What do you consider to be a big wedding?
Well, in Myanmar, at least for those living in villages outside of the cities, a traditional wedding will typically include an average of 1,500 people… A “large” wedding can attract upwards of 3,000.
Can you imagine inviting 1,500 of your closest family members, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances to celebrate with you for a day? Even more baffling, can you imagine trying to feed this many people!?
Our Burmese Wedding Story
While trekking through rural villages in Central Myanmar we were able to learn about this tradition first hand. While passing through a village, on the first day of our trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, we were lured to a monastery that was emanating mouth-watering smells.
Unsure of where exactly these delicious smells were coming from, our guide shared that a group of men was making preparations for a wedding. He told us about the incredible amount of work that goes into preparing for a wedding. A group of at least ten men will spend several days butchering meat and prepping food for the big day. Which came as no surprise when we learned that they have to at least 1,500 mouths to feed!
The following day we passed through another village and our guide became very excited when he spotted a large gathering up ahead. “There’s a wedding! I’m hungry, let’s go!” he said to us as he visibly hopped up and down with excitement. Unsure of the customs or expectations for attendance, we followed him apprehensively as we weaved through the crowd and were handled bushels of flowers by young children whose faces sported decorative Thanaka designs.
As soon as we arrived, our guide showed us how to make a communal donation (one of the ways the family offsets the costs of such high attendance). We were then quickly ushered into a large tented area and had a feast laid before us.
The men serving would laugh as they presented exotic spicy dishes and were impressed when we proceeded to finish bowl after bowl of the spiciest of the foods. As we sat, hundreds of people came and went from the feast. Typically, a wedding will last from morning until well into the night with guests arriving astray pleased to eat together and honor the bride and groom.
We were honored (and our tummies quite pleased), that we were able to attend such a grand ceremony. The most shocking part of all was watching the army of men whose job it was to prepare the food all day long and ensure that everyone’s plates were always full.
Behind the dining area, large fires were kept billowing to heat the massive pots of curries, slabs of pork, and cauldrons of tea that were constantly being replenished to feed the guests. And one of our favorites, the mortar, and pestle so large they must have weighed a ton, constantly crushing fresh chilies to give each dish the perfect dose of spice.
Experiences like these are not hard to come by when traveling, but you never know when they will arise. One of our favorite aspects of traveling is learning about the cultures of the places we visit and stumbling into surprising experiences like a Burmese wedding.
The trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake is a cultural experience that we cannot recommend enough to anyone interested in visiting Myanmar. For anyone that wants more information please check out our friends at EverSmile Trekking or shoot us a message, we would love to chat 🙂
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