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Before complying with the rituals of welcome, which are designed to let in only good spirits to her new household, Maye Chow and two unmarried cousins sit with family members in the bridegroom's backyard, while his family serves tea and tobacco to her relatives.
Katrina Thomas's notes: Also known as Iu Mien, a tribal people settled in farming communities in southeast Asia until disrupted by the Vietnam war, when they came here from Thai refugee camps in the early 1980's. Today perhaps 50,000 Mien live in the U.S., most of them in the states of Washington, Oregon and California. When they first arrived, I photograph several weddings, including Big Weddings, known as tom ching ta, celebrated for three days, catnapping in my car in front of the bridegroom's house so as not to miss any of the day and night ceremonies. The bride may already have birthed several children fathered by the bridegroom, and whether celebrated for one day or three, a Mien wedding is no more and no less than a transfer of the bride to her new home with rites to insure her acceptance by the bridegroom's household spirits. During the period of an overnight or three days, many meals are prepared, principally for the bride's extensive family, perhaps 60 or more, and also for friends. I photograph rites that welcome the bride, and for "Big Weddings," an important all-night bowing ceremony, performed by the bridegroom to ancestral spirits, to living relatives and to all family members.