Local Wedding Planners Cater to More Sophisticated Tastes

Cambodia’s young and increasingly urbanized population and the growth of a wealthier, more consumerist culture has created a blossoming marriage industry catering to more sophisticated tastes and customers who seek to set themselves apart from the crowd.

At the Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra on Saturday and Sunday, the hotel hosted its third Wedding Fair with exhibitors showcasing the latest in bridal and menswear fashion, while jewelers, decorators, flower arrangers, photographers and makeup artists covered all the bases for an aspirant young crowd dreaming of the perfect wedding.

“I want to have the best wedding,” said 22-year-old student Sophea Srey, who is single and attended the fair with three of her friends, photographing each other on smartphones as they posed in a mock-wedding booth.

“Everything is beautiful here but I think everything is also very expensive and my family does not have much money, but maybe my husband will be rich,” she added, standing among bubble machines and models parading in fairytale gowns and spar­kling jewels.

Though traditional Khmer weddings are more of a kitsch affair—with multicolored dresses and suits adorned with sequins—the fair at Sofitel showed how Cambodia’s youth are becoming more susceptible to Western influences and the glitzy allure of a globalized popular culture and all its accoutrements.

For Cambodia’s young entrepreneurs, it is an exciting time as the wedding market grows and opportunities multiply.

“I started my business seven years ago and it is more competitive now as there are many wedding planners because people can see that a lot of money is being spent on weddings,” said 27-year-old Bun Sokha, who owns Sokha Salon and Wedding Embellishment, a wedding planning service that tailors every detail of a couple’s big event.

“When people have money, they want something unique, something extravagant, something that sets them apart from their peers, so we cater to their desire to be individual whether it’s dress design, flower arrangements or food and beverage choices.”

Ms. Sokha said that Cambodian weddings are definitely changing and adapting to the influence of television and social media. She also said that Western-educated people are returning to Cambodia with different perspectives than their parents as to what a wedding should look like.

“Before, Khmers celebrated for three to five days and brides changed dress 10 to 15 times, but now it is more like one-and-a-half days. Young people don’t want it so complicated, they want to spend more time with friends and family.”

Jean-Benoit Lasselin, owner of men’s designer fashion label Colorblind, said that traditional Cambodian weddings still prevail, but younger generations and more affluent classes want to put their stamp on one of the most important celebrations in Khmer culture.

“The traditional is blending and mixing as the young wish to release the heavy burden of its customs. However, because Phnom Penh is not yet a shopping city, fashion is having to prove that it is worth the money,” he said, add­ing that his unique designs aim to reflect the city’s hybrid, vibrant culture.

As two middle-aged women sat somewhat bemused-looking beside mannequins wearing white wedding dresses, young Cambodians eagerly wandered around the displays of white-tower wedding cakes, dipped marshmallows in a chocolate fondue fountain and stared at video screens showing distinctly Westernized wedding scenes.

“When things change and there are new trends, people must quickly accept, otherwise they will say you are strange,” said Ms. Sokha, the wedding planner.

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