Mythical Stories Behind Marriage in Cambodia
A Cambodian wedding is a wonderful combination of ceremonial customs that take place in a prescribed order. The origins of many of these wedding customs come from mythical legends such as the following “Three Betel Flowers” story:
Once there were four men who had just completed their training and were returning home. They each had learned a different skill: swimming, shooting, fortune telling and magic. Along the way the first man, the fortuneteller, predicted that they would meet a girl on their journey home. Sure enough, they were walking alongside a river when they saw a bird fiercely attacking a girl who was bathing in the river. The second man took out his bow and arrow and shot the bird dead while the third man swam to rescue the stricken girl. He brought her to the riverbank, but she had already died. The fourth man, who could perform magic, restored the beautiful girl back to life.
Meanwhile, each of the four Cambodian men had fallen in love with the young maiden. So the men went to the Buddha for advice on which of them should marry her. The Buddha decided that the swimmer should become the husband because he touched the girl first. The other three men would become the father, mother and brother of the married couple.
In all Cambodian weddings, according to this mythical story, the bride and groom must present three betel flowers to show gratitude towards their parents and siblings. The betel nut, leaves and flowers are widely used in Cambodian society. There are similar stories behind other traditional customs during a Khmer wedding such as the permanent changing of clothes of the bride and groom. The best way to learn more is to try and attend a traditional Cambodian wedding.
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Photo by Thomas Wanhoff