A typical wedding day starts early, full of activity. Hopefully it involves a beautiful sunrise, a delightfully leisurely breakfast, and then a bustle of fun as guests arrive and the day continues. But not many wedding days start 9000 miles from home. Except this one.
It was Christmas Eve back in the United States. Families were enjoying dinner together. Children were counting down the moments until Santa’s arrival. Churches prepared for the candlight service. Nine thousand miles away, it was Christmas morning and we drank fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice and started a wedding morning in Vietnam.
Ben and Hien have been married for a year. They met at church in Greensboro (Hien came to America to study), they hit it off, became fast friends, and the rest is – as they say – history. Hien has been studying in North Carolina for five years and we’ve been planning for months for her first trip home, her traditional wedding ceremony . . . our adventure in Vietnam.
Now, before we jump into the photos, you have to understand that a Vietnamese wedding ceremony is vastly unlike an American ceremony. So unfamiliar were the customs and traditions, I’m not even sure I can properly describe what went on during the day. It probably didn’t help that everything happened in a completely unfamiliar language and I was just trying to keep up with the videographer – at least he spoke the language (loudly) and knew what was going to happen next; I became his shadow and hoped I didn’t annoy him.
(iPhone and motorbike. who needs anything else?)
(these beautiful flowers were handmade by the incredibly talented Ngoc; handmade, I tell you!)
The ceremony itself begins at the groom’s home. Since Ben is twice the height of any Vietnamese in the country and his relatives were 9,000 miles away, his side of the ceremony took place at Hien’s grandmother’s home. First, a tribute to the ancestors, then an unveiling of the gifts, then the procession to the bride’s home.
Once at the bride’s home (please take note of the incredible archway — hand made out of banana leaves!), the groom’s friends very solemnly present to the bride’s friends their gifts while the groom looks on.
The eldest member of the bride’s family surveys the gifts, deems them acceptable (or unacceptable) and then welcomes the group into the bride’s parents’ home where the ceremony continues.
After even more inspection of the gifts, the mother disappears from the solemn table and returns with her daughter – the bride – and officially presents her to the groom.
And then it was over. And the party began.
Now, you have to understand: when these people party, they PART-AY!
The reception began with a concert and a dance before the grand reveal: at exactly the right moment, the groom stepped out from behind the stage and walked down the catwalk toward his bride.
As the music swelled, Ben and Hien stopped on cue — never dreaming they were going to be serenaded with fireworks!
The typical – universal – traditions were made unique by the confetti, the Christmas songs, and the dancing singers. (Please also note the dancing Santas who sprayed canned snow into the air.)
And that was that. The Vietnamese ceremony of Ben and Hien.
Wedding, round two: complete.