WEDDING NEGOTIATIONS AND CEREMONIES
The Hmong brought with them certain habits in marriage, such as marrying again with families married before, that are clearly surviving in the first generation of resettled Hmong. Indeed, the decay of other unifying activities throws a spotlight on patrilineal and patrilateral structure and marriage alliance as central to Hmong identity, and informants all identify marrying in the Hmong way as central to Hmong identity.
Weddings are basically the same across clan lines, since marriage links clans together. The emphasis is on continuity and on the participation of the extended family. Resettlement has produced numerous immediate changes in how courting and subsequent ceremonies such as marriage negotiations are conducted, but to my Hmong friends such surface changes, for instance in the location of courtship or the menu of the wedding dinner, do not strike at the heart of the meanings attached to courtship or marriage. Recreating a particular set of social relations identified by the Hmong as specifically Hmong is still a major condition of courtship and the goal of ritualized or formulaic marriage negotiations. Anomalous or altered performances are incorporated into "the Hmong way" (txoj kev hmoob).
Wedding negotiations for catch-hand marriages follow the elopement by several days, and for arranged marriage they follow the parental agreement, but sometimes by a considerable gap of time. Negotiations precede the final parties and the transfer of the bride to the groom's family and constitute making the contract of marriage. Negotiating marriage is a major event of interfamily relations. Lee ( 1981: 45) mentions negotiations that lasted one or two days in northern Thailand, while my male informants nostalgically recalled four or five day long events in Laos. Brides in Laos had only a small part in the negotiations for their own weddings, which, being concerned with contracts, were the province of men. Few of my subjects could give any specifics about their own wedding negotiation in Laos, and evidently