My big, fat Hmong wedding
Exploring the culture and traditions of matrimony for
the Hmong people
By Monica Ly, staff writer
July 24, 2007
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by Joe Nguyen
drink after the end of a topic during
the night before Chen Vue and Nhu Lor's
wedding July 13 in Westminster. Negotiations
determine the price of a bride in Hmong
culture. Lor was priced at $6,000.
It’s all about the Benjamins, baby.
“You have to have money,” Colorado School
of Mines student Tongci Mouanoutoua said. “It’s
about $5,000 to $6,000 right now.”
Mouanoutoua isn’t talking about a semester of his
college tuition. He’s referring to the Hmong ritual
the night before the wedding where the groom’s family
settles on an offering with the bride’s family.
Considered an important aspect to the entire wedding ceremony,
men who know how to negotiate, also known as mej koob,
are used to determine a suitable bride price while others
sit and listen.
“If you’re the only girl in the family, you
cost more,” Mouanoutoua said, “a lot more.”
As easy as it may be to simply exchange vows and a couple
“I dos,” weddings in the Hmong culture are
often elaborate and may occur over more than one day.
Chen Vue and Nhu Lor invited friends and family to join
them for their wedding on July 13 and 14.
Something old, something new, something borrowed, and
something blue do not apply in this case. Lor, the bride,
arrived in a traditional Hmong dress her mother-in-law
gave her. Her bridesmaid, a taib gao literally
translated into English as “green grandma,”
was also wearing a Hmong dress. In order to pay respect
to the family, Lor and her bridesmaid asked for permission
to remove the headdresses to change back into civilian
Upon Vue's arrival, a basket containing a blanket, food,
tools, oil and salt was slung over his shoulder. Each
item is a symbol for what Hmong people once carried with
them on the long journey to marry their spouses. The knife
in particular signifies a birth of a boy grandchild.
Shortly before the negotiations began, guests devoured
food prepared by the women on the bride’s side of
the family. As a tradition, all meals on the actual wedding
day cannot contain pepper.
Families are separated into different rooms depending
on their affiliation with the groom or bride while four
men, two from each family, sit down to settle on the bride’s
price. Based on her “wife material,” which
concerned her education and ability to cook and do housework,
Lor was priced at $6,000.
“Before the wedding, there was already a set price
for a bride,” said Lor. “I knew it was a tradition,
so [the negotiation] didn’t bother me.”
On the day of the actual wedding, heavy drinking with
the negotiators and men of the families began. The purpose
of this tradition is for Vue to build respect and become
familiar with his new relatives. To keep the consumption
of alcohol at a manageable level, Vue utilized his best
man, or “pilah,” and his friends to ward off
the potential effects of intoxication.
Toward the end of the drinking celebration, Lor went
to her room to change into a different Hmong dress her
mother presented her with. Women flooded in to give Lor
advice about being a married woman. Tears were rampant.
“We decided on this marriage a month ago,”
Lor said. “He kind of proposed, took me home, and
then he called his dad.” >>