Khmer weddings are known for being loud. Very loud. The music pumps from early morning to late in the evening and can be heard from a village over. They are also very colourful and create quite a stunning scene when the traditional wedding march on day two is undertaken. Let’s take a look at some of the traditions of Khmer weddings.
The duration of Khmer weddings varies. The shortest wedding I attended was one day, and that was because it was a Khmer-Australian wedding, and the couple had already legally married in Australia. Typically, Khmer weddings are two days but can stretch to three days, particularly if the bride and groom are of a higher socioeconomic status. There are many different aspects to a Khmer wedding and lots of outfit changes.
Everyone is invited to weddings. Literally, everyone. I once went to a wedding in Cambodia where there were 1,000 people in attendance in one sitting, with even more in another sitting. I have been invited to the weddings of my friends’ siblings and cousins who I have never met before, which is very different from the way things work in Australia.
The way I think of it is like this; ceremonies in Cambodia are like a neverending giving circle. You invite 500 people to a ceremony (like a wedding or ‘thankful ceremony’, then you have to attend a ceremony that every one of those 500 people invites you to. If you choose not to attend, you have to send a monetary gift anyway. So, although you may be raking in the cash gifts at your wedding (the acceptable minimum amount is $12.50USD, but $20USD is the most common amount), you will then have to pay it forward.
Apart from the wedding march in the village, this is my favourite part of a Khmer wedding. The bride and groom (followed by parents, relatives and friends) symbolically cut each others hair, representing the start of a new life. I do wish I was present at a Khmer wedding decades ago, as the hair was actually cut back then. But as we know, traditions do change.