As wet season starts to wane, the sight of wedding marquees being flung up across the country begins as wedding season gets into full swing.
Traditional weddings in Cambodia tend to be lavish affairs that can span anything from three days to a week, take in numerous outfit changes hundreds – if not thousands – of guests and a feast of food and entertainment.
The colourful festivities are often steeped in tradition, as friends, family and members of the community come together to celebrate this joyous occasion.
This month, we look at some of the most common wedding practises that take place across the Kingdom when Cambodians tie the knot.
Here are some of the traditional ceremonies that are carried out and the meaning behind them.
This is a ceremony that traditionally takes place on the first day of the wedding and sees monks – usually between three and seven – carry out blessing that have been selected for the couple. This is believed to bring good luck for their future together as well as informing deceased ancestors of their union.
Bang Chhat Madaiy – Honoring of the Parents
With family lying at the heart of Khmer culture, this part of the wedding – Honouring of the Parents – sees a traditional song performed to serve as a reminder to the bride of the difficulties and sacrifice of raising a child. During this ceremony, the bride holds an umbrella above her mother to suggest the reversal of the protective role of her parents.
Hai Goan Gomloh
This is the Groom’s Processional and takes place at the start of the day, with the bride waiting at her parents’ house as her husband-to-be brings a procession of his family and friends. Led by musicians and singers, the procession visits the bride’s house bringing with them gifts, usually fruits.
This cleansing ceremony is carried out before the bride and groom are officially married. The elaborate procedure involved singers, who represent visiting devada – deities who watch over the mortal realms – and dance around the couple.
The songs they sing represent their enchantment with the beauty of the new couple, and the words cleanse and purify the bride and groom to bring them future prosperity in the form of good fortune, beauty and grace.
An essential part of this ceremony is hair cutting. The devada will cut the couple’s hair as well as shave the groom. This represents the throwing away of any misfortune.
This ceremony of Passing of Blessings asks currently married couples to gather in a circle around the bride and groom.
Three candles are lit and handed around the circle, with the right hand passed over the candle in a sweeping motion towards the couple. This represents sending a silent blessing to them for their future together. The candle is passed around clockwise
Known as the Knot Tying Ceremony, here close family and friends are invited to tie ribbons around the bride and groom’s wrists. This is seen a form of blessing. The married couple are required to wear these for three days.
Modern weddings are still steeped in tradition and remain as vibrant and lavish as their traditional sisters. Many Cambodian weddings today are much shorter – some one day. They also still take in a series of intricate and meaningful ceremonies, such as blessings from monks, the hair cutting ceremony, the arrival of the groom and the knot tying.
So as wedding season gets underway, prepare to see marquees decked in flowers cropping up in streets throughout the country, loud music and dancing to ring in the air and the scent of dishes of delicious food to flow as streams of happy friends and family celebrate the unity of special couples across Cambodia.