Hmong marriage is very different from American marriage, because in our culture we get to choose who to marry. But in Hmong culture, their elders or someone in their clan arrange the marriage.
It isn't just two people getting married; it isn't just two people. It's two families, two villages, and two clans.
Yia Thao also talked about what you need at a wedding:
Two marriage negotiators from bride's side
Two marriage negotiators from groom's side
Two parents from each side
Two brothers, by religion
After that, the bride and groom negotiate about the dowry, and how to treat each other with respect. Both sides give money, but the son's parents give money to the bride's parents and it is kind of like buying her. They gave silver coins in Laos, but here they just give money.
You can't marry your own clan; that's the law. If you marry a man you become [one of his] clan. In the regular weddings the man steals the brides to the man's house. When they get to the man's house, the parents have to hold a chicken and wave it around the man and bride, and what I think that means is that the bride is becoming that clan or a welcome.
You need a mej koob to get married. A mej koob is a person who helps out with the marriage to make the bride a new life and to make her part of her new family.
There are two different kinds of ways to meet to be married:
1. The bride and the groom meet at the Hmong New Year at the ball toss.
2. The marriage for the bride and groom would be a request by the relatives of the groom's family, family elders, and sometimes a request of the bride's family.
In Hmong conflict resolution, there is no appeals system. If the family elders make a decision, it's final. They do not appeal it to the next level of community elder. If the family elders do not make a decision, but the clan community elder does, the ruling is final and the case does not go to court.
If the girl doesn't want to get divorced and the guy does, then the guy would have to pay money for the girl to go home, and go live with her family again.
Hmong people's clans are Xiong, Thao, Vang, Yang, Lao, Lee, Cha, Moua, etc. If a woman and a man are going to divorce in Hmong they need to go to the elders, parents or family, or relatives come and help you. In Hmong, you don't go to courts to get a divorce—only for Hmong Christians—but Hmong go to the people they already know. The judge is like a stranger to you, and your people are not a stranger to you, and I think that's why some Hmong people don't want to go to church and don't know the language.
In the Hmong culture the people who solve conflicts are the elders. Not every old Hmong can be an elder. They have to be elected or chosen. In every clan there are about three to four elders.
If a Hmong person gets in trouble or has a problem with somebody else, they go to the clan elder. If the clan elder thinks the problem is important enough, the person goes to the community elder. Then the community elder lets them go to court, or makes them go to court.
A question I had is if you are a Hmong married lady, and you had a problem, and you were going to your elders, would you go to your new elders (your husband's) or your original clan elders?