Lampang, Thailand – Arguably one of the country’s more exotic wedding ceremonies, and definitely one of the few to involve a 10-foot tall mammal, takes place in this northern Thailand city.
The elephant has been a staple in the workforce in Thailand for many years and holds a revered place in Thai society because of their importance to monarchs and religion.
Every Valentine’s Day, this beast of burden gets a break from the hard life to help marry adventuresome couples.
Toast to your new life together with your loved one on the back of one of these gentle giants as the two of you and your elephant walk down city streets, parading to where the wedding ceremony will take place.
At the National Elephant Institute (www.thailandelephant.org), brides and grooms have been partaking in the phi-thi taeng-ngan baon lang chang, also known as an elephant-back wedding ceremony, for many years now.
Located along the Lampang-Chiang Mai Highway, the NEI is responsible for providing care and services to sick or injured elephants, training elephant keepers and overall working to protect and conserve Thai elephants.
On Valentine’s Day, couples can don Lanna wedding attire and climb aboard these friendly pachyderms to marry for the first time, renew vows or fall back in love while participating in the ceremony of a lifetime.
The ceremony begins with the suu khaw, the ceremonial visit to the bride’s parents to ask for their daughter’s hand. The second stage of the ceremony involves a procession to a place selected for the wedding itself, where the Northern Thai ritual of “wrist-binding” – a literal tying of the knot ceremony – will take place.
Elephant-themed weddings and weddings that allow you to add an elephant ride into the ceremony for an additional fee are common in Thailand.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (www.tatnews.org) offers special elephant-back Lanna wedding packages for February 12th through the 14th. Packages include traditional Lanna-style welcome dances and cultural performances, a certificate and marriage license and the suu khaw ceremony – the ceremonial first visit to the bride’s parents to ask for her hand in marriage.
At the Anantara Resort Golden Triangle located in Chiang Rai, the Regal Elephant Wedding package will let you and a loved one ride atop an elephant in style. The 122,000 THB includes a monk’s ceremony, candlelight dinner and complimentary room for two nights.
The NEI doesn’t stop at weddings but has a number of other eco-activities, including an elephant show, elephant trekking, a veterinary training program and an elephant rider training course.