Today I experienced my very first Vietnamese wedding! My manager handed me the invitation last week and said ‘You will come to my wedding’. A little presumptuous I thought, but there was no way I was going to turn down this opportunity. I got pretty excited in the run up; I’d heard stories of some pretty crazy Vietnamese traditions which I couldn’t wait to witness. An example of which is a game of ‘spin the bottle’, but rather than a bottle, a chicken head, balanced on a stick, is used as the spinning device and whoever its beak points to has to drink. Seriously.
On arrival at the 5* Hotel (classy!), Tom and I were greeted by none other than the bride and groom and were pounced on for a photo opportunity – all the while being videoed by a family member who was a little too eager to impress. The element of surprise surrounding the bride was entirely non-existent, and while she looked stunning in her white dress, I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t the traditional Vietnamese Áo dài. I also noticed that the rings had already been exchanged. Turns out, all official wedding duties are conducted months before the actual celebration; including all the wedding photographs which were projected on screens around the ballroom.
Once we were seated, and after a few awkward introductions, the ceremony began on a small stage at the front of the function room – 6 young girls dressed as angels (imagine the nativity outfits worn at a Christian Primary School and you’re pretty much there) began an Irish Jig-esque dance routine. The bride and groom then appeared and introduced the audience to their parents – who sat on thrones (literally) on either side of the couple. After a quick speech by the father of the groom, the couple proceeded to pour red wine into a fountain of wine glasses (just imagine the devastation had some splashed on her dress…). Next was the cutting of a pretty impressive, multi-layered cake. I’d heard some exciting rumours that usually a plastic cake is used, just for show, as it’s a Western tradition anyway. So I thought the staging of the photo would have been hilarious. But, they actually had a real cake, which excited me greatly until they didn’t share it with any of the guests. How rude.
After a quick speech by the chef (?), the first dish of our 7 course meal was served. The food was delicious and included some traditional delights such as phở and a whole lot of seafood; followed, of course, by a slice of boiled pig skin – because what wedding is complete without a delicious slice of skin? During the meal, and after 2 dress changes, the bride and groom wandered around to each table where we all had to stage a cheering of glasses for the photographer – it all felt a little forced and awkward but at least I finally had my chance to congratulate the pair.
Once the meal was over, people immediately began leaving. Waiters actually started clearing the tables and the music was, fairly abruptly, silenced. I couldn’t believe it, we’d only been there 2 hours. There was no ‘you may now kiss the bride’, no wedding dance, no other speeches and certainly no confetti. I was just getting into the swing of things, ready for a right ol’ boogie. The waiters had been walking around filling up everyone’s glasses with free beer, so I was certainly on my way towards a raucous time. In hindsight, I now realise why the table next to us kept doing toasts every 10 minutes and downing their beers. At first I thought they were being a little irresponsible, but now I realise that they were just trying to make the most of the free beer – I wish I’d gotten involved with them a little more now.
All in all, it wasn’t quite the traditional Vietnamese wedding I was hoping for, there wasn’t even a chicken head to play spin the bottle! But as far as weddings go, it was a very enjoyable 2 hours. It did however leave me thinking that the £60 I spent on a tailored dress for the occasion was just a little extravagant…