Cambodian Wedding Traditions
Cambodian culture and traditions have a rich history, but Cambodian wedding traditions are probably the most fascinating of them all. The wedding rituals, the extra care given for the moments before and after their wedding, and the special rules followed give a unique and special charm to Cambodian weddings.
The Decision of Marriage
Traditionally, young Cambodian men marry at around the age 20 to 25 while women can get married when they reach the age 17 to 22. Tradition dictates that the parents are the ones to decide or choose the future spouse of their children.
However, as the result of globalization, most young Cambodians now choose to marry on their own will, with conservative traditional customs limited only to the countryside with more conservative populations.
The Wedding Program
Traditional and contemporary Cambodian weddings differ in many ways. Initially, weddings in Cambodia lasted for 3 day and nights. Right now, most of these only last for a day or two, similar to the Western weddings. But none the less, newlyweds still show respect to a special program up to this day and age.
This program has been inspired by the legend of marriage of Khmer Prince Preah Thong and the Naga Princess Neang Neak. You can read about the legend here
Cambodian wedding traditions is comprised of the following 7 steps.
- Hai Goan Gomlom – Cambodian weddings begin with the groom and his family traveling to meet the bride's family, bearing gifts for dowry. Guests are handed matching gold trays of fruits and gifts as they arrive so they can join in the procession, symbolic of his journey to the bride’s home. The trays will be arranged on the table. Family members and friends are introduced, and wedding rings will be exchanged.
- Sien Doan Taa- Tea is being served for honoring the ancestors. It is a way for them to honor those who have passed before them and to invite their spirit to celebrate. It is a time to remember those near and dear to their hearts.
- Soat Mun – The monks bless the groom and bride with special blessings specifically chose for the couple..
- Bang Chhat Madaiy – The groom and the bride honor the parents for without them they would have never entered the world in the first place. An umbrella is held over the mother to symbolize a reversal in roles of the protective of parents.
- Gaat Sah – A cleansing ceremony symbolizes a fresh start. It also implies a symbolic haircut even if this step employed real hair cut traditionally. To prepare the bride and groom for their life as a married couple, their hair is symbolically cut, representing a fresh start to their new relationship together as husband and wife. Two performers, representing deities, will be singing and dancing around the couple. The officiant performs the first symbolic haircut and wishes the couple happiness, prosperity, and longevity. The bride and groom's parents and relatives then take turns to symbolically cut the bride and groom's hair and give them blessings and well-wishes.
- Sompeas Ptem – This is a special ceremony that symbolizes the new couple’s binding together, which is known as knot tying. During this ceremony, the bride and groom will sit holding a gold sword in between their clasped hands. The officiants, family members and friends will tie the bride and groom's left and right wrists with red blessing strings, as they wish the new couple health, happiness, and prosperity. The red strings are symbolic of two people coming together and their everlasting love. The ceremony concludes with a shower of palm flowers (pka sla) thrown over the new couple. At the end of the knot tying ceremony, the couple will walk clockwise. The groom brandishes his sword in his left hand in protection of his new bride and holds the sbay (part of the Bride’s dress) in his right hand.
- Bongvul Pbopul – The groom and the bride are blessed by the married couples that are present at the ceremony. The bride and groom will sit in the middle of a circle surrounded by married couples. Three lit candles are passed clockwise around the circle, as the sacred flame is rotated seven times around the new couple. Family members who receive the candle motion their hands over the flame to guide the smoke of the sacred flame over the bride and groom. The smoke of the sacred flame will protect them from all evils. This represents the passing of blessings to the newlyweds.
Khmer Wedding Highlights
Although several weddings in Cambodia have adopted Western style lately, there are still parts of ceremony, which persist in some cases.
Below are some of the instances:
The use of the palm flowers as a way to bless young couples and token of good will.
There are 4 essential songs that are sung during ceremony and these include Bay Khon Chang Dai, Bangvel Po Pil, Kang Saeuy, and Phay Cheay that are still in fashion.
Banquet consists of dance, lots of food, and music. The dishes are very complicated, yet they tend to be traditional in type and form. The dishes range from fish, meat, fruits, vegetables, and sweets hold a great place in ensemble.
Colors are crucial, yet color code isn’t as important as you’d expect. Generally, the Cambodians use the colors to designate well being and wealth rather than assigning some special meanings to them.
The newlyweds are supposed to live with the parents of the wife where son-in-law should help and assist his wife’s father.
Below are links to Cambodian Weddings we have recently photographed:
Chicago Cambodian Wedding | Lalin and James
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