Imagine if one day your parents turned to you and said:
“We’re getting married tomorrow…at a Buddhist temple.”
Now imagine that you’re in Thailand when they said that…
Welcome to my life!
Let me explain…my parents have always been a wee bit non traditional. That resulted in quite a unique upbringing for myself, going way back to age 4, when a midlife crisis took our family to Ecuador! Along with that non traditional-ness came a lack of my parents marriage. It was just an accepted fact of life (well, our life, at least).
So imagine our surprise when my parents uttered that exact phrase in a Bangkok hotel room on December 30, 2006.
Now just why were we all in Bangkok? I had spent the past 5 months studying in Thailand and my immediate family, led by my travel-savvy grandmother, came to visit. My parents had kept their surprise under wraps for the nearly 2 weeks we had spent together.
Once we all picked our eyeballs up off the floor, it was clear this was really happening. 24 years together and my parents opted for doing something completely in character for them. A wedding in Thailand? How many others could boast that ceremony, dubbed “joining of souls?” Heck even the master wedding planners in Las Vegas can’t recreate that experience!
The Buddhist Temple
A mere 12 hours later, we arrived at a suburban Bangkok Wat (Buddhist temple) around mid-morning. This was a quiet and serene place, a far cry from the hectic environment we had just come from. It even had a lovely river running right by it!
A Buddhist Wedding
To start things off, my parents bowed before a Buddha image, lighting incense and candles for good merit (karma).
We were then seated in front of a long platform, atop which sat 5 saffron-clad monks. The ceremony, which lasted about an hour, began, as the monks commenced to chant in Pali, the language of the Theravada form of Buddhism, which is practiced in Thailand. We couldn’t understand a word of what was going on, but it was truly beautiful.
Lunch is Served (to the Monks)!
Suddenly, everything stopped. Mali, the Thai wife of a friend of ours who had arranged this whole ordeal, pointed my parents towards a tray of food.
It was nearly noon, the hour at which Buddhist monks are no longer allowed to eat for the day. And so, my parents presented the monks with their lunch. And in one of the more unusual moments of the day, we got to sit there and watch the monks eat before they resumed the ceremony. But they definitely weren’t selfish. They fed every single cat that walked over.
After lunch, my parents offered the monks with what can only be termed “monk buckets” (buckets full of supplies monks use that are usually offered during morning alms) and flowers, both gestures to make merit by giving to the monastic body. Then, more chanting.
When it was over, my parents jointly poured a bottle of holy water into a small, gilded fountain, symbolizing the joining of their souls.
And with that, they were joined. There was no declaration of “I now pronounce you man and wife,” and no “You may kiss the bride” (though they did). What we had was one very happy couple.
And as we made our way to the reception at Mali and her husband John’s house, it suddenly began to feel like every other day I’ve ever experienced with my crazy, crazy family (said with lots of love, of course)!