In Laos, Lao law doesn't recognise an engagement but it's still part of Lao tradition and couples are allowed to get engaged.
If a couple wish to get engaged, generally they will have their friends, family and the master of the ceremony called "Mor Phone" in attendance at a ritual ceremony call "Baci" or more commonly known as "Soo Kuan" to witness their love and commitment to each other, but their engagement is not officially registered or approved by Lao authorities.
Basically, what this means is that although the couple are engaged, it is still illegal for them to live together in Laos.
If an engaged couple are found living together in a home or even spending one night together in a hotel room, they will be fined or even arrested in some cases. This is quite ridiculous but unfortunately that's the way the law goes in Laos and couples are only allowed to stay together if they are officially married. That's the reason why many young Lao couples don't bother getting engaged and they just go ahead with the wedding.
An engagement in Laos can be a very important purpose, especially for foreigners who wish to marry a Lao woman living in Laos.
If a man is engaged to a Lao woman and she becomes his fiancee, it means that she can't "play around" with other guys. When her fiance returns back home to his residential country to work on the marriage and immigration paperwork and the Lao woman (his fiancee) is seen in Laos cheating on him or if she decides to break up the relationship then she will be fined and her fiance will be the recipient of that fine.
The fine can be made in cash or gold and it is usually "triple" the cost of the gold that her fiance gave to her parents during the engagement ceremony. For instance, if the guy gave her parents 3 baht gold valued at $900 US as a dowry, then his bad fiancee or family must give him 9 baht gold or $2,700 US.
On the other hand, if the guy is the culprit and it was his decision to end the relationship then all he looses is that 3 baht gold valued at $900 US which he already gave to her parents and he won't be fined with anything else. He and his ex-girlfriend can just go their separate ways.
Sometimes getting your money back from your cheating ex-girlfriend is not as easy as it seems. Lao authorities won't force her to pay the foreigner because they don't recognise engagements in Laos, also whenever there are problems they always favour Lao nationals over foreign citizens. You can't really do anything about it unless relatives from both sides can get together for a talk
and your ex-girlfriend's relatives accept that she committed the wrongdoing and her parents may agree to pay you.
A Lao engagement ceremony is very similar to a Lao wedding ceremony. The engagement is basically a dress rehearsal because
there's a "soo kuan" in an engagement ceremony just like a "soo kuan" is carried out in the wedding ceremony. The real difference is that the wedding ceremony will have the groom and his relatives marching to the bride's place and a wedding is usually bigger with more people in attendance.
An engagement is not really important and not compulsory in Lao culture. If you have alot of money then by all means do it, or you can just do a small and simple ceremony if you are on a tight budget, but I don't really recommend doing it and it's better to just plan for the wedding.