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Friday, 18 December 2009

Wedded bliss?

As I write this entry it is 5.00am. There are two weddings in the local area. One is reasonably quiet, the other seems to me to be in the exact spot as the week before (I mean, why bother even taking down the marquee?) and started blasting music at 4.30am. It will not stop until 11pm this evening and will also go on all day tomorrow.

Khmer houses are not built to be sound proof. There is no glass in the windows, no double-glazing, only bars and mosquito netting. The sound is actually so loud that if I were hosting my own party, I would consider it anti-social, because the guests would not actually be able to hear each other talk. To top it off, it’s not like its even good music, just some loud form of Khmer/Buddhist wailing, truly designed to test the peace, serenity and goodwill of the surrounding community.

It just doesn’t make sense. On every other level the Khmer people are quiet, reserved and amicable. They are famous for their smile, will always agree to everything (this doesn’t mean it will actually get done) and are nothing but hospitable. Why then, do they insist on pushing everyone’s (well, my) sanity to its limits? I have considered buying earplugs, but what if they work, I oversleep, and accidentally forget to go to work?

Sadly, it’s all to do with a show of wealth. The bigger, louder and more annoying your wedding, the richer you are. The more of a street you can block the better the party. And what ever happened to tradition? Did they have loud speakers and bright marquees in the days of old Angkor Watt? I think not.

In all honesty, given that I'm now sleep deprived and grumpy - I don’t care how beautiful the Bride looks in her 16 (yes, 16) dresses. It just doesn’t make sense. I went to a Khmer wedding the other week, and yes it’s interesting to learn about the Khmer ‘culture’, but what really struck me is just how much everything is for show. There is, for example, a hair cutting ceremony. But no hair actually gets cut – they just pretend. The cutting of the cake (the most intricate cake I have ever seen, there were even bridges connecting different bits of the cake for god’s sake) is another one. They pose for the photos, but the cake doesn’t actually get cut.

And whilst I'm on a role - the photos! Ha. I think Cambodia must be single handedly responsible for success of Adobe Photoshop (or they would be if they weren’t all using pirate copies). Every picture is a) the same as everyone else’s pictures in any other wedding ever, and b) airbrushed to high heavens. The bride and groom are unrecognizable, as is the location of the swirly, mystic background they add in. If anyone’s reading from Serif – have we ever considered the Khmer market? PhotoPlus X3 would go down a treat! On the plus side, it’s actually possible to get yourself kitted out in the wedding attire and get some sample photos done in one of the shops in town. I wonder if the lovely Matthew would find this a fun activity during his visit?

And as a final note: who actually pays for this wedding? Khmer weddings cost an absolute fortune. The one I attended last week cost $7000 – and let’s remember that teachers will earn roughly $50 a month. So what happens? They borrow money, and then because they have to have this big party, they’ll invite 700 people, all of whom have to pay $10 for the privilege of having their ears assaulted, to pay for the party they have to have. The process of inviting people is also mad. Here everyone saves their wedding invitations so that you know exactly whose weddings you’ve been to, and who to invite. Just so you can get your own back. It doesn’t matter if these people are friends or not, as long as they can pay $10 (which, by the way, you don’t get out of paying even if you don’t go to the event itself. Once invited you’re obliged to pay). This unfortunately means that barang (foreigners) are a popular choice for wedding invitations. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for celebrating the love of people I actually know, but it’s one thing living in a house near a wedding tent. Can you imagine actually being made to sit in it?


  1. Mental note to self - don't let Jen get married in cambodia.
    Snow flakes were lovely - and you look so pretty in the photo (It's not that I'm a biased mum or anything......)
    Love you lots.
    Missed you over Christmas.
    Hope you are having a great break with the lovely Matt.
    Love and hugs from Mum and dad. xxx

  2. Hi Jen

    This is just a short message to say I hope you had a wonderful Christmas, despite it lacking the crisp cold and sound of carol singers :)

    All the best for 2010 and you have my utmost respect for the great work you are doing over there!

    Best wishes