I had the privilege of attending my friends Joe and Quy’s wedding last weekend in Phan Thiet, a small city along the coast of Vietnam. Having never been to a wedding before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. After attending, however, I can say that I’m looking forward to the next wedding I’m invited to!
I met Joe when I was taking the CELTA and we were both training to become teachers. Afterwards, he moved to Phan Thiet to be with his fiance while I stayed here in Ho Chi Minh City. As the months passed, our CELTA group talked less and less.
About a month ago, however, Joe revived our CELTA group by inviting us all to his wedding. Three of us were able to make it, and we met at the train station early Sunday morning to travel to Phan Thiet together. (Side note: the train was AMAZING, and I highly recommend it over the night bus!)
We spent Sunday afternoon catching up, and Sunday evening we headed to the wedding, which we thought was supposed to start at 5:30pm. When we arrived at 5:15, though, we were the only ones there. Nobody else showed up until closer to 6:00!
The whole ceremony was more like a reception at a Western wedding. You entered the venue and went down the table showing pictures of the bride and groom, dropping off your presents and signing a guest book. The bride and groom were waiting at the end in front of a backdrop, in which a photographer took a picture of them with each guest. We were then led to a table and waited for everyone else to arrive.
The ceremony opened with a dance group performing on stage, dressed in all white and dancing to a love song. When it was over, Quy was accompanied down the aisle by her father to Joe, and then all of the parents entered. The mothers walked down the aisle together, followed by their husbands. The entire family stood on stage and each male said thank you to the guests for coming and sharing this day with them and their families. Since this was a Western-Vietnamese wedding, there was a translation provided after each speech for the members of the audience of the other language.
Food was immediately served and a band began to play music, although no one was dancing. At one point it rained, and we were rushed inside to stay dry. As I took my beer glass from the table, I ran into 8 Vietnamese men who had saved not only their beer from the rain but also their food. They saw I had done something similar and invited me to join them, and I spent the rest of the night with them, eating and drinking everything they gave me. We tried to speak Vietnamese with each other, but they were a little too drunk for me to understand!
The band slowly gave way to some karaoke performances, but at that point I was having too much fun with these old men who kept putting food on my plate and trying to ask me questions to pay much attention to anything else. Although I really like the friends I came to the wedding with, getting away from them and joining a table of Vietnamese people finally made me feel like I was at a proper Vietnamese wedding.
The entire wedding was short. After 2 or 2.5 hours all of the guests left, and the only people remaining were us foreigners, who were a little confused as to why it was so short. We sat with the newly wed’s families, talking and drinking some more, before heading to the beach to celebrate their marriage.
We weren’t quite ready to finish the party, so around midnight we called a taxi and headed to karaoke to keep up the celebrations. We all sang, laughed, and had a good time before heading back to our hotels and calling it a night. Thanks for the invite Joe and Quy, and congratulations!