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The wedding march in Pa Then ethnic group

Will you marry me? For the Pa Then, a minority group in northern Vietnam, popping the question is anything but simple.

One marries only once in life,
One is buried only once after death.
-Pa Then proverb


There are some 4,000 Pa Then people scattered in remote villages in Vietnam's northern provinces of Tuyen Quang and Ha Giang. In Chinese, 'Pa' means that 'family', whereas 'Then' means that 'eight', a reference to the present minority group's belief that they're originated from 8 founding families.

Until now, the Pa Then retain their distinctive customs, as well as their unique wedding traditions. For the Pa Then, getting engaged is a difficult process, involving no less than six visits by the grooms family to the bride's family. At these conferences, members of the groom's family are expected to create flowery speeches, such as:

"It is that the job of Heaven and Earth... a rule nobody will hinder... Due to Heaven and Earth there are trees and flowers, several forms of rice, and other people living in pairs..."

The proposals often related to elaborating figures of speech:

"To require for a good vegetable stalk or a juicy fruit in the garden, who dares to be arbitrary? We have to receive permission of the owner who has spent lots of your time cultivating the garden. Furthermore, requesting a present isn't cheap or clear. We require your forgiveness for our presumptuous words."

The reply is equally diplomatic:

"Even insects, birds and ants live in pair... and chickens have their crows to ask others to the coop. How we are able to leave our daughter, a pretty woman, to live alone?"

While outsiders can regard these speeches as excessively flamboyant, the Pa Then feel a desire to articulate the groom's perseverance, that they describe because the willingness to "cross many mountains and thousands of hills".

On the day of the wedding

The clothing of the bride and groom replicate the families' standing. The brides scarlet outfit is very striking, includes a shirt (ke tu), a skirt (ke tanh), a shawl (k so), a hat, and a headband (su chi), that is draped over the hat in such some way that it resembles an umbrella. This headscarf— currently replaced by a towel—is thought to avoid bad luck.

Embroidered motifs on the bride's garments embrace figures of dogs, crosses and triangles. Because it takes years to create one wedding outfit, several Pa Then women lack the time and skills to supply an appropriate dress. Though Pa Then girls begin to find out the way to spin, weave, dye and embroider at 7-8 years old, they often turn to their elders for facilitate in decorating their wedding apparel.

The clothing of the groom, groomsmen and different male members of the family is mostly easier. The groom wears an indigo shirt, indigo trousers, a scarlet headwrap, an extended scarf wrapped around his neck, and a rowel on his wrist. Like his future wife, he wears several rings, chains and bracelets to replicate his family's wealth and power.

According to tradition, the grooms members of the family line up during a special order as they travel to meet the bride. At the front walks the shaman, then the groom and 2 groomsmen, followed by 2 bridesmaids.

When the groom's party travels to the brides house, it's thought-about bad luck to encounter an owl or a deer, to listen to the sound of a fox or a muntjac, or to pass a fallen tree, a rockslide, a blocked path, or a broken bridge. The shaman leads the manner, reciting incantations to make sure about happiness for the pair.

When the groom's family accesses the bride's house, her family closes the doors. The grooms individuals reply by singing the subsequent song:

"We are happening a crucial issue.

We want you to accept the common lifetime of our 2 families' children.

Please offer them your pity

By opening your golden and silver doors so that we can tell you

By gap your golden and silver doors so we are able to tell you

The good news and good luck

About the life story of our 2 youngsters."

Even though the grooms family has spent several visits negotiating the wedding, they're still expected to beg to receive the bride. It's no simple matter for a Pa Then man to get a wife!

The wedding party travels back to the groom's house, where the celebrations hold well into the night. When the party ends, the bride accompanies her relatives to the door and bids them a tearful farewell. She then goes inside to scrub the homes assuming her role as a politician member of her new family.

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