Khmer Wedding

In Khmer wedding, it has a lot of ceremonies held in chronological orders. They show the historical roots related to the Buddha’s period which existed ages ago. According to a book “Khmer Wedding Rules” of Oknha Nov, it puts that in ancient Khmer wedding laws, people perform a song describing God Vesandor Borom Pothisat arranging the marriage between his children – Chealy and Kroesna. And some other songs are about the marriage arrangement of God Ream and Seda. Oknha Nov wrote that the current wedding preparations are arranged according to the rules drawn up by King Preah Chey Chesda Thebdey.

According to the king’s book, it puts that all ceremonies in Khmer wedding are related to mythical stories such as a story "Som Sla Kanseng". It is told that there were two men who went to feed their buffalos in the field would like to make friends with each other and wanted to be relative by marriage with each other because one had a son and the other had a daughter. In order to prove their words, they ask for betel nuts packed in krama from each other to show their promise that their children would marry to each other.

Another story is “the three betel flowers”. It describes that there were four men who had different skills – swimming, shooting, fortune telling, and magic. After completing their study, they returned home. Along the way back near a stream, the fortune teller said that day they were going to meet a girl and become their wife. Then a big bird swooped down on a girl, Khemry, who was having a bath. Right away the shooting man took his bow and shot the bird down back to the stream.

The swimmer then swam to bring her to the ground but she was just dead. After that the magic man helped her be alive again. All four men felt in love with the lad, so they were judged by the Buddha that she would become a wife of someone who swam to help her because he was able to touch her body first. And the fortune teller, magic man, and shooting man would become the father, mother, and brother respectively. Since then in all weddings, the bride and the groom must have three betel flowers in order to show gratitude towards their parents and brothers/sisters.


Setting-the-date ceremony and the groom holding the scarf are told that Prince Thaong was married to Princess Tevtey, a daughter of the sea dragon king. After setting the date already, Tevtey had to bring him to her father at dragon world, so the sea dragon’s daughter asked the prince to hold her scarf in order to dive into the dragon world. In the meanwhile, the dragon king commanded his man to kill the prince at the gate in order to test the prince’s ability. But the daughter had known this; hence, she disguised herself as the prince by changing her skirt and it was put on the prince instead so that the killer was not able to kill the prince. That is why in the current Khmer wedding it was seen that there is clothes change between the groom and the bride, and the groom holding the bride’s scarf in to the room, accompanied by “Phat Cheay and Neang Neak” songs, etc.


The ceremony called “Chey Haong Sousdey Haong Men Haong” in wedding ceremony performed until now is followed by an ancient story recorded in “the rules of wedding” book. It describes that Once upon a time there were two brothers – Chey and Sousdey. At that time, there was no king to continue after the previous king had died in Cambodia, so the officials in the palace relied on the holy elephant and horse to find a man to be their king. Then the animals approached the brothers’ house. Consequently, they knew that one of the brothers was the suitable man to be crowned. Chey became the king and Sousdey became his assistant at the same time. When crowned, the people whooped to bless the king. They said “Chey Haong Sousdey Haong Men Haong” simultaneously. The blessing is adapted to use in the wedding until now.

"Bongvil Popil" ceremony in the Khmer wedding is also written in “collective Khmer legends” book, volume 9. According to the legend, it is told that once upon a time, there was a man named Chey Sorya who had completed the magic training already from Eyso God, so he asked the God for a sacred relic as a blessing tool for the weddings of human being. Then the God gave the man a replica of his penis and a replica of his wife’s vagina as the blessing tools to spread their reputation in the world. Eyso God took diamond sand from the universe to make a gold banyan leaf representing his wife’s vagina and took a diamond rock from Himalaya Mountain to make a candle representing his penis and supposed them to be “two blessings”. He then told the man to take the candle wrapped in the banyan leaf to circle three times around grooms and brides in order to inhale the smoke making them powerful. The “Popil” ceremony is believed to bring harmony and joyfulness for the new couples making them successful in all challenges. Since Khmer people firmly and sincerely believe in “Popil”, it is performed not only in wedding ceremony but also in other ceremonies such as housewarming, birthday, etc.

"Holding a Sword" tradition in the wedding progress is also told that once upon a time there was a high ranking knight in Peareansey Palace, who fell in love with a daughter of the villager and deposit a piece of gold as a dowry and promised to marry in three months’ time. Three years had gone, so she was married to her neighbor villager but on the wedding day, the knight appeared and took out his sword and killed the man who was the groom. Then the chief clergyman had prayed to dismiss all bad things at the place. The clergyman had analyzed on the power of the sword. That is why people use a sword in the wedding when the bride and the groom are in pair for blessing.


Tradition on Khmer Wedding Season


Wedding ceremony is very meaningful for each of individual’s life who follows their tradition and the laws of the country. That is why this ceremony is carefully dealt with concerning to choosing the date which is believed to bring luck and harmony for the people’s lives and starting a new families. Some families do not allow their children to marry in the rain season and some delay it for two years after the engagement ceremony because of the fortune telling.


According to Mr. Nhean Phoeun, a researcher and publisher of Khmer tradition of national and international festival committee, he said that Khmer tradition allows people to marry only in a period of six months in a year but not the other six. Wedding can be carried out only in the 30-day months. Those six months could be in early May, July, October, January, and March. But for engagement ceremony and matching the natural chemistry between son and daughter, they could be performed in any month.


He continued that for the above months, there are only 7 days of each month that are good days. According to the Khmer tradition, they should not perform on their birthday, religious day, lunar or and solar eclipse, and during Khmer new years.


Actually, the reason people do not get married in the rain season is that there are a lot of rains that make it difficult for the wedding reception, procession, and other ceremonies. It is also difficult for the guests travelling to wedding party and it is when farmers are busy with their fields.

Cambodian weddings are long and intricate affairs that consist of multiple ceremonies and songs. Below are examples of programs used at two different Khmer weddings to help explain to guests some of the customs and meanings behind the various activities and performances that take place. Although regional and personal differences in wedding rituals do exist, both these programs detail the key elements of traditional Khmer weddings.
bride and groom being blessed by devada (angels)
during the “hair cutting” or “cleansing” ceremony

Cambodian weddings traditionally consist of ceremonies and celebrations lasting three days and three nights. Three is considered to be an especially auspicious number by Cambodians because of its association with the “three jewels” of Buddhism: the Buddha, the Sangha (brotherhood of monks), and the Dhamma (the Buddha’s teachings). Due to the demands of modern day life however, today, both in Cambodia and overseas, all the following wedding ceremonies are usually completed in just one day.

PRESENTATION OF DOWRY

Cambodian weddings begin with the groom and his family traveling to the bride’s home bearing gifts to the bride’s family as dowry. Family members and friends are introduced, and wedding rings exchanged. Three traditional songs accompany the presentation of dowry:

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 meats, fruits, pastries, drinks and desserts of every variety to be presented on the wedding day.


Chambak Rouy (Presenting the Dowry) : A dialogue between the matchmakers, parents, relatives, and friends of the bride and groom in which the groom’s family and friends officially present the dowry gifts to the bride’s family.


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.


TEA CEREMONY


A tradition practiced by Cambodians of Chinese descent in which the bride and groom offer tea to the spirits of their ancestors.


HAIR CUTTING CEREMONY

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. The master of ceremony performs the first symbolic hair cut and wishes the couple happiness, prosperity, and longevity. The bride and groom’s parents, relatives, and friends then take turn to symbolically cut the bride and groom’s hair and give them blessings and well-wishes. (In the old days, the bride and groom’s hair were really cut during this ceremony, but in modern times it is only done symbolically.) Two songs accompany this ceremony:

Sarika Keiv Vong (The Beautiful Cardinal Bird) : The bride’s beauty is extolled and compared to that of the beautiful cardinal bird.


Trapeang Peiy (The Village Pond) : This song describes a pond with clear water where the bride was brought to take her bath. It also symbolizes the bride and groom working together in beginning their new life as wife and husband.


PAIRING CEREMONY

In this 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. The praises and well-wishes of happiness, good health, success, prosperity, and long-lasting love are acknowledged and witnessed by the loud sound of the gong and joyful cheer. The ceremony concludes with a shower of palm flowers thrown over the new couple. Four songs accompany this ceremony:

Phat Cheay : A melody inviting the bride, accompanied by her bridesmaids, to the pairing ceremony. A distinguished female relative leads the bride into the room.


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 as the sacred flame is rotated seven times around the new couple. The flame of the pure bee-wax candle represents anger, which the couple should avoid as it can disrupt the marriage relationship. The smoke of the flame, however, is sacred enough to protect them from all evils if they are sincerely committed to each other. 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.

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.”

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