Sunday, February 13, 2011

Cambodian Wedding - Day 1

We had the privilege of being invited to a Cambodian wedding. 

The invitation
It's a colourful event, steeped in tradition, both new and old, and a combination of Eastern and Western practices.  In early days, Cambodian weddings used to last 7 days, but now, due to busy schedules, they usually last only 2 days.

Day 1 of Prom and Sreymau's wedding began at 8 am on Saturday (Feb 12), when they went to Angkor Wat for photos.  I'm sure they were up much earlier getting dressed and made up.  The women especially are elaborately made-up with false eyelashes, a ton of cosmetics, and big hair with added hairpieces.  Only close family attended the first half of the day.

At around 4 pm, a tuk-tuk drove us to the wedding site.  Loud traditional wedding music was our signal that we were getting near.  A large tent was erected outside with pictures of the bride and groom on either side.

Pictures of the couple outside the tent to make sure you're at the right wedding
Good to have in case you can't read Khmer (or maybe just can't read)
When we arrived, we were seated in the front row.  The bride and groom were already seated on a stage.
Sreymau & Prom

I went to check out the traditional Cambodian musical instruments.  Here are a few.  There was also a second 'violin' some tiny cymbal/bells, and a singer.  The music sounds similar to Indian music, but different.  Click on the link above to check it out.
A kind of violin with 3 strings

A zither-like instrument

Stringed instrument played with metal sticks
We were surprised when we were invited to partake in the 'hair cutting' ceremony, which is traditionally reserved for family and elders.  In earlier days, the participants actually cut the bride and groom's hair, but today it is done symbolically with gilded instruments.  We pretended to comb and cut their hiar with scissors and a comb, then sprayed it with perfume, then dipped water on their fingertips (painting their nails, maybe?), then showed them their reflections in a mirror.

Dan 'painting' Prom's fingertips

Me & Gordon, the master groomers
Showing the bride her reflection in a mirror
Then it was time for a photo shoot.
The bride and groom in traditional Cambodian costume

The wedding party

Me and Gordon get our photo with the bride and groom
as honoured guests.
Shortly afterward, five monks arrived, and I sneaked inside to get a view of this part of the ceremony.
The monks chanted for a long time

The group joined in.
(Notice the wedding party has changed outfits)

The bride and groom receive blessings
 While we were inside, tables were being set up in the tent for the meal.  The bride and groom got casual, and enjoyed the meal.  There was a lot of good food, including chunks of sweet & sour chicken.  I got the head (beak and all), and shared it with Gordon.
Sreymau in her 'jammies'

Dessert wrapped in banana leaves

Inside is a warm rice 'jelly' with a sweet bean in the centre

  After the meal, the wedding party got back into their 'cake cutting ceremony' clothes.  This part is a mixture of Eastern & Western traditions.
The bride & groom's third outfit since I've arrived
The wedding party in white & red
We were given Cambodian jasmine flowers to shower the bride and groom
and sparklers to light their way to the table to cut the cake

...then showered them with silling string and crazy foam (a Cambodian thing)

After removing most of the silly string, they cut the cake...

....fed some to each other..

..then kissed.
First on both cheeks....
...then the forehead.
No lips touching here.
The groom with his three kisses
  Then it was party time!
Our table
Bring on the beer!

'Tee Tee' and 'Tee' (maybe spelled Thy?)

Tee gets smeared with cake icing (by Tee Tee)

Green mango plucked off a tree outside
Dipped in chili & salt, it goes great with beer

Beer cans under the table......
I love the casualness of Cambodia.  It extends even into formal situations like weddings.  Need some green mango to go with that beer?  Go out to the yard and pick one off the tree.  Dog in the bride & groom's path to the wedding cake?  No problem, we can wait until he gets out of the way.  No room for your moto on the road?  Sure, go ahead, park it next to your table.  Nobody will mind.  Wedding outfit getting a little uncomfortable?  Get into your jammies for dinner, then get into the next change of clothes later. 

The only part I've found wearisome so far at this two day wedding is the photographers.  At every turn, they've stopped the wedding party mid-action to get people to 'hold that pose', 'turn your toes in more, please', 'take that one more time', etc.  Their bright lights have been hot and blinding, and their equipment and bodies have obscured the view for the wedding-goers.  Oh sure, I understand  they want to capture those special moments for the couple, but when it becomes a photo-shoot rather than a ceremony, the meaning and solemnity somehow gets lost (for me anyways).  And therein lies the difference between me and Cambodians, and what I love so much about them - They are so accepting about everything, they probably don't even notice. 

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