Cambodia: “Kingdom of Wonders” – and Weddings

The tourism slogan for Cambodia is “Kingdom of Wonders,” but when we were in Phnom Penh, it seemed it could have been called the “Kingdom of Weddings.”

We had attended a Cambodian wedding a few years earlier, when our friends Sopheak and Larry got married in Long Beach, but that was our only exposure to the traditions and customs. Although theirs was not a completely traditional ceremony, they did incorporate much of the ceremony (though, at about eight hours, theirs was shorter than most) and threw a great reception afterwards.

Suhail and Dmong at the Royal Palace

When Sopheak heard we were visiting Phnom Penh, she was nice enough to put us in touch with her cousin, Dmong and his family, who live there. Dmong was then nice enough to book us into a hotel and show us all around town and even some sights that were farther afield. It was so nice to have a friend in this unknown city, and he was a wonderful host.

Since he is a Phnom Penh local, he arranged for us to stay at a hotel that caters to Cambodian guests and, apparently does a very brisk business in weddings. Our visit coincided with the height of the wedding season and the hotel and its banquet facilities (which lined the entire block our room overlooked) were busy nearly every night we were there, giving us front row seats from our window.

The wedding party stands outside the reception for nearly the entire event, completely decked out in wedding attire, welcoming and bidding farewell to guests as they come and go. With the fancy clothes, elaborate decorations and entourage of photographers, it was like walking past the red carpet at an awards show for us every evening!

The view from our hotel room on the big night

One night, however, we counted no fewer than 10 different weddings taking place on our street. We noticed the chaos the minute we turned the corner onto our block, but even if we hadn’t, we would have noticed something was up when we entered our hotel lobby…it had become a make-shift parking lot for the night! Believe it or not, by the next morning all the bikes were gone without a trace and it was back to business as usual.

View from the elevator to the front door of the hotel