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Marriage Customs Of Siam

( Originally Published 1897 )

Marriages in Siam take place at an early age. An English traveller, Sir P. J. Bowring, states that he has seen as many as five generations gathered round the head of a family ! As in India and China, "go-betweens " or " match-makers " are employed. A wed-ding procession in this country is a very picturesque affair, and one which might well tempt an artist to choose the subject for his canvas. When the negotiations have been nearly completed, the bridegroom travels by water to the house of the bride-elect in a large boat, gaily adorned with flags, and laden with presents, such as garments for his future wife, plates, fruits, betel-nut, &c. In the centre is a huge cake, in the form of a pyramid, and decorated with bright colours. The musicians on board play as the boat glides along. Arrived at his destination he lands, makes his way to the house in order to make the final arrangements and fix the happy day. There is no religious ceremony : only a great feast, at which the musicians again perform.

Among the Jakun tribes of the Malay Peninsula an entertainment takes place on the wedding-day at the house of the bride's father, where the whole tribe are assembled. The dowry, given by the man, is delivered in their presence. A dance follows, in the midst of which the bride-elect darts off into the forest, followed by the bridegroom ; a chase ensues, during which, should he fall down or return without her, the match is declared to be " off," and the unhappy youth meets with nothing but jeers from the whole party. But, if the tribe should happen to live on the shores of a lake, the damsel is given a canoe and a paddle, and allowed a start of some distance. The lover then goes off in pursuit, and he must overtake her, or give up all claim to her hand. The girl, it need hardly be remarked, usually knows her own mind, and becomes a willing captive. Sometimes there is no stream or lake conveniently near ; in that case a circle is formed, the damsel is stripped of all but a waistband, and given a start of half the circle. She must run three times round without being caught, or else become the man's wife.

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