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On the wall in the bride's home is the family altar, constructed of cardboard and paper, set up with three shot glasses, a candle, some chicken legs, a chain, a bell, scissors, and other incidentals. The scissors are used to knock on the door before entering to keep out evil spirits. An umbrella, which represents the bride during negotiations for her bride price, hangs alongside the spirit shelf.
Katrina Thomas's notes: Originally inhabiting the mountainous regions of southern China and northern areas of Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, a few Hmong began to emigrate from Laos starting in 1975. Due to devastation and loss during the Vietnam War, an estimated 145,000 came to the U.S. The first wedding I photograph is Hmong Christian in Minneapolis in1986. Later weddings, photographed in Fresno, CA, retain their animist traditions, heeding the spirits and demons of nature, and honoring ancestors. The couple meet when playing a courtship game of pom pov during a festival held in late December and if a boy and girl like each other, he kidnaps her and sends a message to her family that he wants to marry. In preparing for every wedding four "messengers," two from each family, negotiate her bride price, which is preceded by a "tie hand" rite, designed to facilitate a favorable outcome. The wedding itself is feasting and ritual drinking by men, according to many rules, while the bridegroom and best man genuflect constantly to honor living and dead members of both families. As the Hmong have become integrated into mainstream society, many of their marriage customs have disappeared.