Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Wedding in Svay Pak

Today I was planning to go to Svay Pak at 7am for the first part of a wedding between one of Pastor Chantha's disciples ''S'' and her fiance. But last night I was told to only go to the reception. It seemed ''S'' was under a bit of pressure and had to acquiesce to her family wishes of having a Buddhist type ceremony in the morning despite her being a Christian. Once again we see the pressures of living in a culture where the family places a significant part and influence over the lives of individuals. So her fellow disciples and staff in Svay Pak could not attend the morning event and instead tomorrow in the Svay Pak church they will have an official wedding service with an exchange of rings for the couple.
Two of Pastor Chantha's disciples 
I love attending Khmer weddings for the simple fact of seeing all the beautiful colors and dresses. It feels like a Royal wedding all the time. The female guests all wearing beautiful colours with lots of bling bling. Years ago, it used to be that everyone wore traditional Khmer dresses like the one I am wearing in the picture below but now, the young girls wear very short dresses while us ''oldies'' where the more traditional style of dress. Some of the young people also wear long flowing Western style gowns.
Thida -- a teacher from Newsong and myself

Youth Pastor Ratanak and his girlfriend Nary --wedding in December 2012?
Another beautiful couple and disciples of Pastor Chantha

Its been such a long time since I have had a chance to spend time with my friends in Svay Pak so today was a wonderful time to just hang out at the reception which was held under a canopy next to the bride's home. One of the interesting aspects of Khmer weddings is the young women wear so much make up it is hard to recognize them. These scrawny teenagers and young women who I am used to seeing wearing t-shirt and jeans were decked off in their best clothes which actually were all rented for the wedding. They looked absolutely stunning.
Disciples of Pastor Chantha

Disciples of Pastor Chantha
The wedding party!
Similarly, the bridge and groom and the bridesmaids and groomsmen all wear rented clothes. Unlike Western weddings where only the bride may changes clothes once or twice, here in Cambodia, the entire wedding party changes their attire at least two to three times. No wonder they have to rent the clothes as it is quite an elaborate affair but wonderful nonetheless to see all the beautiful colors.

Pastor Chantha & Bunthan with the Bride and Groom
Dinner was a meat lovers delight. Sorry for those of you who are vegetarians, I think you would starve! For me a carnivore, I'm in heaven! The food today consisted of some unrecognizable appetizers and peanuts (yes even protein for appetizers), followed by a large steam fish, a dried noodle with seafood dish,  a BBQ type flavored beef, a roast chicken, fried rice combined with steam rice and a seafood soup dish. All of it was very tasty!
 One of the largest fish I have ever seen!
 BBQ Flavored Beef
 Roast Chicken
Fried Rice and Seafood soup
As mentioned before in previous postings on weddings, people come here at all times. There are no seating arrangements so you sit where ever and with whomever however, today it was nice to sit with some of the disciples and some of the volunteers (Carla and Suaena who are from Brazil). Initially, they wanted all of us ''barang'' (foreigners) to sit together in a special seating area but Carla, Suaena and I decided that we wanted to just sit with the rest of the Khmer people. In the midst of all of the activities, little kids in the community came by. One little girl was busy collecting all the empty pop cans so she could recycle them and make some money.  Even at such celebrations, the reality of poverty is right at your door step.

The Fruit display
Following dinner, I was told there would be a fruit cutting ceremony. This is a first for me as typically it would be the cutting of a wedding cake not a cutting of fruit. So I asked around as to why this was happening but no one really knew. They just said it was tradition. So the wedding party changed into new clothing and walked around the fruit table several times as we threw the equivalent of confetti---flower buds--- at them.
 The Bride and Groom encircling the fruit table
Two of the disciples who were part of the groomsmen 
 Then 'S' and her husband had to feed both parents fruit and then each other fruit. But that was not the end, they then had to kiss each was European/Dutch style with each person giving a kiss on either cheek before they planted a kiss on the lips!
Thank you speeches
It was back up on stage to for some short speeches by the bride and groom and their parents, thanking everyone for coming. Finally, it was time to toss the bouquet. Unlike North America, both the single young men and women line up to participate in this activity. It was so cute to see one of Pastor Chantha's disciples Chitra catch it. He went up on stage and was interviewed about when he was going to get married. His expression was priceless.
 Tossing of the bouquet
One of the disciples catch the bouquet!
Finally it was time for the first dance! Am not sure what time the wedding will end tonight but it was time for me to head home. Tomorrow morning I'll be back in Svay Pak for the church service and to witness the exchange of rings and vows. Pray for this couple. ''S"' will continue to live here while her husband will head back to the US in two weeks. We're not sure when he will return.

Next week, I'll have an opportunity to attend a full Christian wedding as both bride and groom are children of pastors. It will be fun to participate in the 7am ceremony and to witness what a Khmer Christian wedding ceremony is all about.

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