Traditional Cambodian weddings last three days and three nights. The number three is significant because it is associated with the three jewels of Buddhism. Some modern day couples will condense the ceremonies into one day. Either way it is an intricate affair with multiple ceremonies and songs. These are the key elements of traditional Khmer weddings.
PRESENTATION OF DOWRY
Cambodian weddings begin with the groom and his family going to bride’s home bearing gifts to the bride’s family as dowry. This is where family and friends are introduced, and wedding rings exchanged. Three traditional songs are sung during the presentation of dowry: Dowries are not very common these days so this part of the day is more symbolic of what used to be the dowry exchange.
Neay Pream He Kaun Kamlas (Arrival of the Groom) A song telling the story of the groom and his family’s journey to the bride’s house bearing gifts (meats, fruits, pastries, drinks and desserts).
Chambak Rouy (Presenting the Dowry)
Pak Paeuk Pisa Sla (Inviting the Elders to Chew Betel Nut) Presentation of the betel nut to the bride and groom’s elders. In turn, parents of both the bride and groom ask for blessings and well-wishes for their children.
A tradition practiced by Cambodians of Chinese descent in which the bride and groom offer tea to the spirits of their ancestors. They give tea to their elder relatives offering respect. The elders respond with words of wisdom and advice for the young couple.
HAIR CUTTING CEREMONY
During the hair cutting ceremony the bride and groom's hair is symbolically cut. (In the old days the hair was really cut). The master of the ceremony performs the first symbolic hair cut and wishes the couple happiness, prosperity and longevity. Followed by the couples parents, relatives and friends. They symbolically cut the bride and grooms hair and give them blessings and well wishes. This ritual represents a fresh start to their new relationship and prepares the bride and groom for their life as a married couple.
Two songs accompany this ceremony:
Sarika Keiv Vong (The Beautiful Cardinal Bird)
Trapeang Peiy (The Village Pond) T
This is the final and most memorable stage of the wedding, family members and friends tie the bride and groom’s left and right wrists with blessing strings. During the pairing ceremony family and friends shower the couple with praises and well-wishes of success, happiness, prosperity and long-lasting love followed by the ring of a loud gong and lots for joyful cheer. With a conclusion of four songs and the couple being showered with palm flowers thrown over them
Four songs accompany this ceremony:
Phat Cheay A melody inviting the bride, accompanied by her bridesmaids, to the pairing ceremony.
Kang Saeuy A melody accompanying the offering of gifts to the ancestor spirits and asking for their blessings.
Bangvel Po Pil (Seven Rotations) Only married couples are permitted to sit around the bride and groom. 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 flame represents anger, so the couple should avoid this danger as it can disrupt the marriage relationship. The smoke of the flame is sacred because it will protect them from all evils they might be faced with.
Bay Khon Chang Dai (Tying the Wrists) While the bride and groom’s wrists are tied with the blessing strings, the following song is sung: “We tie, we tie three strings to each wrist of our children. We wish for true happiness and success to this couple, who will always be together like wet grass seeds. We tie your left wrist to make you remember your parents. We tie your right wrist to make you carry on the family lineage and traditions.”