(PICTURE: Sebastian and I with the bride.)
In America, on a girl's wedding day, she's supposed to feel like the center of the universe. Everyone should be focused on the bride -- no ifs ands or buts. Well, it's slightly different here...at least when a foreigner shows up to the wedding.
Sebastian, Huyen and I arrived at Huyen's cousins house at 11 o'clock. As we pulled up to the alley where Huyen's cousin lives, a girl came out and pointed to us where to park our motorbikes. After parking our bikes, Huyen introduced me to the girl -- the bride. That's right, just a couple of hours before her wedding she was directing traffic. The three of us were then escorted into the house where we mingled with Huyen's father's side of the family. Huyen quickly admitted to Sebastian and I that she had no idea who half the people there were. At least the Vietnamese and Jews have that in common; I could have probably pointed out and named 25% of my relatives at my Bar Mitzvah.
Once Huyen's immediate family arrived we sat down for a delicious meal. The way weddings work here is that you begin to eat when you fill a table. If you show up by yourself, you can't eat till there's enough people to eat all the food. I couldn't have been happier that Sebastian was with me because it meant that I wouldn't be the only person being force fed/obliged to drink ever thirty seconds. The expression on Sebastian's face quickly turned from hunger and excitement to pain. I told Sebastian it was rude in Vietnam not to finish ones food so he crammed down the scraps of chicken and rice still in his bowl. If I was a betting man I would have said there was a 50% chance he was going to puke. He pulled through though and just complained for the next 24 hours that he was stuffed.
Here is how the traditional small town wedding takes place:
11AM-2PM: The family of the brides and grooms gather at their respective houses and eat and drink.
(PICTURE: Huyen's father and I eating and drinking.)
2 PM: The grooms family, in a parade procession, appears at the bride's house. The bride's family services the groom's family sweets. i.e. sucking candies. While the groom's family enjoys breath mints, an MC talks over the microphone. Huyen's father, always full of energy, served as the MC. He basically said over and over in Vietnamese the names of all the family members and how happy of a day it was for everyone.
(PICTURE: Huyen's Dad freestyling on the right)
3 PM: The family's all gather together and go to a local statue and take wedding pictures.
(PICTURE: Huyen's cousin's family in front of a concrete war hero. Huyen's mother is on the far left wearing a traditional dress.)
3:30 PM: The families get back on their motorbikes or in their cars and drive to the groom's house.
(PICTURE: The families marching through the alley to the groom's house.)
At the groom's house another MC takes over the ceremony and continues the wedding. While at the groom's house the bride's family enjoys sweets. i.e. More sucking candies. The bride and groom exchange rings and then BAM it's over.
(PICTURE: The groom's MC doing his thang while Huyen's family enjoys candies)
After the wedding we drove back to Huyen's house for dinner...where they proceeded to feed Sebastian and I a lot more food. Again, Sebastian was on the verge of puking and had a look of disdain in his eyes for Huyen's sister who kept placing chicken in his bowl.
When we finished dinner we headed back to Hanoi on our bikes. I try not to drive at night since well, it's scary as hell. We took a side road, with less traffic, most of the way. However our hearts still skipped a beat a few times when:
1. A truck full of hundreds of dogs (I don't want to think about where they were going) nearly ran me off the road.
2. A giant truck almost ran me off the road while driving in my line...yet going in the opposite direction.
3. I almost ran about a half dozen people wearing all black and walking in the middle of the street off the road...
While we were driving back Huyen's phone rang. She had a conversation for a few minutes and then said to me, "My cousin wants to thank you and Sebastian for coming to her wedding. You two made it very special and nobody will ever forget it." I turned to Huyen (as much as one turns backwards on a motorbike) and said, "Shouldn't your cousin have better things to do on her wedding night then call her wedding guests?"