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‘The most shocking thing was the duration of the wedding [in Vietnam]’

Wednesday, May 04, 2022, 14:58 GMT+7
‘The most shocking thing was the duration of the wedding [in Vietnam]’
Estonian Meigo Mark and his wife Nguyen Thi Sam (in white 'ao dai') pose for a picture with guests at their wedding in Thai Binh Province, Vietnam in October 2018. Photo courtesy of Meigo Mark

Editor's note:Meigo Mark recalled his wedding in 2018 in a piece for Tuoi Tre News, following a story by Australian Ray Kuschert, who pointed out aspects that may ‘shock’ foreigners when it comes to attending a Vietnamese wedding.

The Estonian author is married to a Vietnamese woman and has lived in northern Vietnam for four years after his project of walking around the world in nearly three years. The piece was titled and edited by Tuoi Tre News for clarity, consistency, and coherence.

My wife, Sam, and I met in Hanoi in December 2016. I was on a long walking journey and had walked over 13,000 kilometers in 19 countries in two years and seven months. I took a month-long rest in Hanoi and that was the period we fell in love.

I continued my walking travels but in the next one year Sam came to travel together with me exactly ten times in different countries including Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Cambodia.

After I completed walking 20,000 kilometers in 22 countries, I started to experience some health issues in Indonesia. So I stopped the long walk and flew back to Vietnam to live with my love.

Currently we live in a very small and peaceful Vietnamese village together with our three-year-old daughter, Maria Mai.

Our wedding was on October 20, 2018 in Dong Son Village, Dong Hung District, Thai Binh Province. That’s the same village we are living in now.

My wife’s uncle, Hoi, is the owner of a sports center here and our wedding was the first big event held in the big hall of the sports center. The floor or the hall had been completed just a few days earlier.

It was uncle Hoi who organized almost everything for our wedding. We only needed to take care of the rings, our wedding clothes and wedding invitations.

There were 240 Vietnamese people and seven people from my family who flew to Vietnam from Europe. Some of my Vietnamese friends came from Saigon and the north-central city of Dong Hoi, while some others were from Malaysia, France, and the U.S.. 

Estonian Meigo Mark (second from left) and his wife Nguyen Thi Sam pose for a picture with their family members at their wedding in Thai Binh Province, Vietnam in October, 2018. Photo by courtesy by Meigo Mark

Estonian Meigo Mark (second left) and his wife Nguyen Thi Sam pose for a picture with their family members at their wedding in Thai Binh Province, Vietnam in October, 2018. Photo courtesy of Meigo Mark

Because both Sam and I are vegan, all our wedding food was 100 percent vegan.

Most Vietnamese weddings I have been to look a bit similar in decorations, dresses, music, food, and agenda. To me, everything at a typical Vietnamese wedding is very familiar and predictable.

I have been to almost ten weddings in Vietnam. All of them were held in Hanoi, Thai Binh, and some neighboring provinces. But they were very similar.

Meanwhile, in Estonia, one goal of the wedding is to make it totally unique so that the guests would have absolutely no idea how the wedding place and decorations will look like and what will happen.

Just one surprise after another.

Also, in Estonia the families are much smaller, so the weddings are therefore much smaller [than in Vietnam]. For example, I only have three aunts and five cousins in total. Usually the wedding parties are only for family members and very close friends. A wedding with 50 people or more is considered big.

Estonian Meigo Mark and his wife Nguyen Thi Sam greet guests at their wedding in Thai Binh Province, Vietnam in October, 2018. Photo by courtesy by Meigo Mark

Estonian Meigo Mark and his wife Nguyen Thi Sam greet guests at their wedding in Thai Binh Province, Vietnam in October 2018. Photo courtesy of Meigo Mark

Duration of the wedding

However, when it comes to my wedding in Vietnam, the most shocking thing for me was the duration of the wedding. It started at 10:00 am and most guests had left by noon. They came, they ate, drank and left.

In my home country Estonia, weddings usually last at least one full day, and often two to three days at the weekend. The schedule is very well organized and full of different games, traditions, and rituals.

A wedding is a very rare event and you are lucky if you can attend at least one wedding party a year.

As Vietnam has a population almost 100 times Estonia's with 1.3 million people, there are also a lot more weddings here!

And I mean a lot!

In the last three years, I have been to more Vietnamese weddings than all the weddings before. So I think it would be impossible for people here to attend a long wedding almost every week!

Another thing is it was a surprise that people don’t really need to bring special wedding gifts to the bride, groom, and their families, as just giving money or gold is totally enough. Meanwhile, I love to give and receive very special, handmade, and beautiful gifts.

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