The most popular time of the year for weddings is from November to March, when the weather is dry and sunny. So do not get surprised if you get invited to a wedding during this time. A traditional Cambodian wedding lasts for three days but today most Cambodians only celebrate for one and a half day. You will probably be invited to the last part of the wedding which is the reception but let’s start from the beginning.
The wedding usually starts in the afternoon of the first day with Pithi Sout Mon, Monk Blessing. The monks are invited to pray and give blessing to the bridal couple. It is believed that the prayers will send a message to the soul of dead relatives that the couple is now celebrating their wedding and becoming husband and wife.
Next day starts early in the morning around 6-7am with the Hae Chamnoun ceremony, this is when the groom and his family go to the bride’s home with gifts. They wait outside the house until the bride comes out. When the bride comes out the groom offers the wedding flowers to her and they enter the house together. The groom’s parents offer fruit to the bride’s parents and a traditional Khmer singer will perform the “Fruit song”.
The whole day is filled with different ceremonies and for every new ceremony the bridal couple will change clothes. The first ceremony is the Ring exchange ceremony followed by Hair cutting ceremony, when the guests symbolically pretend to cut the couple’s hair and wishes them happiness and prosperity. After that comes the Feet cleaning ceremony when the wife cleans her husband’s feet. The Cambodians with Chinese descent will then have a Tea ceremony when the couple drinks tea with their parents.
The day continues with the Bangvel Po (Seven Rotation), the couples are asked to sit around the bride and groom. Three candles are lit and handed over seven times around the bridal couple. Each participant passes his or her right hand over it in a sweeping motion towards the couple, a silent blessing to them. Only married couples are asked to join, as it is believed that they will pass along the special essence which will preserve the union.
The Pairing ceremony is normally one of the last ceremonies during the day before the evening party. In this ceremony family members and friends will tie the bride’s and groom’s left and right wrists with blessing strings and whishes the couple a lot of happiness, good health, success, prosperity, and a long-lasting love.
Last but not least is the reception and this is normally the part you get invited to. When you get your invitation make sure not to lose it because the tradition is to give back the envelope with money in it. The envelope will have your name on it, and at the reception there will be some relatives sitting by a special table collecting the gifts from the guest and writing down how much every guest gave. The more money you give the bigger blessing, as an expat going to a wedding in Phnom Penh you should probably give around 15-25 USD per person.
On the invitation it will probably say that the reception starts around 4pm but most guests do not arrive until after 6 pm. When you arrive to the party the parents of the bride and the groom will be standing outside and greet you.
Inside, it is usually free seating but custom is to fill up the tables where people are already sitting. When one table is filled with guest the food will be served. After most guests have finished their food the bridal couple will arrive. The guests will stand up and throw small flowers at the bridal couple as they walk in and up to podium where their parents will be waiting for them. They stop beneath their parents who also throw small flowers at them and give them a blessing in front of all the guests.
After the couple has got their parents blessing they will dance around a fruit table that is placed in front of the stage. When they have finished their dance all guests are invited to join the dance and it is party time!
How long time the party is going on is up to the couple who is getting married but many of the receptions in Phnom Penh finish already around 10 pm.