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The bridegroom Peter, or Somboun/"Abundant Without Sin," arrives under a protective parasol with his attendants, seeking entrance to the bride's house. His way is barred by a gold belt and questions from her family as to why he has come. His reply: "I'm here to be a good son.. good husband." "What have you brought?" "Money, a ring, necklace." After much joking and laughter, he is accepted.
Katrina Thomas's notes: Laotians, emigrating from Laos or Thailand, came to the U.S. in the greatest numbers when the Vietnam War ended in 1975. Their weddings are well-wishing ceremonies, called baci/basi, conducted by an elder, conversant with Buddhist practices. Two phakhuane/"spirit trays" embody the spirits that protect life and health. These support floral and food arrangements, and serve as altars. The officiant, holding threads connected to one tray, recites good wishes to the young couple and chants verses about how a husband and wife serve each other. He ends the rite by tying sacred threads, phuk ken, around their wrists. Wedding guests tie more strings of good luck on the newlyweds' wrists. Without a common language, I photograph four weddings with varying success. The one in Milpitas, CA kept the most traditions, which are explained to me by the bridegroom.