Thai couples mark Valentine's Day with elephant-back and cliff-side weddings

Thai couples marked Valentine's Day with weddings on elephant back and hanging off cliffs, while authorities warned young singles not to let the celebration of love lead them too far down the path of temptation.

Twenty-eight couples 22 of them including a foreign partner celebrated their love by getting married on the backs of elephants in Surin province in northeastern Thailand, reported the state National News Bureau.

The event, held at the Elephant Study Center, was billed as a way of securing good luck for the newlyweds. Elephants, virtually the country's national mascot, signify long and healthy lives.

Seven couples in Prachinburi province, east of Bangkok, celebrated tying the knot by rappelling off a jagged cliff amid cheers and screams from the family members and friends who watched from below, said the Web site of the newspaper The Nation.

For the young and unmarried, the country's Culture Ministry over the weekend issued what it called the "10 Commandments of Love" to encourage teens not to engage in sexual activities while under Cupid's spell.

Bangkok police were under instructions to crack down on "inappropriate" behavior by the youths, including public displays of affection. By day they patrolled "high-risk areas" such as public parks, shopping malls and restaurants, and after the sun went down, turned their attentions to nightclubs, bars and so-called love motels, which rent small rooms for short periods of time, said Police Lt. Vorawat Amornviwat of the Metropolitan Police Bureau.

There was no need for chaperones for the 26 romantic couples who took part in an outdoor group wedding ceremony near a crowded central business district of Bangkok. Five of the grooms were foreigners who came from England, Canada, New Zealand and the United States.

The brides, in pink traditional Thai costumes, were taken in bicycle carriages decorated with orchids and roses to a park where they waited for the grooms to arrive. The grooms came on foot, accompanied by a band of wind, string and percussion instruments, singing and dancing along with their families.

"It is a beautiful ceremony that we want to help preserve in an age where everything seems to become more and more Westernized," said Kanchanok Intarachom, one of the event's organizers, reports AP.

As the grooms' parade arrived, pairs of children and young relatives blocked their way with silk ropes and gold threads symbolizing a barrier, an action that is part of the wedding tradition. To pass through, a "toll" of cash or small souvenir had to be paid.

Nine Buddhist monks blessed the newlyweds, who gave them alms. The ceremony ended with elders blessing the couples with holy water.

"All we needed to do was bring the ring and show up. Thai ceremonies are complicated to organize so this is perfect for us," said Nitinand Hiranchai, one of the brides.

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