I was invited to a Shan wedding up on the border with China when I was in Myanmar recently. I wasn’t sure foreigners were allowed in this part of newly opened country and indeed there were some issues with immigration officials both ways. But it was worth it, even 24 hours on a bus, to spend two days in the home of Shan people and attend this interesting event.

It was a Christian wedding so there were a lot of points of reference and crossover but some differences too. For example the bride and groom get ready in the same house and arrive in the same vehicle.

Arrival together in the family's white van decked out with flowers.

Arrival together in the family’s white van decked out with flowers.

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Fixing the bride’s veil on arrival at the church.

Bouquet of flowers.

The bridesmaid’s bouquet of flowers.

They also all wore white which they actually thought was a western tradition and were surprised to find out only the bride traditionally wears white.

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The flower girls and page boy looking very serious and bored with all the attention. The rings were on the little boy’s ribbon and kept sliding off so they eventually removed them for safekeeping.

The ceremony was very short, including an incredibly talented Shan choir, and photos were taken outside with all the groups of people that attended. I was incredibly embarrassed to have only jeans to wear to the wedding and my hiking fleece but they were just pleased I was there.  I was slightly horrified when they asked me to be in the family photos but also particularly honoured.

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The wedding group before the ceremony. This is the place cars often pull in so there was no location scouting for special backdrops although the couple did go over to China, a few kilometres away, to have some professional photos taken. These were displayed at the reception hall.

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Entering the church.

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Exchanging rings in the church.

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Signing the register.

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Confetti throwing in the church on the way out.

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The bridal procession after the ceremony.

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My family group. I was included in this photograph to my horror moments after I took this, only because I was not in anything that remotely resembled wedding attire. For obvious reasons I have not included that image here!

After this we all retired to a dining hall nearby where the tables were loaded until they were literally groaning with food. I’ve eaten with Myanmar people and know they can put it away but even I was surprised at how the food vanished.

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My family group and just some of the food our table groaned with.

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Other wedding participants dig into the food.

The bride and groom changed here into traditional Shan clothes which were nice. People gave donations at a table outside and your name was actually registered next to the amount you gave. This seemed an excellent way to “bless” the new couple with cash the families could probably use to pay for all that food and set them up for awhile. The bride and groom live with his family so there’s no need for any physical gifts we might give for setting up home.

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Dressed in traditional clothes at the reception hall. You can’t see so well in this image but to the left is a framed print of them in wedding attire that was taken with a nice backdrop in China, a few kilometres away.

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The wads of money counted and noted as you entered the reception venue.

I loved the simplicity and lack of fanfare of the whole event. There were no speeches at all and no cake or dessert of any kind. It was all over within a few hours and in the afternoon the bride and groom came with the family group as we toured the city sightseeing. I don’t think this was only for my benefit as there were a number of people from Yangon who hadn’t been to Muse before. In the evening we all went out for dinner again. It was really enjoyable seeing how relaxed the couple was after the ceremony. Seems to me to be the way to have a wedding.

The bride and groom. She was actually several years older than him. They'd been together for seven years.

The bride and groom. She was actually several years older than him. They’d been together for seven years. I asked them whey they had taken so long to get married and he explained they now had some money to do so and his business was going well. He makes furniture.

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