Saturday, July 26, 2008
In Hmong culture, it isn’t acceptable to marry a person with the same clan name. A Hmong marriage implies an agreement between two clans and it is an important goal for most Hmong men and women. Traditionally, an unmarried woman was considered a disgrace because the family would miss out on establishing social relationships with other clans. Unlike in Laos, North American Hmong males often wait till they graduate from high school or college to marry; however, Hmong girls continue to marry in their middle teens. A Hmong marriage celebrates community and is practiced as closely as possible to the ways of the ancestors in China while also adjusting to the new options available here in North America.
There are two types of wedding rituals in Hmong culture. One is the regular wedding (the “tshoob tog qws”), and the other is the wedding by request or influence of family and relatives (“the tshoob zawj”).
There is a total of thirteen participants in the Hmong marriage. There are two wedding negotiators from each side (mej koob) who act as the messengers of the wedding. Obviously, the bride and groom are part of the wedding! But they are not the center of attention. The groom‘s role is more demanding than the bride’s simply because Hmong tradition demands that he take his oath of love in front of the bride’s parents and relatives.
The bridesmaid and the best man are present. The bridesmaid’s task is to stay with the bride for two reasons. First, to make sure that the bride doesn’t try reconnecting with any ex-boyfriends; second, to make sure that the bride’s mother doesn’t try to change her daughter’s feelings. The best man is often the assistant in the wedding ritual.
Two parents, one from each side, are in attendance. And usually, the distant brother or uncle of the bride’s father and the older brother or distant relative of the groom’s father are chosen to represent and act for the parents. Next in line are two brothers by relation. Their roles are to welcome the groom and if they do not fulfill their roles, there will be penalties. Lastly, one elder is present whose responsibility is to oversee the Hmong marriage ceremony.
The Hmong marriage ceremony:Upon arrival of the marriage negotiators at the bride’s house, conversation is initiated with the parents. The four “mej koob” get acquainted with each other and begin to establish a mutual friendship prior to the wedding. The last step before the actual wedding is to negotiate the dowry price.
The parents of the bride have the option to prepare the wedding feast themselves or to give the task to the groom’s side of the family. Here, the groom’s mej koob will ask the bride’s mej koob if they would like a green pig (money) or a white pig (an actual pig). Traditionally, in Laos, the pig must be male and of a certain size. It is sacrificed in honour of the wedding celebration. During the feast, many toasts are made and this process can take up to five hours.
After the wedding, the groom’s parents put together a feast for the people who were involved in the wedding. In the Hmong culture, the parents thank each individual by giving them a small amount of money as a token of appreciation.