It is the custom of the Thai ethnic minority in Quan Hoa district of Thanh Hoa province that a girl will marry the same man twice.
After the first wedding, the groom has to stay at the bride’s house and work hard to earn enough money to hold a second, more elaborate wedding. Only after that can he bring his wife back to his own house.
This custom is still followed in some districts of Thanh Hoa province such as Quan Son, Muong Lat, and Quan Hoa.
During the first wedding, the bride’s and the groom’s families just chew betel nut, smoke cigars and talk.
Local village chief, 70-year old Pham Ba Ngoang, says, “Life is much the same here as it has always been. Conditions are hard, so couples often have to wait dozens of years until their ‘second marriage’. But no matter how hard life is, the second marriage is a must. It demonstrates the man’s ability to earn a living and support his family. Once the bride’s family sees that their son-in-law is a capable husband, they will allow her to leave with him.”
The time between first and second weddings can be from several months to many years. The groom must buy a number of expensive gifts for the bride and her family, including an elaborate dress and jewelry, in order to arrange the second wedding. He must also provide a feast and wine for the ceremony. Once this is done, the families come together to discuss the time the bride will depart.
The most important part of the departure ceremony is the mother-in-law washing the bride’s feet in a type of renewal ceremony, symbolising the removal of past impurities.
Old customs vs. new economic realities
Despite the village chief’s comments, things are slowly changing in Thanh Hoa province. As socio-economic situation in the region improves, weddings are being held closer together.
This ancient tradition is now only prevalent in some remote communes in Quan Hoa district, such as Hien Kiet, Hien Son and Trung Thanh, and it is not as common in more modernised areas.
Luong Thi Hong Nhung, a Thai woman, says, “My parents had their two weddings 10 years apart, but it only took me and my husband one month.”
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