the Holder's Cambodian American Wedding | Suwanee, Georgia Photographer
AJ Holder and Vichhika Tep held their Cambodian/American wedding in the Tep family’s household. This was nothing short of warm love and togetherness. It was prevalent how much time and effort went into the entire family planning this spectacular two day celebration. Color, color, and more color coming down to the very detail. Each item represented in decor or food brought a specific meaning. The bride, Vichhika, had an enormous amount of support from her family. AJ, the groom had his family support as well but were also planning the “part ii” of the American ceremony. It all began on a Friday and went all the way until Saturday night. I was able to share the morning through late afternoon on Saturday with them.
Friday consisted of everyone preparing for the weekend as well as Soat Mun. This is known as the Monk’s Blessing. The monks bless the guests by sprinkling flowered water on everyone in attendance (immediate family and wedding party). This is a formal dressed occasion. With heads bowed and hands in prayer, Vichhika and AJ remain quiet while marriage advice is given by monks.
Saturday morning begins with Hai Goan Gomloh, otherwise known as the Groom’s Processional. A huge parade is held by family, friends, and the wedding party through the neighborhood.
The groom comes, literally bearing gifts, to the bride's house to “meet her parents” and “see the bride for the first time”. Guests are handed matching silver trays of fruit and gifts as they arrive so they can join in the parade. They follow behind AJ on his “symbolic journey” to Vichhika. A gong is hit by a monk as the walk continues.
As the parade is making it’s way to the house with AJ, Vichhika is getting ready in her first dress with her mother’s help. That’s right - FIRST DRESS. She has three Cambodian dressings for the occasion (turquoise, cream, and burnt orange) and three white wedding dresses to choose from for the American ceremony. There were suitcases and bags of jewelry to pick what would be best with each color of dress.
As the final touches by the father were made downstairs, it was time for AJ to come to the door to be greeted in.
The roasted pig is brought in as well as other foods. Candles are lit and wine is passed around. The monk begins the blessings with the exchange of rings and all I see is the giant smile on Vichhika’s face! It was then time for the Honoring of the Ancestors, Sien Doan Taa. The bride and groom now paid homage to their ancestors by lighting incense and offering food and tea as they bow. This “call” to ancestors is for them to view the new family bonds that are being formed and to bestow their good wishes or blessings upon their living family.
Aj, Vichhika, and their bridal party go to change clothing while guests and family mingle. They will prepare for Gaat Sah. This translates to the Hair Cutting (cleansing) Ceremony. If you want to know a secret - this is my favorite part. So many laughs and smiles here! Keep scrolling and I’ll tell you about it.
The symbolism of this ceremony is to wipe the past clean and get them ready to start their new life together. Instead of the floor this time the couple sit in chairs. Two Khmer singers dance around slowly while symbolically cleansing the bride and groom of their past. They do this by simulating cutting hair, telling jokes and teasing the couple. Then family and guests will join in too. No real hair is cut off but the process is a great time.
The two are ready for the final segment of the Knot Tying with Sompeas Ptem. The wedding party circles around them. The groom holds out a sword in the symbolic protection of his new bride. AJ and Vichhika kneel down while holding the sword in between their clasped hands. Guests form lines and tie red strings around the bride and groom's wrists as rice is thrown onto them in celebration. Each guest has a chance to personally bestow their blessings for their new life together! I loved how long this part took because everyone in attendance was able to take their time to share this with them. Aj and Vichhika are so loved by good people.
The last part of the day I was able to share with them was the American ceremony. AJ’s parents really poured in emotion here. A handmade arbor and his father singing while playing guitar really made it special.
In Holy Matrimony
AJ’s father finished his heartfelt singing of “I Will Be Here” and other family members were escorted to their seats. Vichhika’s father walked her down to “Such Great Heights” and I just started crying! It was so beautiful. That song is so precious. The smiles could not be wiped from their faces, even Vichhika’s father’s.
This ceremony was short, simple, and sweet. It seemed to embody both of their personalities perfectly. They continued the rest of their night with lots more friends and family at a dinner reception not in their home. What a gorgeous day with a super go-with-the-flow fun family and couple! Give me a million more of these days to photograph please!
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