the simplest of “kitchens”. Here was no different. Apple lives with her mother in a very simple, small one room place with an outside “lounge” area, kitchen and a separate bathroom. Because Apple is family most of my immediate Thai group were helping out especially Yuan, Gaun’s younger sister, who is the master organiser of the family.

Paed, Gaun's older sister, in the kitchen.

Paed, Gaun’s older sister, in the “kitchen”.

Gaun at the Italian designed cooktop!

Gaun working hard at the Italian designed cooktop!

Soup at the back, sticky rice in the middle and still more cooking equipment left over.

Soup at the back, sticky rice in the middle and still more cooking equipment left over. Charcoal in that green bag. Feeding 100 people happens from this arrangement.

The bride, Gaun and Yuan preparing food.

The bride, Gaun and Yuan preparing food.

Paed in the washing up area.

Paed in the washing up area.

Never shy.

Never shy. Lettuce by the bagful. Beer at hand.

Sticky rice fresh from the basket.

Sticky rice fresh from being steamed. Did you know that it is a different type of rice from steamed rice? It’s the rice not the way that it’s cooked that makes it sticky.

And the result........

And the result……..Dried fish, pork soup with potatoes and sticky rice. Larb moo (pork) was to follow. Beer of course in unlimited quantities.

Meanwhile a group of elderly ladies had gathered to make the wedding krathong, a banana leaf centrepiece, plus the sweet banana in sticky rice bundles you will find at events like this. Get in early because they go fast.

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The ladies hard at work later to be fueled by lunch and a few beers.

The finished product ready for the ceremony.

The finished krathong ready for the ceremony.

Many of the same ladies at my wedding doing the same thing. You can see the krathong taking shape in the middle.

Many of the same ladies at my wedding doing the same thing. You can see the krathong taking shape in the middle.

The sticky rice packets being made.

The sticky rice packets being made. A production line.

Sampling the banana wraps.

Sampling the banana wraps with a beer!

The photo above is of Yaun, Gaun’s younger sister. Note the new gold necklace bought with some of the proceeds coming from the sale of one field of sugar and the extra income generated over New Year, which you can read about in Isaan – the Small Stories 10 HERE.. Although this looks like an extravagance at around 20,000 THB (A$800.00) gold jewelry here is an easily traded resource and if you need money you can go to one of the many, many gold shops and get a buy-back price based on weight.

Many of these shops will act as a foreign currency exchange. Try them out for rate.

Many of these shops will act as a foreign currency exchange. Try them out for rate.

This is the first time I have seen Yuan buy anything decent for herself and considering the work that went into funding it I have no problems with this treat and it’s none of my business how she spends money anyway.

The main source of meat for the occasion was a whole pig that was killed at the farm that morning and mostly butchered there. The results were trucked in ready to be turned into various dishes for the two main meals.

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The pig is not as happy as these two. Apple’s brother nicknamed Khaw (which means white) and a neighbour who lives opposite to us.

Working out the cost at 65 THB or A$2.60 a kilo for the whole pig.

Working out the cost at 65 THB or A$2.60 a kilo for the whole pig. You probably don’t want to know but that’s the head in the containers in front of Apple.

Now if you have the money you’d probably buy pork from the local market and have it minced for your larb moo dish, an easy if more expensive method. However with this wedding everyone got involved with machetes to hand mince goodness knows how many kilos of pork over a three hour period. It was a slow but enjoyable time as food kept appearing along with whisky and beer and, as always when you get a bunch of Thais together, there was lots of laughter and chat.

Lud and Apple.

Sorting the meat. Lud mincing at the front and Apple showing off some unknown part of the pig. Tham, another of my brother-in-laws at the back left.

Never too young to join in. Children are not excluded from happenings.

Never too young to join in. Children are not excluded from happenings here. You’ll see them at all hours in the evenings too.

This lady in the photo above lives across the road from the family home and is raising her granddaughter also pictured. Her daughter works in Bangkok and only sees her girl twice a year, which an isn’t unusual situation in Isaan.

Friends. You see groups of kids playing in the streets or cycling around. Very different from Canberra.

Friends. Probably on Facebook already. You see groups of kids playing in the streets or cycling around the village. Very different from Canberra and maybe from wherever you’re from.

Many hands........or should that be many machetes.

Many hands……..or should that be many machetes.

Tea is the son of the lady with the granddaughter above.

Tea is the son of the lady with the granddaughter above.

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I would have hired the mincer machine but it would have been a lot less social.

The evening party was a pretty modest affair at Apple’s end. We didn’t get to the groom’s event as we were part of the bride’s side of the family but I think he had a much more energetic night. Still we enjoyed food, drink, music and a bit of dancing so Apple’s last evening as a single lady was celebrated with friends and family, which is how it should be,

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The end of the last day as a free woman Apple.

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My family, Aussie and Thai, at the evening before party at our wedding.

The next day started early (by my standards anyway!) as Apple had booked a Lam (pronounced “lum”) band to play for Tune’s (the groom) trip from his house to Apple’s (the man always travels to the lady) and I wanted to see them in action. If you read my post “Making Merit with a Monk” HERE you will have seen a Lam group in action including a video. This was a smaller affair hired at 3,800 THB for around one hour in case you wanted to engage them.

We dropped into Apple’s house first to get some breakfast and beer! I have to say that I have never drunk so much beer so early in the day since moving to Isaan. My tip is to get past the first couple of glasses, if this is a novelty for you too, as the desire for a decent coffee fades after that.

Gaun and I got dressed up for the day.

Gaun and I got dressed up for the day.

The early breakfast fits into the Isaan work schedule, which doesn’t necessarily stop just for a wedding. People who have been invited but can’t go to the ceremony itself will come to the breakfast, make their donation and leave after eating. Some don’t even stop. They will come, donate and take food with them to be eaten later.

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Here you can see people taking bags of food away.

Money was very tight for this wedding so all the food was catered for by family and friends, paid for by Apple. In many situations, mine included, where there is more money to spend caterers will be employed to provide food for the wedding breakfast in what’s called a Chinese table as shown below:

This is the Chinese table catering at our wedding.

This is the Chinese table catering at our wedding. 1,200 THB per table excluding drinks.

A huge amount of food and beer and Thai whisky on each table.

A huge amount of food and beer and Thai whisky on each table. Larb (minced) beef is provided as it is expensive (260 THB a kilo) and a treat for a special occasion. You have to provide and cook the beef.

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I look back on these photos now and I now know who many of these people are. At the time they were just a bunch of villagers.

We then headed over to the Toun’s family home, which was a ten minute walk to the next moo ban (village). I was greeted by the man who records all the donations as “Tony Vansutha” a mix of my and Gaun’s names. It is how I am recorded for weddings, funerals and monk celebrations! Their breakfast had been going since 7 am in readiness for a wedding at 9.09 am, lucky numbers being important here.

Needless to say as soon as we sat down food and beer made an appearance.

Needless to say soon after we sat down food and beer made an appearance.

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You get a glimpse of the groom on the far right.

The band warming up in front of the temple gate.

The band warming up in front of the temple gate.

And we're off. All the groom's side on the walk to Apple's house.

And we’re off. All the groom’s side on the walk to Apple’s house. Does the expression “stand out like a sore thumb” come to mind? Oh well. each to our own culture.

The groom and one of his two groomsmen.

The groom and one of his two groomsmen.

This was my equivalent.

This was my equivalent. Gaun looking very beautiful on the left but I’m biased.

What I hadn’t realised at the time of my wedding was the significance of this walk. We actually started at the land I had bought HERE (where we now live) and then walked to Gaun’s family home. I thought it was just a procession but only now understand that it was part of the formal declaration of a change in circumstances as the groom moves from his residence to the bride’s home. Gaun obviously joined me for the walk while in Apple’s situation she waited for the arrival of her fiance at her mum’s house. Many of the villagers came along too even though I guess they were on Gaun’s “side” rather than mine. I would have looked a bit lonely with just my brother, sister-in-law and best friend and wife walking with me otherwise!

Refreshments provided.

Refreshments provided.

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The more noise the better.

The band's power source.

The band’s power source and speakers.

Dad and daughter.

Dad and daughter.

The crowd.

The crowd turning the corner into Apple’s soi (street).

This is Yaks (giant) one of the A Team that built our house.

This is Yaks (giant) one of the A Team that built our house.

A neighbour gives an over the wall wai (Thai greeting) to a passing farang.

A neighbour gives an over the wall wai (Thai greeting) to a passing farang.

We arrive at Apple's house. Gaun on the left and Lud on the right.

We arrive at Apple’s house. Gaun on the left and Lud on the right.

The dancing continues. Paed and Lud.

The dancing continues. Paed and Lud.

The entrance.

The entrance. The groom’s dad behind the dog.

What’s funny here is that traditionally there are two chains separating the groom from his bride – a silver and gold. The groom has to pay money to the people holding the chain to get entrance. Here we ended up with four as some of Apple’s relatives and friends were hopeful of getting a bonus 🙂

What's going on here then?

What’s going on here then?

All taken in good fun and money handed over.

All taken in good fun and money handed over.

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I was prepared with envelopes of money as well to get me past the chains.

I even got a ceremonial foot washing too, by Apple! Another donation.

I even got a ceremonial foot washing too, by Apple! Another donation required.

With access to bride gained by Toun the crowd mostly sat under the marquees and chatted and drank while the more formal wedding party headed to a raised platform at the front, which in normal times becomes the lounge and dining area.

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This structure is attached to the one room house and where all social activities take place.

This structure is attached to the one room house and it is where all social activities take place.

The MC.

The MC.

Apple arrives. I loved the simple silver theme.

Apple arrives. I loved the simple silver and gold theme.

A smile for Uncle Tony.

A smile for the camera.

I have endless photos because I was invited to the front to record the occasion but I won’t go over the top. The following should give you a little taste of the event.

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More gold. A necklace instead of a ring.

More gold. A necklace instead of a ring.

I was more western traditional.

I was more western traditional.

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These flower chains join the couple together part the way through the ceremony (and for life!)

These flower chains join the couple together part the way through the ceremony and for life too maybe 🙂

This photo gives you an idea of the relationship between wedding party and the guests.

This photo gives you an idea of the relationship between wedding party and the guests. You can see the krathong sculpture built by the old ladies on the left.

The bridesmaid on the right never smiled all day. Shy maybe.

The bridesmaid on the right never smiled all day. Shy maybe.

I wonder what's being said.

I wonder what’s being said. Do you see the egg, banana and sticky rice combo being held by the groom? Fertility?

Gaun brings me supplies. It's thirsty work taking photos.

Gaun brings me supplies. It’s thirsty work taking photos. Some of the village elders on the right.

At the end of the ceremony everybody comes forward to make a donation and to tie a white good luck string onto the wrists of the bride and groom – normally right wrist for guys and left for the ladies. You should leave the strings on for three days before removing. I think it is a lovely way for everyone to personally meet the couple.

Apple's mama.

Apple’s mama.

Gaun.

Gaun who is never shy.

Farang.

Uncle Tony!

The money is given to the groom while you tie the string. The amount is recorded and then placed in that pot.

The official recorder. The total amount is then read out at the end.

The official recorder. The total amount is then read out at the end – around 50,000 in this case. This is the guy who refers to me as Tony Vansutha.

The money can also be requested to go down the bride's cleavage for the groom to recover!

The donation can also be placed in the bride’s cleavage for the groom to recover! A great idea in my male opinion.

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The groom's dad.

The groom’s dad.

Gifts are then given to the groom's parents.

Gifts are then given to the groom’s parents………

………..before the couple are lead away to the bedroom.

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The good bit. No wonder he’s smiling.

He’ll be disappointed at this stage because there is only a little ceremony that happens here blessing the smaller gifts to be given to other key guests. The couple also take food and drink together, neither of which they seemed very interested in doing in front of an audience.

A blessing for the gifts.

A blessing for the gifts.

As you can see no naughty stuff will be happening just yet.

As you can see no naughty stuff will be happening just yet.

The handing out of gifts.

The handing out of gifts.

These little pillow things are a complete mystery to me. They make an appearance at every formal event in vast quantities. We have just got back from the final day of a funeral and I have used the last of my supplies. We will have to buy more at 120 THB (A$4.80) for a pack of four because someone else has died this afternoon (must be the cold) and we’ll be paying our respects to that family in the next few days!

A truckload collected during a recent monk's initiation ceremony HERE.

A truckload collected during a recent monk’s initiation ceremony HERE.

The recipients.

The recipients.

This is the lady who acted as my mother for our wedding. A village powerhouse in her 80's.

This is the lady who acted as my mother for our wedding. A village powerhouse in her 80’s.

My onerous duties as photographer over I decided to toast the newly weds with the Lam band.

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A friendly bunch or was that the grog talking?

A friendly bunch or was that just the grog?

And a few family shots:

Yuan

Yuan happy that another family event is over.

Gaun's mama.

Gaun’s mama.

Gaun with her nephew Tom.

Gaun with her nephew Tom.

And with Yuan's son Game.

And with Yuan’s son Game and my brother-in-law Tham.

All over.

All over.

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Another happy couple.

Gaun, Paed and Khaw.

Gaun, Paed and Khaw.

In a western situation the newly weds would now take off for the best bit of the whole process – the honeymoon. However in Si Bun Runag, where the money doesn’t flow quite as easily it is a quick return to reality.

30 Minutes later Apple is into normal gear.

30 Minutes later Apple is into normal gear and winding up the day with the list of things borrowed from the temple in hand………

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…..and counting the crockery to return to the temple.

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The washing up crew swings into action…….

Quite happily.

….quite happily. This is a good friend of Apple who works for a bank in Bangkok.

And the marquees are booked for another wedding down the road.

And as the marquees are booked for another wedding down the road so they head out the door.

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Literally.

Thank you Apple and Toun for sharing your special day with us. I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.

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Thanks for reading.