Editor's note:Darren Chua wrote for Tuoi Tre News about his wedding following a story by Australian Ray Kuschert, who pointed out things that may ‘shock’ foreigners when it comes to attending a Vietnamese wedding, including punctuality.
The Singaporean author has lived in Ho Chi Minh City since 2013 and has been happily married since 2018. He is currently a remisier and professional trader with a Malaysian bank.
I’m a pragmatic person and my wife will tell you she’s the romantic one between the two of us. After all, weddings are just a show, a one-day performance for others to ‘see’ while a marriage lasts a lifetime.
In fact, both my weddings were done only for the sake of my parents and parents-in-law. As the saying goes, 'four happy parents make a happy bride and groom.' Nay, I just made that up.
With this mental picture of the person that I am, I asked my wife-to-be back then, “With your permission, let us spend the least amount of money possible on the wedding and put the savings into our honeymoon."
Being a frugal person herself, she picked the most sparkling set of jewelry that was the best value for money and that could be bought from one of the largest jewelry chain stores in Vietnam.
As my wife is a Saigonese Catholic, I only had two weddings: one in a Catholic Church in the city and another in Singapore.
My father-in-law explained that as Vietnamese Catholics, there would be three parts to our wedding in Vietnam: a tea ceremony at their home, a rite at the church, and the last at a restaurant.
As a pragmatic person, he advised that we should do all three on the same day so as not to inconvenience the older folks and the restaurant session should be held inside the church.
The tea ceremony was a process where the older generation blessed the couple while giving them gold ornaments while the younger generation offered tea to them.
There were insane amounts of waiting time for things to happen in this segment of the wedding. The church ceremony doesn’t need much introduction.
It’s a formalization of the marriage union in the eyes of God and man.
Now, the most interesting part, if you have yet to experience it, would definitely be the restaurant celebration.
At my wedding, the kids from the children's church whom my wife taught not that long ago dragged us up onstage for an impromptu dance session.
It was shortly followed by karaoke sessions where random strangers, mostly late-middle-aged men whom I was meeting for the first time, offered their ‘gift of song.'
One could even marvel at how much confidence beer gave them as they yelled the hits of the ’60s at the top of their voices. These middle-aged men, being the life of the party, would also randomly approach me to ‘bottoms up' my beer.
Having attended a few weddings before mine, I knew of their enthusiasm to get the foreigner drunk. They were disappointed.
One similarity I noticed between Vietnam and Singapore was the issue of punctuality. In fact, it was a common saying that 'one should not attend a wedding at the time written on the invitation, instead make it an hour late.'
To agree or disagree with this statement, you need to clarify the purpose of attending the wedding. If it is to show that you were present, so be it.
Personally, for me, I would like to be there on time, simply to show respect for the couple, to take some photos with them and some friends, and also to get to know the people around the table.
It is highly uncomfortable for me to sit and eat at a table for two hours without knowing the names of the others. In fact, I would even go as far as to strike up conversations as every life is a story waiting to be told.
The wedding in Singapore carried a much different tone. We had the tea ceremony just before the wedding lunch which was just a simple, formal affair.
If I was forced to choose, I would say the weddings in Vietnam are way more fun than in Singapore, especially the atmosphere of celebration.