I fell asleep about 2am and then was woken up at 3:45 after what seemed like just a few minutes. It was time to shower and dress and head off to the wedding venue for a 6am start.
It’s not unusual for Cambodian weddings to span 3 days. We opted for a more condensed version of one day. It was to be jam packed with traditional Buddhist ceremonies and culminating in a spectacular dinner party night. Mixed into this would be at least 12 costume changes that I remember.
We rented a venue which is dedicated to weddings. They provide everything you need, including the meals. Before getting underway we had a breakfast of rice porridge with pork. Turns out it’s much nicer than it sounds.?
After breakfast, we began the ceremonies. Luckily, we had a whole crew of young ladies who would do Theary’s hair, makeup and dress us both. I could get used to having women dressing me, it’s really pretty cool. At Cambodian weddings the women seem to really dig a very heavy dose of makeup. Personally, I’m not in favor but, of course, as everyone knows, Grooms have very little say in how weddings are conducted. Theary even shocked me by wearing contact lenses to change her eye color and make her eyes look considerably larger in photographs. It’s Asia, always weirdness in the air, if you have been here you will know that all personal products have whitening agents in them. So contact lenses for photos is pretty much par for the course.
Once we were dressed, myself, my son, Kris, my pretend parents and a bunch of others form a procession in the street to bring gifts to the Bride and her parents. It’s actually a very sweet tradition and serves to make one a little humble and show respect to your future wife and her family.
After presenting the gifts we are permitted to enter the wedding venue. We carry the gifts and make our way upstairs to the place where the ceremonies will take place
The morning is all about Buddhist ceremonies and blessings from the monks. Unfortunately for me, it also requires a lot of sitting on the floor, kneeling, lots of blessing with ones’ hands held in front of your face as in prayer (Sampeah) . The monks do lots of chanting, sprinkling everyone with water using a brush made from plant stems. Tons of flowers everywhere and lovely incense.
The monk in the above image and I made a real connection. He spoke some English, was very forgiving of my clumsy efforts at sitting and following Buddhist customs. I met with him 3 days later and gave him some gifts from Australia. We had a good chat and both really enjoyed the meeting.
The morning ceremonies are all very sweet. Sometimes I was given only a moment’s notice and a quick run through on some quite complex moves I was expected to make as tribute to the parents in law and the monks. That was a little stressful but I got through it by making everyone laugh when I screwed up.?
After lunch we were given some respite and so headed home for a quick nap. My head hit the pillow and immediately I fell asleep.
Theary left earlier than Kris and myself as, of course, she had to do makeup and hair again. Each costume change she made was accompanied with another hair styling.
Kris and I headed to the reception venue and ran into terrible traffic. Afternoon traffic in Phnom Penh is always pretty bad but today it was too ridiculous. We decided to ditch the taxi and walk the last kilometer in the hot, sweaty, exhaust laden afternoon.
All good though. So yet another costume change and then time to meet and greet the guests. Each guest is welcomed , thanked with a sampeah and a small gift. This takes up some time, about 3 hours I think. During this time I had another 5 costume changes!!?
After all the guest have arrived and have eaten and drunk plenty of alcohol we changed once again into more western style bride and groom clothing. As is normal here, we then walked down an aisle between all our well-wishing and excited guests who showered us in flower petals. In Cambodia it’s traditional to stop the passage of the bride and groom and request them to perform some task. The first one involved some kissing.
The next one was a bit more serious and required skolling a glass of black label whisky. I did the right thing and downed mine and then rescued Theary by downing hers as well.?
After the inevitable speech, which I made sure to keep short and funny it was time to toss the bouquet to the eager crowd of singles. Theary threw it quite far so the lovely ladies in front had no chance as it sailed over their heads and into a group of guys at the back.
There was a desperate bid to be the winner and for a while it looked like the flowers would be destroyed by the guys attempts at claiming it. However, finally sense prevailed and a winner was congratulated.
Theary and I danced and enjoyed the time with all our friends and family until the party finished about midnight. A long day indeed, but not over yet. We decided to carry on at a favorite bar in Street 104 called Oscars. At 2am we finally called it a day. A day for us to truly remember.