When we last left off, our groom had just arrived at the entrance of the wedding tent to entreat the favor of his bride’s family. If the slack in everyone’s jaw and hair-do’s at this point are any indication, all guests and wedding party members will be quite ready for him to get on with it so that everyone can eat. The wedding party, bride, and groom will get their acts together right outside the tent for a few final photos, and then ceremony will continue.
A quick and usually giggly verbal exchange, sometimes with the inclusion of a small gift or token, between the mothers of the groom and the bride, concluding in the groom being invited into the bride’s home, or tent in this case. The parents of the bride enter and await the bride and groom.
Now begins the process of the bride and groom showering both sets of parents – old and new – with gratitude. The emcee first invites several members of the wedding party, namely the more ornate fruit-bearers from the groom’s march, will enter and surround the parents. Then, the bride and her closest bridesmaids will giggle in and make their way to her mother. Special attention is paid to the mother of the bride and her daughter bows and the emcee describes how she is now taking on the all the roles about which her mother has instructed her since her first hours on Earth.
Once mother is well-blessed, the guests and band prepare for the entry of the groom and bride, side by side, so that they may meet their parents as a couple, gifts in hand. Flowers are given to the guests for sprinkling purposes and the band perks up, ready to play the couple down the aisle. Then, they make the walk.
To ease the parents into the shock of their new son or daughter – or the one over which they are about to lose some sovereignty – the emcee will invite several of the bridesmaids to ease the parents into the grief with deep kowtowing as the bride and groom stand behind their display of deference. Then the bride and groom kneel before their parents and do more of the same.
Before approval can be given, the bounty of fruit and other cakes must be tallied so as to gauge whether or not 1) community acceptance and 2) the offerings for the ancestors (in the form of those fruits and cakes) will be adequate. The bride and groom join their wedding party behind their parents as two performers, one male singer and a female dancer, stand at the tent’s entrance. These two will act as representatives of the devada (visiting deities who watch over the mortal realms) as they slowly perform their way down the wedding aisle. He sings as she dances and in turn, they both pick up the trays of offerings which the guests have been clutching for what now seems like years. By lifting the trays the angelic representatives make the offerings visible for the wedding families, the guests, and the scrutinizing ancestors beyond the grave. The bride and grooms parents will each be given a sample to ensure deliciousness.
If the abundance is deemed sufficiently plentiful, the bride and groom are given their parents’ approval. They may now turn to one another and the guests, now recognized as a couple. The guests rush to give their trays over to a family member or friend awaiting them at the wedding home. The trays will be arranged like ornate little soldiers in a wide, photogenic space prepared for the next ceremony.
Now comes what is easily a guest’s most enjoyable portion of the morning ceremonies: breakfast. During the ceremony many hired hands will have prepared dozens of ornate pop-up tables big enough for about six people. The guests will crowd in until all tables are full, then the tureens of rice porridge will begin to appear on the table like manna from heaven in the book of Exodus. In the porridge, called borbor, one will find various little flavor bombs such as dried shrimp, pork, and cow intestines and bean sprouts, lime, black pepper, fermented soy beans, and/or chilis can be added for zip. After some time to work through several small bowls of borbor, each table will dig into trays of some of the cakes, fruits, and other goodies donated during the march. Something of the trading frenzy occurs between tables with bartering for the gooey center of this cake or that, or several clementines for a pear, etc.
Soon following the porridge come the midday and afternoon ceremonies, optional for most guests but mandatory for the wedding party and family. First there is the jang dai or “tying of the hands,” wherein the groom first brandishes a sword in protection of his new bride, then they both clasp it together and the emcee leads in a sermon-like declaration of their union. Each guest is then invited to have their photo taken with the bride and groom as they bestow their individual well-wishes on the couple. A symbolic red-string of union is tied around the couple’s wrist by each guest with the option of a monetary donation. At the ceremony’s conclusion, white flowers from the palm tree pod are tossed at the couple. Soon after begins the “hair-cutting ceremony” (gkat sah) which serves to cleanse the bride and groom of their pasts and deliver them fresh and lovely into their united future. The two dancers appear, acting again as the cleansing deities, and officiate the ritual by way of much good-natured verbal parlay and teasing of the bride and groom, seated side by side and surrounded by their wedding party. The angels cut a bit of the bride’s hair and shave the groom, tossing away with it any lingering misfortune or pain, then perfume them both.
According to the legend of Preah Tong and Neang Neak, they married without the naga king’s knowledge. Neang Neak prayed to the devada to witness her hair being cut, after which they then carried locks of hair to her father. When he received her locks, he rejoiced in the knowledge that his daughter was being married.
O, look at the bride/The gods must have helped prepare you!
The gods cut first/Your parents afterwards
Then the priests to finish
It is all good now, and fitting, too.
With the couple purified and the borbor depleted, guests will notice the platform being casually constructed toward the edge of the eating area. Spotlights, amplifiers, and miles of extension cords will start amassing around the stage as scaffolding is raised for the strobe lights. Guests now have the option of going off to rest or sticking around until things TURN UP once more because the wedding has begun to round the corner toward its climax: the evening reception. This will prove to be the most overwhelming, delectable, and plush fiasco you will ever hope to experience until the next wedding you attend. Grampa, be sure to tune in for the next post to ensure maximum glamour and delight.
Love you all the time,