The coming of (marrying) age:
Usually rural khmers men get married between the ages of 20 and 30 years old, with rural women, or girls jumping in as young as 16, and almost always before 25 lest they be deemed un-marriageable old hags at 26. In the city lifelong loneliness can be avoided as long as a suitable partner is found before you are 35 for men and 28 for women.
As you might expect arranged marriages are still relatively common, with families intervening before the time limits are breached. While daughters are free to and sometimes do reject the marriage wishes of parents, many remain disinclined to do so.
The Dowry(ជំនូន រឺភស្តុភារបណ្តាការ)
In both cities and rural areas the man’s family get to pay a dowry and for the wedding, with the bride’s family setting the amount, based on their wealth and the future inheritance the couple will get. Negotiation about this amount is not unknown.
How much is the dowry you ask ?
In 2016 the usual dowry I am aware of for rural folk might be from USD$3,000 to $10,000 and $5,000 to $20,000 in the more affluent city folk.
Regardless of where you get married, the ceremony follows a fixed pattern and takes a day and a half. The minimum number of people to come is usually about 100 with up to 2,000 people where finances permit. The extended families co-operate in the ceremony with both monks and old people pitching in.
The 5 stages.
- Initial Ceremony: ពិធីសូត្រមន្ត ( Pithy Sout Mon) Bride’s family invite monks, old people around their village to make ceremony for the new couple.
- Dowry Delegation: ពិធីហែរជំនូន – (Pithy Hei Choum Noun) the groom and their parents need to bring all dowry ( fruit, vegetables, cakes and cash) to the brides house.
- Hair Cutting Ritual: ពិធីកាត់សក់ – (Pithy Cut Sork)both parents, bride & groom need to make they children hair cut to bring happiness for the new couple.
- ពិធីបង្វិលប្រាំពីរ – Pithy Bong Vel Popel : again both parents and their grandparents sitting around them used candle passed to each other around the bride & groom to bring them luck.
- ពិធីចងដៃ – (Pithy Chong Dai )both parents, grandparents, relatives need to bring red cotton to tie up the new couple hand to be together for the whole life.