Since both sides of Liz’s families live so far apart from each other, we decided we would hold 2 traditional Vietnamese wedding ceremonies in our first and probably most meaningful country – Vietnam.
Liz’s parents immigrated to the United States during the Vietnam War in 1975 at the age of 18 (Chanh) and 16 (Hong). You can read a recap of their story of coming to America on Liz’s personal blog here: Liz’s parents story on coming to America. Their families still remain where they grew up – the Truong’s (Chanh’s side) in Ho Chi Minth City, and the Hoang’s (Hong’s side) in the little fishing village of Nui Thanh in Central Vietnam. Liz’s Ba Noi (Grandma, aka Chanh’s mom) still lives in the same home Chanh grew up in. Liz returned “home” to Vietnam for the first time in 2011 in an emotional journey to meet her extended family for the first time, and the first of the Truong family from America to go back. For a recap on her first trip home, you can read it here: Liz’s first journey home to Vietnam.
Coming back to hold our first wedding for Liz’s parents in Vietnam was definitely not short on emotions. It was truly an honor to be there to include everyone in such an important time in our lives, and have them take part in the celebration. Above all, however, we are so grateful that we are able to represent Liz’s parents in Vietnam on their behalf while they are away. We can truly feel when our Vietnam family expresses love for us, that in large part it is their expression of love and longing for Liz’s parents.
After HCMC, we transitioned into the laid-back fishing village of Nui Thanh on the central coast of Vietnam, where the Hoang side of the family resides, and where hospitality is the king of all kings. Situated in the Quang Nam Province on untouched, sandy beaches backed by lush, green jungle, this area is known for it’s food, charm, and the best hospitality in all of Vietnam. Anyone that has met Liz’s mom knows this is definitely where she came from, because it more than lived up to it’s reputation. Fact. These people know how to show you a good time.
Because we had 2 ceremonies, we will sort of “blend” the two to give you the recap of the similarities, differences, and the amazing moments of love we got to share with Liz’s family over the Valentines Day (and Chanh & Hong’s anniversary) weekend.
The wedding started with us being presented at the altar of our ancestors, most notably Liz’s “Ong Noi” and “Ong Ngaoi” aka the Grandpa’s. Typically Liz’s dad would present us, but because he was not there, Uncle #4** asked Liz’s Dad’s permission to present us to the ancestors at the ceremony with my dad’s side, and my Uncle Thu presented us at my mom’s side ceremony. After filling all the glasses on the altar with water from the sea and offerings, we stood before it, my Uncle’s lit the incense, we bowed 3 times, and then they spoke a blessing to the altar offering first our full names, waking up our ancestors to join us for the celebration, and bestowing health and happiness upon us as a couple. We then bowed 3 more times with the incense in gratefulness, and placed the incense on the altar.
Line Up! Each Family Gives a Gift
The members of the family got in a line and one-by-one each family offered a gift to us and a personal blessing. This consisted of either money (the most common and generally only gift in Vietnam weddings) or gold rings. While holding our hands, they offered us blessings of good health and 100 years of happiness together.
Family Picture Time:
One family at a time, each portion of the family (aka my Uncle Thu, his wife, two kids, and their parents are one family) would come through and take a picture with us.***
*Wedding Dress Change*
We want to give a special thanks to our translators, Hang in HCMC and Tich in Nui Thanh that truly made this whole event so meaningful for us. Without them creating a bridge in communication to our family, we could not connect as deeply as we did. There aren’t words to describe how grateful we are for you both.
We also want to give a special thanks and shout-out to our friend Christian who joined us on the road in HCMC for our 1st wedding ceremony and allowing us to share our story and life with him. Christian is on his own multi-month travel tour right now and we were so fortunate to have him with us in Vietnam.
And last but not least – our photographer Conor Musgrave, who flew across the globe and will continue to do so for the rest of this project. He not only capture amazing moments of this emotional trip, but stepped outside of the comfort zone to allow my family to show him their love – the man accepted so many hugs and kisses openly from complete strangers!
You can check out more photos from our Vietnam wedding in our gallery here that we will continue to update as photos are processed.
Thanks for reading about our first wedding – stay tuned for more photos on the other adventures we had while in Vietnam and a better reflection on what this country and project has meant to us.
Don’t forget to follow our Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/wedtheworld for quick updates, and if you like The Photography of Conor Musgrave, check out his 500px site for more amazing pictures: Conor Photography 500px site
**In Vietnam you are addressed and referred to as whatever your birth order is within the family. Hierarchy of birth, especially in terms of respect, is very important. So my Uncle #4 was the 4th born on my Dad’s side of the family and commonly referred to as “#4” in the family.
***It is common not to smile in pictures in the Vietnamese culture.