A Colorful, Traditional Cambodian and Chinese Wedding in Oregon
Linna and Joe
When Linna So met Joe Armstrong at a Portland, Oregon, restaurant in August 2009, her first impression was that he was absolutely perfect—for her friend. "I tried to hook them up, but thankfully, that didn't work out!" she says, laughing. The duo began hitting the town with mutual pals, and soon romance blossomed. "It's a cliché, but I just knew," says Linna, an academic and clinic support coordinator at Pacific University. "Our personalities fit so well together." Joe, a software engineer at Nike, felt the same, and four years into their courtship, he had an epiphany: Life was so good, he couldn't live without Linna. "That very same day, I went and bought a ring," he says. He left the ring box in a chest of drawers at their home with a note for her to find ("Marry me, Cookie?") before he got down on one knee.
Linna knew that she wanted a traditional Chinese- and Cambodian-style celebration to reflect her ancestry, and that she had plenty of time to plan: Her brother had gotten engaged several months prior. "In Chinese culture, siblings can't get married within a year of each other—it's bad luck," she says. So they waited two years for their nuptials, which took place on July 3, 2015, and featured seven ceremonies, including a blessing by Buddhist monks, as well as a passing of blessings at their home in Hillsboro, Oregon, in which married couples surround the bride and groom and pass a candle around them seven times, using their hands to wave its smoke over the newlyweds. "The smoke is supposed to be sacred and protect the couple from evil," says Linna. Per tradition, Linna and Joe changed outfits between events, and guests feasted on congee, sweet rice with banana rolls, and roasted pig.
"The most memorable moment was the final stage of the wedding, when our happily married parents and elders tied red rings around our wrists with wishes for health, success, and long-lasting love," Linna says. "Everyone said, 'Have lots of children!'" Proof positive that those blessings worked: Their son was born just nine months later.
The bride rented traditional Cambodian jewelry and combined it with pieces that were passed down from her grandmother.
A guest from California brought fresh betel leaves, which are chewed by both families to seal their agreement with the marriage.
Part of the Festivities
Instead of a walk down the aisle, many Cambodian weddings have a hai goan gomloh, a groom's processional, in which he and his friends and family carry offerings of fruits and sweets to the bride's home to announce his intentions to marry her. During this ceremony, there were "100 people, some in Cambodian outfits, parading down the street with offerings at nine o'clock in the morning—quite the sight for my neighbors," Linna says. Here, Linna's cousin and aunt hold fruit offerings during the groom's parade.
Showered with Love
Seeds from a palm-tree pod, which the groom carried in a parade to the bride's home, were showered on the couple.
The Sounds of Celebrating
Gongs were struck to mark the beginning of each ceremony.
A Special Cut
In gaat sah, the hair-cutting ceremony, family members cut the couple's hair to symbolize a fresh start.
Postwedding, the couple wore traditional Cambodian dress—one of seven outfits they showcased. Strings on the couples' left wrists symbolized remembrance of their parents, while strings on the couple's right wrists symbolized their commitment to family traditions.
A Colorful Crew
The wedding party stopped for a portrait at Meriwether National Golf Club, where the reception was held.
A Sweet Moment
"It's been seven years [since we met], and we never tire of each other," says Linna. "I married my best friend."
Photography, Lexia Frank Photography
Reception location and catering, Meriwether National Golf Club
Reception music, Chris Mai
Bride's, groom's, and wedding party's attire and jewelry, Fina Salon Boutique
Hair and makeup, Lindsay Garger of Powder Inc.
Chair covers, Elegant Wedding Chair Covers
Master of ceremonies, Sokharo Choy of the Cambodian Buddhist Society of Oregon