With all this recent talk about same-sex marriage, I thought I’d go old-school and write about different-sex… er, “traditional” marriage. You know, the kind with a man and a woman.
Last Saturday Tawn and I attended the wedding of his university friend Patrapa and her groom Suriyon. To avoid any confusion here in a Saturday Night Live skit sort of way, the bride is “Pat” and the groom is “Yon”.
Pat studied her postgraduate degree in the US, just like Tawn. In fact, she came and visited us in San Francisco but I was out of town on business.
Unlike every other Thai wedding we’ve been to, this was a Catholic wedding. For once, I felt more familiar with the ceremony than 95% of the guests. Quite a turn of events!
We started with the church service at 1:00 at the beautiful Assumption Cathedral, located on the same soi as the Oriental Hotel, around the corner from the old French embassy, in the Bangrak district. This was the first part of the city to have a paved road – Thanon Charoen Khrung (“New Road”) – and during the early 1900’s was the European quarter.
The cathedral is beautiful, done in clean lines with a brick facade. The interior is every bit as colorful as the Grand Palace but instead of Buddhist and Brahman mosaics there are paintings of Christ, Mary, and the saints.
There is no air conditioning but all the side windows are open-air and there was an army of fans agitating the heat. With the natural rainy season breeze, it was actually very pleasant.
Since it was an afternoon wedding, Tawn wore white and a hat. Sharp, huh?
When we arrived at the church, we ran into many friends including one of Pat’s bridesmaids, whose daughter was a flower girl. Doesn’t she look look just like her mother?
The service was, interestingly enough, conducted in English. As near as I can tell, this is the lingua franca of this church. Some instructions (the Catholic calisthenics – stand, sit, kneel, stand, kneel, sit, stand, sit again…) were given in Thai along with some explanation such as the ritual of holy communion.
Other than that, though, I was in much better shape, thanks to my Jesuit education, than most of my fellow attendees. Listening to the responses of the participants, it is safe to say that very few of them are Catholic.
I was thinking about the language issue and all of the Catholic weddings I’ve attended in the past twelve years or so have been in English plus another language: Ryan and Sabrina had a Cantonese-speaking priest and Liliana and Earl had a trilingual service (Tagalog, Spanish and English), for example.
Proof of the Catholic Church’s ability to insinuate itself into cultures around the world, I suppose.
Based on the number of photographers and videographers in the picture above, you might think this wedding was a big deal. And you would be correct. It seems that Pat’s father is a bit of a puu yai – “big person” – and was, among other things, a high ranking official in the finance ministry. In fact, that evening, the host of the reception was His Majesty the King’s personal secretary, who handles all of his charitable activities.
Chalk another one up for our “hi-so” social life. Ha ha…
As the bride and groom walked down the aisle and out the church, everyone showered them with rose petals as the press corps snapped pictures and shot footage.
That evening, we returned to Thanon Charoen Khrung for the reception, held in the ballroom of the venerable Oriental Hotel. On the way, we picked up another university friend, Fluck, who lives with his partner Bobby a few blocks away from us.
Jumping out of the car, who did we run into in front of the hotel? Otto and Han, fresh in from Singapore, meeting with several other friends. They were a bit surprised as were we! Thankfully, I was able to meet up with them a few days later.
The reception was amazing. More than a thousand guests with a live jazz band including a wonderful female vocalist who sang all the standards. Later on, the emcee joined in the singing, with his beautiful baritone voice.
Right: Me and Tawn at the evening reception. Blurry picture courtesy of Ko. Time to get her a new camera, Santa.
The spread of food was bottomless: tables set around the room’s perimeter offered everything from made-to-order Thai food to western roasts to soups, Japanese tempura and sushi, and Chinese dim sum. The center of the room was dotted with tables overflowing with appetizers and desserts. Waiters circulated like ferries on the Chao Phraya River, gracefully weaving around the guests, picking up your empty plates and glasses and discreetly handing you new ones.
While there we ran into six or seven other university classmates, several of whom I’ve met before. They are all very nice people, many of them with adorable young children in tow.
About ten o’clock we left the reception and headed to Silom Road to meet up with a group of friends who were celebrating one friend’s impending departure. After drinks, we returned to the Oriental to meet in the Bamboo Bar with a professional colleague of Tawn’s, an expat American who after twelve years in Japan came to Thailand to manage a retail group that has the rights to the Barbara Barry, Martha Stewart Living and Thomasville brands. There’s an interesting story I could share about our relationship with the Martha Stewart store, but I won’t.
This was the most social of evenings we’ve had in a long time. By the time we pulled into home at 1:00, we were exhausted.