I have been absolutely horrendous at updating this blog for a while now. I’d like to say it’s because I’ve been so busy and engaged that I haven’t had time to but that is not the case, sadly. I have been lazy, pure and simple. Some amazing things have happened over the past four and five months, things that I wanted to write about but was just too lazy to put my fingers to the keyboard. So I decided to make myself write and post and hopefully get the words flowing again. Today I am going to, hopefully, immerse you in the world of a Khmer wedding. I have had the privilege of attending four so far and another one awaits me on Saturday!
By the time that a Khmer wedding celebration begins, the vows have already been said amongst a close group of family. So, a Khmer wedding is just a big celebration with a myriad of delicious food, drinks, and more drinks and dancing. The weddings take place outside, often right on the street. There is a white tent with colored ribbons. Normally pink signifies a wedding but it could also be blue or multi-colored. An ornate archway is the entrance, where guests are greeted with the traditional bow and given a gold pen encased in plastic wrap with a colored butterfly at the top.
When you enter you are seated at a big round table with the people you came with or where there is enough room. This is because as soon as a table is full, the food starts flowing. A typical wedding will serve four or five courses but I have been to a wedding that had eight courses! The first round is normally a coleslaw type salad with either beef or shrimp; there are nuts and a minced pork dip that is served with fresh veggies. The second, third and fourth round will be some kind of meat and this is where the rice is served. Meat dishes are normally whole roasted animal such as duck, chicken, fish or even roasted pig. The food is served family style and is by far the best food I’ve tasted in Cambodia.
Towards the end of the feasting, the drinking starts. One person awkwardly cracks open the first beer of the table, which has been sitting there begging to be opened. He beckons for the person serving ice and once he has ice in his glass, everyone else feels okay about it. The server makes his way around the table. Behind him are the familiar crackles of beer being opened. Everyone pours everyone else’s beer, a ritual that will continue for the entire evening. The cheersing (a hearty “chol muy” in Khmer) begins, as it is normal to clink glasses with everybody every time you take a drink. They also love to “finish” or bottoms-ups beers until you can’t possibly drink one more. And then they will make you drink one more, with love of course.
Once people are sufficiently drunk, the dancing starts. The dancing here is wonderful. You walk around a table that is full of fruit and fresh flowers. There are a few different dances but they all involve intricate moves, coordinating your feet and hands. In many cases, the dancing continues late into the evening as guests celebrate .
Khmer weddings are just the same as anywhere else: they are a reason for celebration, a joyous occasion. And the Khmer people have got this celebration down to a science.