Though adolescent children usually play with members of the same sex, boys and girls take part in group games during festivals, offering them the opportunity to begin looking for future mates. Virginity is highly valued in brides, and premarital sex is deplored. The girl who becomes pregnant out of wedlock brings shame to her family.
The choice of a spouse is a complex one for the young male, and it may involve not only his parents and his friends, as well as those of the young woman, but also a matchmaker. A young man can decide on a likely spouse on his own and then ask his parents to arrange the marriage negotiations, or the young person's parents may make the choice of spouse, giving the child little to say in the selection. In theory, a girl may veto the spouse her parents have chosen.
Courtship patterns differ between rural and urban Khmer. Attitudes in the larger cities have been influenced by Western ideas of romantic love that do not apply in the countryside. A man usually marries between the ages of nineteen and twenty-five, a girl between the ages of sixteen and twenty-two. Marriage between close blood relatives is forbidden. After a spouse has been selected, a go-between meets with the parents and broaches the subject of marriage. Then each family will investigates the other to make sure its child is marrying into a good family. When both sides agree to the marriage and presents have been exchanged and accepted, the families consult an achar to set the wedding date. In rural areas, there is a form of bride-service; that is, the young man may take a vow to serve his prospective father-in-law for a period of time.
The traditional wedding is a long and colorful affair. Formerly it lasted three days, but in the 1980s it more commonly lasted a day and a half. The ceremony begins in the morning at the home of the bride and is directed by the achar. Buddhist priests offer a short sermon and recite prayers of blessing. Parts of the ceremony involve ritual hair cutting, tying cotton threads soaked in holy water around the bride's and groom's wrists, and passing a candle around a circle of happily married and respected couples to bless the union. After the wedding, a banquet is held. In the city, the banquet is held at a restaurant; in the country, it is held in a temporary shelter and is prepared by the two families. Newlyweds traditionally move in with the wife's parents and may live with them up to a year, until they can build a new house nearby. These patterns changed drastically under the communists. The Khmer Rouge divided families and separated the men from the women. The father, mother, and children frequently were separated for many months. A man and woman often did not have time to consummate a marriage, and sexual relations were limited by long separations. Extramarital relations and even flirtations between young people were heavily punished.
The legend of Preah Thaong and Neang Neak explains many Khmer wedding customs, in which the groom carries the bride's scarf, symbolizing he is from afar and is marrying into her family. In contradiction to Indian wedding customs where the bride holds the groom's scarf, as the case for Khmer, the groom stays with the bride's family. In accordance with the Khmer wedding ritual weddings take three days. The bride and groom wear garments decorated with jewelery and are surrounded by family and guests. The bride and groom wear garments as a sign of respect to their parents and parents in law, both of which offer their blessing to the couples. They also pray to the monks for a happy life.
Divorce is legal, relatively easy to obtain, but not common. Divorced persons are viewed with some disapproval, and they are not invited to take part in the blessing of a newlywed couple. Some of the grounds for divorce are incompatibility, prolonged absence without good reason, abandonment by either partner, refusal of the husband to provide for the family, adultery, immoral conduct, and refusal, for more than a year, to permit sexual intercourse. A magistrate may legalize the divorce. Each spouse retains whatever property he or she brought into the marriage. Property acquired jointly is divided equally. Divorced persons may remarry, but the woman must wait ten months. Custody of minor children is usually given to the mother. Both parents continue to have an obligation to contribute financially toward the rearing and education of the child.
In theory a man may have multiple wives if he can afford them, but this is rare in practice; the first wife may veto the taking of a second wife. Concubinage also exists, although it is more frequent in the cities. While second wives have certain legal rights, concubines have none.
This article is based on "Courtship, marriage, and divorce in Cambodia" from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org). It is licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation Licencse. In the Wikipedia you can find a list of the authors by visiting the following address: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Courtship%2C+marriage%2C+and+divorce+in+Cambodia&action=history