My mother & father on their wedding day in 1976
Last year, my little cousin Thuy got married and I went back to Vietnam for the occasion as well as to photograph for my book, My Vietnamese Kitchen. It was not long ago that we sat by the sea’s side sucking coconut water from it’s shell with a pink coloured straw and wondered, whom out there will have us, marry us and give us children. We longed for the day that one of us would finally find our prince, like girls do. Like with all finds, you find it when you find it. From one day to the next, you meet someone and your life changes forever. Thuy met the love of her life.
Bride & bridesmaid getting ready
In Vietnam, the most traditional thing you can do is marry. People marry very young, in their early twenties and if you are approaching your thirties or are in your thirties and haven’t married, you can more or less consider yourself, left on the shelf, like in a shop, no one wants to buy you! It is as blatant as that and no one will be shy to remind you!
As a child I used to stroll through my parent’s wedding pictures every day and made up stories in my mind about all the people in the photos and what it would have been like. Attending Thuy’s wedding was like seeing what my parents did in their twenties when they married each other. I had no idea about the traditions that are set and also no idea about how long (or how little time) the ceremonies and receptions took.
In the photographs here, my cousin Thuy is still in her in nightie waiting for the groom to come to the family house to present her with a dress. The groom’s family would bring traditional gifts to present to the family of the bride and to also present her with gifts such as jewellery. Only immediate family are invited to this occasion, but that could be quite a lot of people, as in the case of our family!My uncles & auntThe family of the bride line up to receive the groom’s family into her homeGifts from the groom’s family
Meanwhile, the bride can get dressed into a red dress that was given by the groom
Then we go and have a big 8 course feast at a restaurant together. This takes as long as the food takes to be eaten and everyone departs. In the evening, about 500 people are invited to attend the big celebration. These could be anyone you’ve ever met in your life and their neighbours! Everyone will wear their best outfit and make a big effort. It is also a 8 course feast with seafood, duck, suckling pig to noodles and snacks such as spring rolls. Anyone who comes has to gift the couple with money in a red envelope. And the occasion lasts for about as long as it takes to eat the feast which is about 90 minutes! I was so shocked when people started to leave after an hour and a half and by two hours and a half, the whole thing was over. Everyone would have left the bride and groom who went to each table to thank the guests and would have been starving and exhausted.
Apart from it being a very happy occasion, it was also a rather sad one because it was the first time Thuy (or a daughter) would leave the family home. She grew up sharing a bedroom with her sister, Thao and lived with the family all of her life. This would be the first night that she would be gone, to her new home with the groom’s family. It was heart breaking for her sister and her mother, who were proud but also so very sad. My mother, father & uncle Hien
My grandparents & parents
Me, selfies, on Thuy’s wedding day, having a moment amongst the noise.