Posted by: Googie | February 22, 2010

Khmer wedding

book

Sign inside a bookshop close to my guesthouse

Today was the big day for which I had actually come to Phnom Penh. Mariam, a couchsurfer, had invited anyone who was interested to witness a Cambodian wedding to one of her students’ marriage. I still hadn’t heard from Talita, and I knew she really wanted to come for this; so I sent her a reminder email.

Today was the 3rd day of this particular 3 day long wedding, and I was at our meeting place – Rory’s pub –  at the decided upon time. Besides Mariam herself, Echo was the only other person to turn up; so Mariam drove the three of us to the wedding hall. We were early, and arrangements for the actual ceremonies were just being made.

Although nobody spoke any English, everyone was very warm and welcoming, and we were guided to one of the many round tables placed in the hall. There were about 9 seats per table. Each table had water, beer and other soft drinks along with the silverware. We were free to drink anything we wanted, and as soon as any bottle got empty, it was promptly replaced. People searched around for an English speaking person, brought him to our table, and he spoke to us for a while.

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The round tables being set up

It appeared that the Khmers didn’t really do a “cheers” before drinking, but Echo and I did it, and they liked it. In fact they liked it so much that they did it every 5 minutes for the next hour or so till we were done with dinner. Before leaving for her class, Mariam had informed us that food would not be served at a table until all the seats around it were taken. Incoming guests were always guided to empty seats at partially occupied tables, and before long, all the seats at our table were filled. As soon as the last seat was occupied, food began to appear magically. Each table was like a mini-community and everyone dug into the food-laden plates in the middle with their chopsticks.

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Our table

Not being a champion chopstick user, I looked like a clumsy fool balancing his food on the two thin sticks. Others at my table found this amusing, but were sporty enough to encourage me whenever I successfully managed to get something in my mouth. The lady sitting just next to me made sure that neither my plate nor my glass was ever empty.

I hardly saw any vegetables during dinner, so veggies should think twice before eating at one of these weddings. Even among the meats, there were very strange looking stuff; and I was glad that I was among those who could stuff their faces with just about anything under the Sun.

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Fish

Mariam had said that she would return only by 8.30, and Echo couldn’t wait that long so she carried on. I sat at a corner of the hall, opened my netbook and started blogging.

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The main entrance

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The bride & groom with some other guests

After an hour or so, there was a flurry of activity, and the bride and groom appeared at the doorway. Then they marched to the main stage as people showered flowers on them. Soon people gathered near the stage and began dancing. Irrespective of the tempo of the music being played, the steps were always slow and easy; almost as if everyone was deliberately dancing in slow motion.

I wanted to join in the dancing, but waited for Mariam to arrive. Once she returned, we joined the others on the dance floor. Dancing so slowly seemed funny at first, but it was totally chilled out and relaxing, and I enjoyed it thoroughly later on. People seeing me dance had huge grins on their faces (I wonder if I was adding some Bollywood steps into the dance). Many came up to me to shake hands or pat my back.

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Slow dancing Khmer style

We left soon after, but not before giving a customary monetary gift in an envelope. This money goes to the bride’s father to help cover up some of the wedding expenditure. Mariam dropped me off close to the guesthouse, and I thanked her for giving me a chance to have such a great new cultural experience – one that could possibly be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

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Responses

  1. Well-written! I’m glad you had so much fun!

    • Thank you Mariam! Owe it to you 🙂


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