Hmong Wedding Celebration: Nalie and Nate

Oct 29 2009

I had the great privilege of attending Nate and Nalie’s Hmong wedding celebration recently… a celebration filled with food, family and ancient traditions. What a treat this wedding was.  Read on to learn a bit about Hmong culture and how this multi-cultural couple overcame their challenges.


Nalie Nalie grew up in a large traditional Hmong family here in Minneapolis with lots of extended family members while Nate is a white guy from South Dakota, an only child who grew up in a small town.

Bride and Groom in Hmong culture A Hmong bride and groom are not the centers of attention like they are in western weddings. Nalie says… “Weddings for Hmong people are really about the families meeting and less about the bride and groom. It focuses on each side of the family learning about each other and supporting the couple. In our culture, family is so important! Each side wants to know that their child is joining a good family that will treat them well. “

Negotiations for Nalie’s “dowry” began the night before the wedding celebration with negotiators representing both sides. There was much feasting and toasting during this process. Negotiations lasted until midnight. 

The Wedding Celebration Nalie’s parents’ house is full of family… while the women prepare the feast for the guests, the men set the table. Nate’s immediate family arrives and meets Nalie’s side for the first time. {I was so impressed with the hospitality of Nalie’s family. They were wonderful!}

The “Drinking Celebration” “Bowing” “Blessings” After the meal is cleared, Nalie and her bridesmaid “green lady” leave to don formal wedding clothes while the men get to know one another through the “drinking celebration.” Over the course of about 2-3 hours, many blessings and bowing are bestowed.

Nalie’s Reflections It was very special to have both our friends and family together celebrating. For some it was something new and completely different from what they are used to. Yet everyone got along so well and really enjoyed all of it: the food, the people, the liquor.

The Biggest Challenge was that we didn’t know the traditions very well. I knew some things but there was a lot I was not aware of too. We were trying to find people who did know and could help Nate. It was difficult because the people we knew, were all my family; we couldn’t ask them as they were already helping me and my family. I personally found it nerve- racking not to have a hand in the planning. You really put the whole ceremony in the hands of a trusted family member. Everything came together perfectly, but as the ceremony got closer, I was pretty nervous not knowing if everything was arranged or not!

My parents were willing to help us figure out who to ask and trust to help us put everything together. It turned out to be a special experience for Nate.  The family that ended up helping and representing him really adopted him, beyond just the wedding. They consider him as part of the family now!

Holding on to Family and Culture It made my parents happy for us to go through the Hmong ceremony. They really felt that we carried on the family tradition. It is such a big fear for my parents that coming to America, that their kids will lose their traditions, language and culture. It meant a lot to them~ that even though I am marrying outside of the Hmong people, we still carry on our traditions. It was also a great experience for Nate to learn about the Hmong culture. He’s always looking for opportunities to learn more about my family traditions, language and culture.

The Green Lady is the bridesmaid and is supposed to follow me {the bride} around all day to make sure my family doesn’t try to change my mind or that I don’t talk to past boyfriends… The umbrella is there the whole time.  At the end they give it to Nate and I. It’s tied closed. But on the third day after we are married, we can untie it. We place the umbrella in our bedroom, and it is to shield us from any harm or outside danger that may come to our marriage. The basket is more of a tradition. In the old days, people would live in different villages. So when the bride leaves to travel to the groom’s house, her family would pack food for her and some other items (salt, oil, etc). We are supposed to stop once during the journey from the bride’s house to the groom’s house and eat this dinner that is packed in the basket.}

Congratulations Nate and Nalie! Thank you for sharing your Wedding Celebration and even though a multi-cultural wedding clearly has its challenges, you have proven it can be done… and done well! {By the way…Nate and Nalie will also be having a church wedding in June… more blog posts about that to come.}

Comment? Questions? We’re listening!


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4 thoughts on “Hmong Wedding Celebration: Nalie and Nate

  1. It’s interesting to see that they had a Hmong family do the negotiations for Nate. I will have to remember this when my Hmong fiance and I have our Hmong wedding next year.

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