A Khmer wedding

At a Khmer wedding (in Cambodia), there are many ceremonies held in chronological order. They show the historical roots related to the period of Buddha of many years ago.

A wedding ceremony is very meaningful in the lives of each individual who follows their tradition and the laws of the country. That is why the date for this ceremony is chosen carefully as it is believed to bring luck and harmony for the couple’s lives and for starting a new family. Some families do not allow their children to marry in the rainy season and some delay it for two years after the engagement ceremony because of fortune telling.

Khmer tradition allows people to marry only in a period of six months in a year but not the other six. Weddings can be carried out only in the 30-day months. Those six months could be in early May, July, October, January, and March. But the engagement ceremony and matching the chemistry between son and daughter could be performed in any month.

For the above months, there are only 7 days of each month that are good days. According to the Khmer tradition, a wedding should not take place on the couple’s birthdays, holy days, lunar or solar eclipse, and during Khmer new years.

Actually, the reason people do not get married in the rainy season is that there is a lot of rain that makes it difficult for the wedding reception, procession, and other ceremonies. It is also difficult for the guests travelling to the wedding party and it is when farmers are busy with their fields.


Khmer Wedding Rules

According to a book “Khmer Wedding Rules” by Oknha Nov, in ancient Khmer wedding laws, people perform a song describing God Vesandor Borom Pothisat arranging the marriage between his children – Chealy and Kroesna. And some other songs are about the arranged marriage of God Ream and Seda. Oknha Nov wrote that the current wedding preparations are arranged according to the rules drawn up by King Preah Chey Chesda Thebdey.

According to the king’s book, it says that all ceremonies at a Khmer wedding are related to mythical stories such as the story “Som Sla Kanseng”. It is told that there were two men who went to feed their buffalos in the field. They wanted to make friends with each other and to be related by marriage because one had a son and the other had a daughter. In order to prove their words, they ask for betel nuts packed in krama from each other to show their promise that their children would marry each other. Another story is “the three betel flowers”. It describes that there were four men who had different skills – swimming, shooting, fortune telling, and magic. After completing their study, they returned home. Along the way back near a stream, the fortune teller said that day they were going to meet a girl who would become the wife of one of them. Then a big bird swooped down on a girl, Khemry, who was bathing. Right away the archer took his bow and shot the bird down back to the stream. The swimmer then swam to bring her to the shore but she was dead. After that the magician helped her come back to life again. All four men felt in love with the girl, so they were judged by Buddha that she would become a wife of someone who swam to help her because he was able to touch her body first. And the fortune teller, magician, and archer would become the father, mother, and brother respectively. Since then in all weddings, the bride and the groom must have three betel flowers in order to show gratitude towards their parents and brothers/sisters.

The setting-the-date ceremony and the groom holding the scarf tell how Prince Thaong was married to Princess Tevtey, a daughter of the sea dragon king. After setting the date, Tevtey had to bring him to her father at dragon world, so the sea dragon’s daughter asked the prince to hold her scarf in order to dive into the dragon world. Meanwhile, the dragon king commanded his man to kill the prince at the gate in order to test the prince’s ability. But the daughter had known this; hence, she disguised herself as the prince by changing her skirt, which was put on the prince instead so that the killer was not able to kill the prince. That is why at a modern Khmer the groom and the bride exchange wedding clothes, and the groom carries the bride’s scarf into the room, accompanied by “Phat Cheay and Neang Neak” songs, etc.

The ceremony called “Chey Haong Sousdey Haong Men Haong” as part of the wedding ceremony is followed by an ancient story recorded in “the rules of wedding” book. It describes that once upon a time there were two brothers – Chey and Sousdey. At that time, there was no king to continue after the previous king had died in Cambodia, so the officials in the palace relied on the holy elephant and horse to find a man to be their king. Then the animals approached the brothers’ house. Consequently, they knew that one of the brothers was the suitable man to be crowned. Chey became the king and Sousdey became his assistant at the same time. When crowned, the people whooped to bless the king. They said “Chey Haong Sousdey Haong Men Haong” simultaneously. The blessing is adapted for use in modern weddings.

The “Bongvil Popil” ceremony at a Khmer wedding is also written in the “collective Khmer legends” book, volume 9. According to the legend, it is told that once upon a time, there was a man named Chey Sorya who had completed his magic training from Eyso God, so he asked the God for a sacred relic as a tool to bless the weddings of human beings. Then the God gave the man a replica of his penis and a replica of his wife’s vagina as the blessing tools to spread their reputation in the world. Eyso God took diamond sand from the universe to make a gold banyan leaf representing his wife’s vagina and took a diamond rock from Himalaya Mountain to make a candle representing his penis and supposed them to be “two blessings”. He then told the man to take the candle wrapped in the banyan leaf to circle three times around grooms and brides in order to inhale the smoke making them powerful. The “Popil” ceremony is believed to bring harmony and joyfulness for the new couples making them successful in all challenges. Since Khmer people firmly and sincerely believe in “Popil”, it is performed not only at the wedding ceremony but also in other ceremonies such as housewarming, birthday, etc.


The “holding a sword” tradition at the wedding tells that once upon a time there was a high ranking knight in Peareansey Palace, who fell in love with a daughter of a villager and deposited a piece of gold as a dowry, promising to marry in three months’ time. Three years had gone, so she was married to her neighbor villager but on the wedding day, the knight appeared and took out his sword and killed the man who was the groom. Then the chief clergyman had prayed to dismiss all bad things at the place. The clergyman had analyzed the power of the sword. That is why people use a sword at a wedding when the bride and the groom are together to be blessed.

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