At the end of December I had the great pleasure to photograph a Vietnamese-Indian wedding ceremony, which was a beautiful and memorable event. It was the wedding of Hanh and Vinod, two really wonderful people who I know are going to really do well.
The wedding ceremony itself was preceded by a Vietnamese Tea Ceremony, held inside the Double Tree Hotel, in Austin, Texas. Family and close friends gathered inside the bride and groom’s suite to participate in the special tea ceremony. Everyone (including the groom) waited in anticipation for the bride to arrive to begin the tea ceremony. As she made her grand entrance in her colorful, red traditional dress everyone’s face turned to smiles and deep pride. The wedding was now under way!
One of the younger family members prepared the tea and then served it to the bride and groom, who shared tea with family. Family members were given the opportunity to give blessings and provide uplifting words about the bride and groom’s future together, which was very heartwarming. There were prayers, thanks given, laughs and hugs.
According to Wikipedia, “A formal tea and candle ceremony along with speeches follow. While tea has always been an essential part of Vietnamese life, Vietnamese tea culture is not as complex or ritually rigid as its counterparts in China, Japan or Korea. A traditional wedding may be the only time in a Vietnamese person’s life that a formal tea ceremony is essential. The bride and groom, in front of all their guests, will serve tea (or wine) to their parents. Each parent will then give advice about marriage and family to the couple. A candle ceremony will follow, symbolizing the joining of the bride and groom and the joining of the two families. The groom’s gift boxes filled with jewelry will be opened by the groom’s mother, who will then put each piece on the bride for good fortune.”
During Hanh and Vinod’s tea ceremony, the groom’s mother and family brought forth special jewelry as a gift for the bride-to-be. As a special touch, the mother of the groom helped the bride to put on ear rings, a necklace, as well as other jewelry.
Wikipedia says, “Preparations for the traditional Vietnamese wedding first begins by choosing a date and time for the marriage ceremony. This is decided by a Buddhist monk, Spiritual leader, or fortune teller due to the spiritual nature of the occasion.” While I was not privy to the behind-the-scenes planning of Hanh & Vinod’s wedding, I’m sure they consulted with family and friends first before scheduling the big day.
The wedding consists of an extensive set of ceremonies: asking permission to receive the bride, receiving the bride at her house, and bringing the bride to the groom’s house. Both Vietnamese and oversea-Vietnamese who desire to have a hybrid traditional Vietnamese and Western-style wedding will often incorporate the last two ceremonies with the Western-style wedding.”
In the past it was apparently popular for the the groom’s family to visit the bride’s home with a gift of betel nuts in order to ask permission to receive the bride. This is when the wedding would be confirmed and set planning into motion. However, since in the past marriages were frequently arranged, this part of the courtship was necessary to prepare both families and the bride and groom. Now, arranged marriage is not as prevalent and some of the traditional parts of the wedding are not included.
More traditional weddings in the past would have processions going back and forth from the bride’s house and groom’s house, exchanging gifts, discussing the wedding, lighting fire crackers, introductions between family/friends and more. In the old tradition a wedding ceremony was held at the groom’s house and the reception and celebration followed immediately.
Hanh and Vinod’s more modern Vietnamese-Indian style wedding ceremony was held at the Double Tree Hotel in Austin during the Christmas holidays, which seems magical and fortuitous to me! The ceremony was held outdoors, in the outdoor plaza area of the hotel which is shrouded in greenery, trees, fountains and more, and surrounded on all four sides by magnificent views of the Double Tree Hotel architecture. Being there makes you feel like you are in a secluded garden.
The ceremony was officiated by the uncle of the groom, who made everyone feel like a part of the ceremony and offered some really touching words and advice for the bride and groom. The area where the bride and groom (and immediate wedding party, approximately 4 groomsmen and 4 bridesmaids) stood was about 4 feet above the guest seating, which gave the appearance of a royal wedding. And the bride’s long train, which cascaded down the back of her dress seemed angelic and luxurious.
After the ceremony everyone made their way through the French doors of the hotel, back to the reception where assigned seating awaited. The bride and groom had planned ahead, creating a beautifully colorful backdrop in the middle of the reception ballroom where pictures could be snapped of guests with the bride and groom. A line of guests quickly formed to do just that.
Once everyone had gotten a photo with the new husband and wife, a delicious buffet of Indian and Vietnamese cuisine was prepared. Everyone mingled in between eating and the room was buzzing with excited family and friends, celebrating the new life of the married couple.
After the meal, the bride and groom disappeared. Later they made another grand entrance into the reception ballroom and the bride was sporting a beautiful, green dress, in the more traditional style. There was much applause and excitement among the guests as they welcomed Hanh and Vinod back into the room.
More from Wikipedia: “In modern weddings, brides usually change into three different gowns during the reception. Her dresses are usually composed of the Western white wedding gown, a second Western dress to be worn at the end of the evening during the dancing, and a third traditional Áo dài to be worn during the traditional table visits to personally thank the guests for coming.
Guests are expected to bring gifts, and it is traditionally in the form of money in an envelope. As of January 2009, the appropriate amount is usually $100–$200 USD per person though more or less is possible depending on the locale. Immediate family usually gives more money to the bride and groom. At one point during the reception, the bride and groom will go from table-to-table to thank guests for their blessings and sometimes collect the envelopes.”
“Both Vietnamese bride and groom, typically change outfits three or more times on their wedding night. The traditional Vietnamese dress called Ao Dai which literally means “long dress” and in most of the time fashioned in red and yellow colors. It made it is made up of over four layers of silky overlapping fabric, which are pleated over loose-fitting trousers made from the same fabric.” – http://www.getmetothechurchontime.co.uk
Then, Hanh & Vinod made their way around to each table. They gave thanks to those who attended at each table and they also gave gifts of truffles to all attendees. Many guests returned the favor by giving wedding gifts, such as envelopes, cards, wrapped presents and momentos to the bride and groom. There were lots of smiles and laughter to go around.