Facts About Cambodian Marriage & 10+ Easy Words!

Getting invited to a Cambodian marriage is a real treat. If you are lucky enough to join the wedding party, there are a few things you might want to know before the big day. Why? Well, traditional Cambodian weddings are actually very different from the ones we are used to in the west.

Known for its ancient temples, stunning landscapes, and rich cultural heritage, Cambodian wedding traditions are as rich and colourful as the country itself. In this post, we will explore Cambodian marriage’s customs and traditions, including courtship, the roles of the bride and groom, the wedding ceremony, and the importance of family. And, of course, we’ll also dive deep into the Khmer words you can use when discussing this topic. Let’s begin!

Traditional Cambodian Courtship

For generations, traditional Cambodian culture has meant most marriages were arranged. Many weddings are agreed upon when the betrothed are still very young children. Nowadays, marriages are still often arranged, but it is more usual for individuals to be consulted by their parents, and there is greater tolerance if either party rejects the proposal.

It is important to remember that tradition and Buddhism pressure parents to find a good family for their child to marry into. For the locals, a family’s pride depends on a good match, and children are traditionally expected to respect their parents’ decisions, especially Cambodian girls and young women.

Back then, Cambodian weddings could be an extremely lengthy affair taking months to arrange with the various ceremonies lasting days. Today, it is more usual for a Cambodian wedding ceremony to last for a single, more manageable day.

Cambodian Marriage. Silver wedding rings on a pink flower.

Roles Of The Bride And Groom

Marriage is viewed as a partnership between two families rather than simply a union between two individuals. This means that the roles of the bride and groom are not only to establish a strong relationship but also to form a bond with each other’s families.

Cambodian brides must be modest, respectful, and obedient to their husbands and family. It is also customary for the bride to move in with her husband’s family after the wedding. This is seen as a way for the bride to become part of her husband’s family and to show her commitment to the marriage.

The groom is expected to be a good provider for his wife and to protect her and their family. He is also responsible for making important decisions on behalf of the family. The groom is also expected to be financially stable before getting married. The groom is often likely to spend some time providing “bride service”. This involves him staying with his future father-in-law and serving him as required. Sometimes this will happen after the wedding.

Traditional Khmer Wedding Ceremonies And Rituals

Cambodia’s traditional Khmer wedding ceremony is a complex and elaborate affair that can last several days. It typically involves multiple ceremonies and rituals, each with significance and symbolism.

The Blessings Ceremony

The first of the traditional wedding ceremonies is the blessing ceremony, which a Buddhist monk performs. This ceremony is meant to bring good luck and prosperity to the couple. The monk will chant prayers and offer blessings to the bride and groom, who will then provide food and gifts in return.

The Engagement Ceremony

The next ceremony is the engagement ceremony, which is a formal agreement between the bride and groom’s families to proceed with the marriage. The ceremony is usually held at the bride’s home. It involves the exchange of gifts, including a dowry from the groom’s family to the bride’s family and an agreement to meet the wedding ceremony expenses.

The Wedding Ceremony

The final wedding ceremony is the Cambodian wedding ceremony or the knot-tying ceremony itself, which is typically held at a temple or other religious site. A Buddhist monk presides over the ceremony, which involves a series of rituals and prayers. The bride and groom exchange vows and wedding rings and then light candles and incense to symbolise their union. The ceremony concludes with the release of doves or pigeons, seen as symbols of love and happiness.

Traditional Wedding Dress

Khmer weddings are glamorous. It is not unusual for the bride and groom to change their outfits several times during wedding ceremonies. The bride will wear a traditional skirt and top with vibrant colours and intricate beading. She will also be draped in jewellery. The groom will wear Khmer pants and a top often made from silk and decorated with gold threading.

The Importance Of Food And Live Music

Live music is a must at any traditional Khmer wedding. It will often be supplied by a traditional band hired for the day called the vung phleng kar. Many of the melodies played by the band are revered as sacred. Keep an ear out for classic wedding songs, including “Bok Leak”, “Bondait Kantong”, and “Som Bon”. It is becoming more common for married couples to celebrate their big day with the addition of a DJ or a live band playing modern music so the guests can have a good boogie.

You will not go hungry at a Khmer wedding reception, and you should turn up with an empty stomach. Traditional dishes can be complex and usually consist of meat, fish, vegetables, fruits and sweets.

Essential Khmer Wedding Words

Now we know what to expect at Cambodian weddings, let’s look at some useful Khmer vocab for you to impress the other guests.

Beauty សម្រស់ samrosa
Bride កូនក្រមុំ kaunokramoum
Celebration ការប្រារព្ធពិធី kar braropth pithi
Ceremony ពិធី pithi
Congratulations សូមអបអរសាទរ saum abaarsator
Couple ប្តីប្រពន្ធ btei brapon
Engagement ការភ្ជាប់ពាក្យ kar phcheabpeak
Groom កូនកំលោះ kaunkamloh
Honeymoon ក្រេបទឹកឃ្មុំ krebtuk khmoum
Husband ប្តី btei
Joy ភាពរីករាយ pheap rikreay
Love ស្នេហា snehea
Newlyweds គូស្វាមីភរិយាថ្មីថ្មោង kou svamiphriyea thmeithmaong
Reception ទទួលភ្ញៀវ ttuolophnhiev
Romance មនោសញ្ចេតនា mnosanhchetnea
Wife ប្រពន្ធ brapon

Learn More About Khmer Culture With Ling

If our brief look at the colourful traditions of Khmer weddings has made you want to learn a little more about this extraordinary country, why not download the Ling app to your mobile?

Ling has plenty of fascinating blogs about Cambodia and numerous tools for learning the Khmer language (and 60+ other languages), including fun games and quizzes. It is available right now at App Store and Google Play, so you can download it now for FREE to start learning your target language fast!

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