The countryside wedding, the city wedding, nuptials in the mountains and the Western-style wedding. Three couples tell us about their wedding experiences. Compiled by Vu Ha Kim Vy and Nick Ross
The Hanoi Wedding
Hoa and Nguyen
Hoa: It is a tradition to see a fortuneteller or a monk to find out the lucky times and days for ceremonies, in particular weddings.
According to the fortuneteller, my wedding had to be held in 2014 — the year is believed to match perfectly with my age, bringing luck and happiness to the rest of my married life. As we only told our parents in the middle of 2013 about the idea of getting married, we didn’t want to rush to have our wedding in the same year. To please my parents, we decided to have the an hoi (engagement) first and leave the wedding reception to the following year. In Vietnamese culture, once a couple has done the an hoi, they officially become husband and wife.
On my wedding day, my mother again followed the lucky hours decided by the fortune-teller, but this time she made a mistake. My ruoc dau was supposed to be from 1pm to 3pm, but my mother remembered the time as 3pm to 5pm.
After arranging everything, including the groom's mother's visit, the wedding car, telling the family members and relatives to be ready and on time, my mother realised she had got the time wrong. It was a crazy day but eventually we made it happen within the lucky hours.
Our plan was to have a modest wedding with just family and close friends, but no matter how we tried to reduce the number of guests, we couldn’t do better than a guest-list of 500 people. It took place in April 2014. I had some friends from Saigon attending, who came to bless our marriage. It was such a beautiful day.
The Countryside Wedding
Loc and Tu
Loc:While people in Saigon choose a single day for their wedding, Mekong Delta people usually have two days for the reception and the ruoc dau. As most houses in the countryside have gardens, the wedding reception is always organised at home. But sometimes, even a big garden can’t contain all the guests at the same time, and so the reception is divided into two or three shifts. In my case, I had sessions at 11am, 3pm and 6pm.
Opposite to Saigon weddings, we had the reception on the first day of the two-day wedding; the ruoc dau took place on the second day. With the support of friends from a Vespa club, my ruoc dau was different, with a long line of Vespa scooters following one another to the bride’s house. After the bride was brought to my house, another reception was carried out mainly for the bride’s family, and friends who couldn’t attend on the first day.
Both beer and rice wine can be served at a countryside wedding, and the people of the Mekong Delta prefer their rice wine bottled. On my wedding day, rice wine was the choice. Music was provided by a rented band and a group of transvestite singers. As my hometown is a small place, these singers can easily find out who is getting married. They come and perform for free, hoping to earn money from tips.
The wedding was in May, 2012 and I had a lot of fun.
The Phong Nha Wedding
Lesley Arnold and Mark Heather
Lesley: Phong Nha is a sleepy little town next to the Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park, which I (Lesley) and my husband Mark call home. We moved to Phong Nha in early 2014 after falling in love with the place while on a holiday to see the world’s biggest cave, Hang Son Doong.
Living in Phong Nha meant that we had been to many local weddings of both friends and strangers. And when we started making plans to get married in 2014, we decided that we wanted the riotous fun of a traditional Vietnamese village wedding. This was a great way to show our local friends that the village was now our home, and gave our overseas friends, and family from Australia, an experience to remember.
Getting the formal marriage paperwork done wasn’t possible in Vietnam at that time, so we opted for a quiet marriage while on holiday in Cape Town in late 2014. But the real party was always going to be in Phong Nha.
Our overseas guests made a week of it, staying at the Phong Nha Farmstay and enjoying the scenery and hospitality there, as well as getting out on a bicycle tour, a two-day cave trek and the Farmstay National Park Tour, plus a couple of great parties.
When it came to planning, it couldn’t have been easier — the wedding was a breeze for us. Our friend Dzung offered to organise the whole thing — his mum did the catering, he organised the wedding tent, decorations, MC and beer and he put in all the hard work to host the buck’s and hen’s night events and the wedding party in front of his home, the Jungle Boss Homestay in Phong Nha village.
There is a traditional way that weddings are done here and we didn’t want to change that. As long as there was food, beer with ice, friends, plastic stools and of course lots of karaoke, it was always going to be an awesome event.
We even had professional photos taken to put on the banner behind the stage, and to make one main wedding photo — framed and Photoshopped in a way that made us look at least a decade younger, and kilos slimmer than we were. In true local style, it’s now hanging in the front room of our house.
The wedding was a resounding success, with 150 guests and neighbours turning up. Mark’s parents could not make the overseas trip, but we were privileged to have our neighbour and landlord Bac Hung represent his family for the ceremony. It was hassle-free, loud and colourful, from the Army jeep wedding car to the festivities, speeches, singing and the parties that continued at Easy Tiger Hostel and the Phong Nha Farmstay.