— by Elizabeth
We’ve already attended 2 Khmer weddings this year. We learned about how the girls are supposed to dress up fancy and how much money you’re supposed to give the bride and groom (although advice on this varies, and looking back I’m afraid we accidentally erred on the side of giving too little). But we’ve only ever gone to the evening reception part, where you show up late and eat a bunch of food. Both weddings were for acquaintances.
This time my house helper’s son was getting married, so naturally we were more excited (hence the desire for a new dress in my previous post). In addition, we were invited to another part of the wedding – the fruit walk. The fruit walk begins at 6:30 in the morning, when it’s still (relatively) cool.
Remember how in Bible times, the day starts the night before? Well, when you’re talking about getting four kids someplace at 6:30 in the morning, the day most assuredly starts the night before, with an early bedtime. However, if your bedroom harbors a (wo)man-eating mosquito that you can’t quite kill, you might find yourself unable to sleep until well past midnight. That would be due to the insatiable itching and quarter-size swellings. On the other hand, you might be thankful that you brought some Benadryl cream from the States last year.
But I digress.
My point is, 5:30 am comes pretty fast.
After you drag yourself out of bed and slip into your clothes (sans fancy hair and makeup at this point), you drag your children out of bed, and instruct them to slip into their clothes too. You might be a sleepy-looking bunch. But you might not be awake enough to notice that. . .
If your friends call the night before and offer for you to follow them to the wedding, then by all means, accept their offer, because wedding maps in Cambodia are notoriously bad, even if your family boasts an expert map reader. As you arrive at exactly 6:30 am, as instructed, you might hear an announcement over the loud-speaker that the procession will instead start at 7 am.
So you will wait. But waiting is fun. You can look at all the pretty dresses. Seriously. Dress-watching just might become one of your favorite pastimes at Khmer weddings. Do try to keep the other guests from invading your daughters’ personal space, but as always, smile politely while guarding it.
Music is rather loud at a Cambodian wedding, so you might find your daughter looking like this:
When it’s time to start the fruit walk, you will get in line, and someone will hand you a wrapped platter of fruit. You will follow everyone else about 3 blocks away. If you were given an exceptionally heavy fruit package, and are wearing heels that are capable of aerating the dirt roads you’re walking on, and are carrying the diaper bag and the toddler who was walking too slowly, you just might start to fall behind yourself. And you will be happy no one took a picture of that. But then again you might also be so fortunate as to have your husband send an older child to carry the fruit platter so you can catch up. And you might even be so fortunate as to have him carry the diaper bag and the toddler when you get to where everyone else has gathered.
If you have white skin, you may be given the honor of walking at the front of the procession, just behind the wedding party. You will stand at the front waiting for pictures and video to be taken, and by then you notice the sun’s heat is really starting to increase. Now you understand why the fruit walk must start so crazy early. You will pause to reflect upon the special challenges of bringing your children with you to cultural events. You might start to wonder why you are crazy enough to bring them along in the first place. (And you tell yourself to address that later, in a separate blog.)
You walk back to the wedding tent, where you will be served breakfast — a traditional wedding porridge. It’s a thin, savory rice soup. You will eat that plus these thin little slices of fried bread for dipping. And you might just overdose on those pieces of fried bread. Heavenly. Then you will go home full and happy, and ready to take a nap.