Being raised in a Hmong family has its own traditions and probably not all too different from other cultures. A mom raises her daughter to care for siblings, cook, and clean hoping one day she will be a good wife and eventually, hopefully, a mom. She will raise her until it’s time to leave the family. The goal, to one day, have her be a Hmong Bride. The Bride will have memorable moments she won’t ever forget.
She leaves her family and her clan by marrying into another. She will take his name and belong to a new clan. Her spirits will join and become one with the new family but will remain attached as her own too.
The marriage process in the Hmong culture has changed quite a bit over the years. Change, as in the length of time, however, cultural rituals are still covered. What used to start on a Friday and take all weekend can now be done in one day.
The moment to becoming a bride in Hmong weddings
When a man and woman agree to marry, the arrangement of a date is planned accordingly to each family’s agreement. The wife will already have been with her husband for a few days and arrive at her own wedding with the groom’s family. The main portion of the wedding takes place at the home of the wife’s family. They arrive in proper custom Hmong clothes; her clothes will not be of her own but of what the Groom’s family has given her. There at the arrival of the Bride’s home, the words and rituals will begin.
As the conversation takes place amongst the men of the family, the wife can hang out with her family. She can work alongside in the kitchen to help prep food. She can serve the men at the table who are talking about terms on connecting of two families. She will have a few last goodbyes to her relatives and listen to lectures upon lectures on how she is a grown woman now.
There are 3 important moments at the wife’s house that must take place. As uncomfortable as one may be, it happens at all Hmong weddings. These moments are the most memorable.
1. Giving Up Memories (Photos)
In Hmong weddings, there will be a time when an Uncle pulls you off to the side and tell you to throw away any old boyfriend’s photo away. Not just boyfriends (old flings) but men in general. That means if you have pictures of “just friends” pictures of a man, that should be tossed away too. This is done so that your husband will not get upset or show jealousy. You are to leave any men you’ve ever known.
Make sure you do this because if one day, a photo just so happens to show up, his family can go back to yours and say many things about you that will be hurtful. That’s a whole other story!
2. Mom of the Bride Talk
Oh, the most important and memorable moment that every Hmong bride remembers of her wedding. Not only the most memorable, but most emotional. Prior to you arriving at the table to join your husband, your mom dresses you in the final ceremonial Hmong outfit. While she does this, she is saying goodbye as you leave her. She lectures you and tells you how much you will now have to change your life.
Mostly, she tells you to be a good “nyab” (daughter-in-law) to your new parents. Along the entire lecture, mom and bride are crying as they know they will part ways soon. Mom knows that her own daughter will now make her husband’s family priority over her own and she will only receive visits at special occasions and announcements. Even though this is the feeling and thought that goes with the ritual “talk” nowadays, brides can visit her family as much as she wants. It’s more accepting and only makes sense if they all are living in the same town.
3. Final Send-off
Yes, more tears during the final send-off at Hmong Weddings. This is where the ceremony ends at the bride’s home and the husband and his wedding party will leave to continue ceremonies at his home. This probably is more troubling for the groom than the bride. However, it’s another time to say goodbye. As the aunties and grandma’s hang on to your mom while she weeps as you leave.
Troubling for the groom because this where the men from the bride’s side will do what they can to get to the groom by way of drinks (alcohol). While the entire day played out with drinking to pay homage and respect to the wife’s family, the groom and his best man have had plenty by now but from elders.
For the final send-off, anyone goes. You get the sisters, cousins, brothers, and all who wasn’t at the table give the groom a final cheer before he takes one of their own off with him.
Groom, make sure to hold onto your Bride’s hand. If you get into the car to leave without the bride, you will be scolded.
Bride, take care of your groom. If you know he’s had too much to drink speak up and tell your relatives “no”. (just to specify that this drink off at the end is different from family to family)
Thank you, T’xer Zhon Kha Photography for allowing me to share this modern day Hmong wedding.
The three most memorable moments of a Hmong Bride; asking her for memories, the mom talk, and the final send-off. I don’t know if it’s upbringing or just culture in general but the final send-off is the hardest on both parties, the bride and her family. She knows that she will no longer be a part of the family that she grew up with, she will have consciously put her husband’s family first. She will now have a new home.
The expectations of you being a daughter will now be the expectations of a “Nyab” and all eyes will be watching you. You are careful in your words, the way you present yourself, and always will second guess your actions as his family was raised differently.
You may have been close to all your siblings while you never may even see his. You live the moment, learn to love but best of all share the laughter that comes your way. You now have achieved a new level of respect for being a wife, to another clan.