VIENTIANE, March 5 (Xinhua) -- Wedding customs in Laos, the only land-locked country in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), are full of traditional customs and charm.
At a wedding of a couple of Lao Loum heritage, the main ethnic group of Laos, proceedings started early in the morning for the celebrations held in Xiengkhuang Province, about 180 km northeast of the capital Vientiane.
The groom made his way to the bride's house early in the morning once his family had prepared the dowry.
In full wedding attire, he first paid his respects by prayer to his relatives and ancestors and asked for their blessings.
In the meantime, his beautiful bride was busying herself, donning wedding garbs and being pampered, while awaiting her soon-to-be husband.
The groom, after paying his respects to his family and ancestors, departed for his bride's house along with his relatives.
In the earthen bowls adorned with flowers and banana leaves carried by his relatives is the dowry, which comprised cash and jewelry.
At this point, the groom and his family stopped to take photos, with the scene symbolic of the giving and receiving of blessings as well as the sharing of the family's happiness.
The groom, in full traditional Lao costume, replete with sword and satchel, was holding a candle and a bouquet in his hand as he sat in a decorated vehicle accompanied by his relatives. Together they made their way to the bride's home.
The family were gleefully singing and dancing as the procession made its way along the streets.
The groom and his entourage were greeted with even more music as they neared the bride's house.
They disembarked from the wedding vehicle and walked slowly to the bride's house while continuing with their traditional songs and dance.
Before entering the bride's house, the groom and family offered gifts of lucky money in red envelopes and even local beer to bypass the symbolic barriers put up in front of the bride's house.
With a lit candle in hand, the groom removed his shoes prior to entering the house and accepted prayers accompanied by floral cologne and a ceremony akin to a baptism, prior to entering the inner sanctum of the bride's house.
Once inside, both the bride and groom jointly lit up a decorative bundle of candles on the center table using the groom's already lit candle.
Also on the table were the couple's marriage certificate and a presentation compiled of rice, eggs, snacks, towers of banana leaves and a selection of fruit.
The "baci" ceremony, which involves the tying of strings around the couple's wrists, was conducted by the elders of the family and sages in the village.
The ceremony was witnessed by all members of both families and included a host reading scriptures and blessings.
The bride and groom then went on to sit down and offer flowers as they prayed, while accepting blessings from others, especially from both sets of parents.
The baci ceremony is a traditional blessing ritual in Laos and is conducted on various occasions, such as welcoming guests, at weddings, festivals or when celebrating the return of a loved one after a long absence.
The main function of tying the string around the couple's wrists is to symbolically unite souls, banish evil and receive blessings.
After the baci ceremony, which ended in the late afternoon, the guests from both sides of the family reconvened at a hotel ballroom where a modern wedding ceremony was held.
As with tradition in Laos, the guests were notified in advance of a particular theme color to wear.
During this stage of the wedding, the bride and groom danced together to the music of a live band.
The elders of the two families also danced a popular local folk-dance known as "lamvong," which in traditional Lao culture imparts both harmony and happiness.