Prior to wedding celebrations, Cambodian men and women normally have an engagement which can be held on any lucky day suggested by fortunetellers. On the other hand, their weddings can only be celebrated during dry season, from November to March, and in the months that have 30 days. On special occasions like Khmer New Year, Pchum Ben festival, Water festival, Birthdays of either Brides or Grooms, etc., the celebrations cannot be hosted at all.
Generally, Khmer weddings lasted for three days and nights in an ancient time since number 3 was associated with the three jewels of Buddhism, known as the Buddha, the Sangha and the Dhamma. Throughout their special days, the brides and grooms were dressed up in bright and colorful silk costumes like royalty, and their wedding celebrations were comprised of diverse traditional ceremonies, songs, food, and more.
On the first day of the wedding, three crucial ceremonies, namely Dowry Offering, Monk Blessing, and Honoring Parents, were celebrated. In the early morning, the groom’s family traveled to the bride’s house to give her parents the dowry as money and gifts. The monks then came to bless them with fragrant lotus water. During the blessing period, everyone remained quiet, put their both hands together and bowed to the monks. Afterward, the bride and groom honored each other’s parents and immensely thanked them for bringing them up till they reached marriage ages by holding umbrellas over them.
On the next day, many other ceremonies, including Groom’s Professional Parade, Honoring the Ancestors, Hair-Cutting (Cleansing) Ceremony, Passing of Blessings and Knot-Tying Ceremony, were celebrated in chronological orders. First and foremost, the groom, accompanied by guests holding trays of fruit and presents, paraded to the bride’s house to offer her the gifts. During his arrival at the gate, the bride went out to welcome him and receive gifts from him, while all the trays, both silver and gold, would be placed on the floor inside the house. Simultaneously there was a young lady dancing and singing at the gate to show the wealth of the groom’s family.
Afterward, the bride and groom started to honor their ancestors by preparing food as well as tea and bowing their heads in front of altar ancestors inside the house, while a person invited ancestors to come to bless them with happiness, prosperity, success, and so on. Then they went outside to celebrate Hair-Cutting Ceremony. The bride and groom sat in chairs next to each other, while two Cambodian singers and elders who join their wedding pretended to cut their hair and even sprayed the perfume over them. This ceremony, based upon the traditional belief, can help clean all of their previous sins and be ready to begin the new chapter of their lives as a couple.
Next they went into the house to celebrate the other two ceremonies, denoted as Passing of Blessings and Knot-Tying Ceremony. They both knelt inside the circle made up by married couples who would pass three candles around them seven times. This ceremony was believed to bring them luck and happiness from those couples. When it was done, family members and guests would tie red strings around the newlyweds’ wrists as this, relying on the traditional belief, could provide them with good lives. Additionally, it even made their love affair last long. To end the celebration within the second day, white seeds taken from palm tree pods, called Pka Sla in Khmer language, were thrown over the bride and groom as a blessing.
On the third day, all the honor guests attending the celebration would get wedding gifts from the newlyweds and be served with a sumptuous dinner. At around 8 pm, the bride changed her clothes, from colorful Khmer traditional costume to a long white dress, while the groom would be attired into a black suit. They then embraced each other’s hands tightly and walked straight on the red rug placed from the entrance to the stage with guests standing along both sides to throw jasmines as blessing over them. And when they reached the stage, they thanked their parents for making their big day happen and even all the guests joining their wedding. Afterward, they walked down the stage, cut the wedding cake and gleefully danced together, followed by their honor guests.
All in all, Khmer traditional wedding is such a convivial event for each and every individual, in particular the brides and grooms, involving in it. Yet owing to the assumption that spending three-day periods to host a wedding event is such a waste of time plus resources, the celebrations these days are shortened into just one day and a half, while traditional ceremonies, including Groom’s Professional Parade, Honoring the Ancestors, Hair-Cutting Ceremony, Passing of Blessings, Knot-Tying Ceremony, Dinner Reception, etc., are still kept the same as the weddings in the previous generation. To make every wedding nowadays meaningful and unforgettable, extra activities are even included.