The Mong people in Dien Bien province have always upheld their traditional identities including the wedding ritual. The spring is normally the season for Mong people to marry.Vang A Mua and Thao Thi Van are white Mong, a branch of the Mong group, in Thanh Minh commune, Dien Bien province. The just-married couple often drive a motorbike to the weekend market to buy household goods. The love story of Mua and Van is unlike their grandparents’ arranged marriage many years ago. They were in love for 3 years before getting married. Mua talks about their dating. “I met my wife in Lai Chau province. I told her if she didn’t like me, I wouldn’t press her. She smiled and said nothing. I thought maybe I loved her, or maybe it was just affection. Then we met regularly and talked about Mong customs, our families, and our lives.”
Van talked shyly about her memories: “When we first met, I already felt affection for him. He asked me whether I liked him or not. Mong people are candid and we always ask straightforward questions. I just smiled.”
When asked about the Mong custom of abducting the bride, Mua said it’s a backward custom. In Thanh Minh commune, the generation of his father and uncles still practiced the custom. Vang A Sung lives in the commune. “The Mong wedding ceremony has changed. The man and the woman fall in love and agree with each other. We have abandoned the custom of abducting the bride. Previously, the man’s family abducted the bride to their home before organizing a ritual to admit her soul to the family.”
An offering to the ancestor on the wedding day
Sung said in the past Mong men and women married at early age. Now they abide by the law and marry at 18 for girls and 20 for boys. But they still maintain wedding rituals such as choosing the wedding day and time to enter the bridegroom’s home. Sung said: “We choose an even date such as the second or fourth day of the month. That means the boy and girl will become a couple. Even days are good days in the Mong culture. We just follow our ancestors.”
The ceremony to welcome the bride is simple but solemn to show respect to the ancestors. Sung again: “The bride’s family has to inform their ancestors of the marriage. We prepare a pig to make an offering to the ancestors and a party for all relatives and villagers to inform them that a daughter is going to another family.”
The Mong wear their traditional dress at the wedding. Vang A Mua said: “When I came to the bride’s family to take her, the bride’s mother prepared two sets of clothes for her daughter and son-in-law. When we arrived at our home, my bride changed into clothes prepared by my family. The bridegroom’s clothes are white, and the bride’s clothes are black.”
The delegation taking the bride home often have a meal on the way during which they inform the Genies that they have a new bride and pray for their assistance. At home, they organize a ceremony to inform their ancestors of the new daughter. The Mong wedding ceremony has been simplified but they have preserved its unique identity. The young couples have adopted modern social values to boost their families and escape poverty.