Well it’s all almost over. After a month in Thailand, the return to Blighty and darkness and televisual toil beckons once more. No mysterious benefactors have stepped out of the woodwork to give me the millions I’ve hoped and prayed for, so I’m coming back. As an atheist, the prayers were probably a waste of time but I thought I’d give the deities a go, a chance to redeem themselves, but nothing…
It has been a superb trip.
The first week was all predictably taken up with preparations for the wedding. Actually all the main preparations had been done and paid for by Nim’s family before we even got there. I am eternally grateful to them all for this as the day turned out to be perfect.
My nerves started to mount as we met members of the family and gave them invites. One minute it was a retired colonel, the next minute we were at a hospital owned by a member of the family, the next was a nice household full of friendly relatives drinking tea. It was a bit of a whirlwind! We then saw the ballroom and stage and seating arrangements and where we were to pray and sit and make speeches. It was all a bit daunting. Then there were visits to the tailors where my wife got a stunning dress and I got a Thai-style top that actually made me look quite good – as opposed to a daft foreigner in a Thai shirt (although there was an element of that). Nim truly looked gorgeous though.
In all our finery!
Then it was the actual day! We loitered around the entry area welcoming the hundred or so guests. (I nipped out for a few cigarettes but was there a lot.) A few million photos later and we were seated in special chairs. There was a row of nine monks in front of us who started chanting and everyone adopted their finest prayer positions. As stated before, the ceremony was opened by the head of the Ministry for the Interior (another family member). At some point Nim and I had to pour water into a special bowl and then light some incense and candles at an altar. Then there was more chanting and praying. I became surprised and mildly alarmed at how tired my hands had started to become and noticed a few Westerners feeling similar discomfort. The prayer position is not a natural one. Try it yourself for half an hour.
The room as guests begin to arrive.
We then knelt and received a blessing from the head monk and more water was poured. Things became a bit confused in my mind at this point but I had helpful whisperings from Nim as to what I should be doing and was apparently quite convincing in pretending I knew what the hell was going on. We then prayed in front of each of the monks who flicked water on us with bunches of twigs. Soon after this the monks were given food and we gave them gifts each.
Blessed by monks.
Nim and I were then instructed to sit in a different bit and we knelt forward with our hands over ornate bowls. My hands immediately started to cramp again. Some beautiful flower things were draped over us, some kind of paste daubed on our foreheads and a circle of string was placed around both our heads that were joined by a single strand. A queue formed and people came forward to pour water from a special gourd over our hands and into the bowls as they blessed us. It was all very touching but by the end my hands began to ache and shake. Hopefully no one noticed or thought it was emotion.
It was incredibly touching and emotional though as I was warmly welcomed into Nim’s family.
When all this was done, I breathed a sigh of relief and started to flex my weary digits. Too soon! We had to stay in position as a million photos were due to be taken. Ages seemed to pass and as we were joined by precariously joined pieces of string, there was no way we could see what was happening behind us. Eventually it was done and I have to say that some damn fine photos came out of it. My smile grew increasingly fixed by the end and my hands began to curl inward but it was worth it.
We then broke for lunch and a tour of tables and relatives. And a quick smoke break.
Flowers and string
Four of us were then summoned to the stage – Nim’s uncle, my dad, Nim, and myself. Nim’s uncle gave a speech in Thai that seemed to go down well. Then my dad gave a great speech that started with a sentence in Thai and received immediate applause. Nim was supposed to be next but then I was asked to step up instead. Which was good as it pre-empted my nerves. I gave a speech in English, which seemed to go down ok and then came the bit I had been dreading. My paragraph of Thai. I’d practiced it a lot but was fairly concerned. Ninety percent of the audience spoke the lingo pretty well after all. I think because it came at the end of my fairly well received English speech, I was no longer nervous and it went quite well. A Thai friend remarked afterwards that it was the first time she’d actually understood everything I’d said. Nim then gave a superb and emotionally charged speech that put mine to shame and had half the room in tears. Bless her.
Can you understand my finest Thai?
Feelings were running quite high at this point but there was a bit more to come. A new area was prepared and Nim and I knelt and were blessed by our nearest and dearest members of the family in turn. We knelt and the couples sat on chairs and gave us astoundingly beautiful gifts and family heirlooms that had been passed down through both our families. I felt honoured to be receiving lovely gold and jewel encrusted heirlooms that had been passed through Nim’s family for generations. It was probably the most touching part of the whole day as our parents whispered blessings and well-wishes.
Then we were done. I was physically and emotionally drained – as was Nim. It was quite a day. It was at this point Nim turned and said, “That was the short version of a Thai wedding.”
That evening there was a party at a pub owned by a friend of ours called The Pickled Liver. It was quite alcoholic and very welcome.