Notes From Under The Mosquito Net

The life and times of a Peace Corps Volunteer in Cambodia.

Life at Site: Wedding Season

As of now, Cambodian weddings season is coming to an end. It takes place more or less between December, when the weather is dry and (relatively) cool. I’ve now been to maybe 8 weddings, plus 2 housewarming parties which are about the same in form.

So here’s a handy guide to weddings in Traing Krasiang.

It all starts with a fancy embossed envelope that contains the invitation. The invitation must be delivered in person and by hand. Ideally it has the guest’s name on it, but I don’t think I have ever received one with my name on it and properly spelled. But I mean, duh. So you get your invite:

(They’re usually fancy. Sometimes scented, too!)

(The inner bit is discarded and teh outer envelope is used for the cash money gift.)

.

And that’s pretty much all you do until the specified day. The invite may request your presence at a fruit-carrying ceremony/procession that takes place outside very early in the morning. I have never participated in that. Obviously. I mean, you know me, right?


If you are close with the person being married, and depending on the time table, you may also be invited to a dance part/celebration the day before the ‘main event’. This is…yeah, just a party. This would be the night before the fruit ceremony. You dance around a table in a circular fashion in the Khmer style.

To be clear the actual weddings ceremonies take about 3 days or more, but the general public isn’t invited to all of those and no one in my family has been married while I’m here so I haven’t been privy to the extended event.

So anyway, whether or not you dance the night before and carry fruit in the morning, you head to the main event, the ‘nyam gaa’ in the mid-day. This is the part that’s uncommon. Most weddings are dinner with dancing that night, but my site is cheap so it’s lunch-time which requires less drinking (or so I have surmised).

Most of last year I would go by myself (my first host family wasn’t social) around the specified time, noon-ish most likely, eat the meal and leave. However this year I’ve attended weddings with my family (bride or groom being members of my extended host family) and showed up way later (4pm or so) and did some light dancing before returning home around 7pm.

So you dress up and get yourself to the wedding:

image

(That’s my host Mom, her mom, and Reaksmay, who is 8.

I have one of those traditional fancy outfits but it’s uncomfortable so I didn’t wear it that day.

image

Then you enter the wedding tent. You’re greeted by the bride and groom and the wedding party.

image

At that point you’re given a little token/gift, often a spiffy keychain thing.

(The ones on the right are a flamingo and a ballet dancer.)

Then you’re placed at a table. Once your table is full the food starts coming. This system is the reason people showing up at whatever time works.

image

In this photo you can see the leftovers of the appetizer course, the big plate of beef salad and the chicken dish. Usually those are brought out one at a time but I guess we weren’t eating quickly enough.

image

Cheers! Also I only drink at these functions when/because I’m with older ladies. Drinking with a table of men isn’t going to happen and young women usually don’t drink. I love old Khmer women.

image

A sneak picture of the food. Beef salad, beef chunks and chicken. Weirdly this wedding didn’t have fish. There are a few more courses after, a rice (fried and white) dish and a soup in a big dish contraption. After all this is dessert.image

Then some cursory dancing after being coerced into it. And theeen I get to go home, though if I’m attending by myself, not before forking over the invitation envelope with at least $5 in it. The gist of the system is that everyone’s names and contributions are noted and reciprocated at any of those family’s weddings. So no being a cheapwad. My family gave a lot at this wedding because it was close family.

Bonus photos:

image

The tent. Dancing is in the back right.

image

The happy couple!

So, that’s wedding season. If there was a way to convey the sheer level of noise when five weddings surround your house playing loud music in a country with no sound ordinances, I would. But I can’t. So let’s just say it’s been a good two years.