Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Wedding

(PICTURE: Huyen's dad giving a speech at the wedding.)

It's finally here -- The Wedding Blog!

First off, let me apologize because I don't have too many pictures. We haven't picked up our pictures yet from the photographer and my unofficial photographer Sebastian is still traveling and hasn't sent me pictures yet. I've had a few shots trickle in but will eventually post a boat load. Soooo....

After being fifteen minutes late, I was quickly escorted down the alley into Huyen's house. As soon as I walked into the house I was struck by the sheer number of people there. There must have been about two hundred people in the small space in front of Huyen's house. That space was also about to get a lot smaller since another 70 people were coming behind me in the alley. I was quickly escorted upstairs to the one room in the house. Everyone was waving at me and shaking my hand as I made my way into the "bridal suite." As soon as I walked in, I saw Huyen who looked absolutely beautiful. I told Huyen that she looked gorgeous and she replied, "I think I look stupid." You see, she was wearing make-up which she never wears. I assured her that despite the make-up she was stunning. I then made a comment though that was something like this: "Um, why are you wearing a fur shawl?" I had seen Huyen in her wedding dress before and there was never a fur shall included. Huyen quickly explained that the tailoring on the dress wasn't perfect and she was scared the dress would slip down. The shall was a safety precaution. I'm not a fan of fur (and I doubt it was real) but this seemed like a good excuse. I'm pretty sure the wedding wouldn't have been quite as great if Huyen exposed herself to a few hundred people. Anyway, lesson learned: Maybe there is something to trying on a dress more than one day before the big day.

After spending a few minutes with Huyen, her breast-feeding sister and a score of other people who kept popping to the room, we were told we had to go downstairs to begin the wedding. Huyen and I made our way down to the first floor and headed to the front area where the ceremony was going to be held. Let me tell you, this was easier said then done. There were so many people crammed into a small space that Huyen and I couldn't walk side by side. In fact, it was tough to just walk through the crowd. I found myself slightly pushing through people in order to get married.

(PICTURE: The wedding aisle.)

When we got to the front we were joined by our two MCs and our parents. The MCs were my friends Tu and Quynh. I'll write a blog about them soon. The ceremony began and included the following:

(PICTURE: Putting the ring on.)

1. The ring exchange between Huyen and me. Unlike in western weddings, this happened right off the bat. Also right off the bat, Huyen started to cry. The moment we slipped rings on each other was very special and something that we'll remember forever. I'll also remember going in for a peck and getting Huyen's cheek. Huyen and I had briefly discussed our "first kiss." Huyen said she wasn't sure she wanted to kiss in front of everyone. I said, okay, I'll just peck you. Well, that didn't happen either as I gave her a big nose to the cheek. Literally, this is my wedding kiss:

(PICTURE: I didn't want to kiss a girl with a fur shall anyway.)

2. Speeches. Huyen's father and my parents each gave a speech which was translated by the MCs. Here's a copy of my parents' speech in both English and Vietnamese:

We'd like to wish a Mazel Tov to Huyen and Ben on finding each other and as we say in America, tying the knot. When Ben left home 2 1/2 years ago, we expected him back in a year but something stronger than the love for his parents kept him here - his love for Huyen.

Trước tiên chúng tôi xin được nói: Mazel Tov (có nghĩa là chúc mừng) tới Huyền và Ben đã gặp được nhau và giờ đây, họ được kết duyên tơ hồng. Khi Ben rời Mỹ 2 năm rưỡi về trước, chúng tôi đã mong muốn rằng Ben sẽ quay trở về Mỹ 1 năm sau đó, nhưng đã có 1 điều gì đó mãnh liệt hơn tình yêu của Ben dành cho bậc làm cha làm mẹ chúng tôi, và đó chính là tình Yêu Ben dành cho Huyền.

The Ngyen family has opened up their hearts and home to make Ben feel a part of their family from early on. We look forward to Huyen and Ben coming the the US and we want to assure all of you that Huyen will be welcomed into our family with open arms since we know that parents round the world always worry about their children.

Chúng tôi cũng muốn thể hiện lòng biết ơn tới gia đình Nguyễn đã giang rộng cánh tay và bằng cả trái tim họ đón nhận Ben như một thành viên trong gia đình. Chúng tôi vô cùng hạnh phúc và luôn giang rộng cánh tay đón Huyền trở thành 1 thành viên mới trong gia đình nhà August chúng tôi.

We see all the hard work that Huyen's family has put into readying their new home and preparing for so many people at their wedding and we truly thank you. We hope that one day you will travel to America so we can return the hospitality.

Hơn nữa, chúng tôi vô cùng cảm kích với tất cả những gì gia đình họ nhà gái đã làm để chuẩn bị chu đáo cho đám cưới ngày hôm nay, chúng tôi xin gửi lời cảm ơn chân thành đến gia đình họ nhà gái và mong rằng sẽ có ngày chúng tôi có thể trả được ơn này.

At home, we have 3 generations waiting to meet Huyen. Grandma Cele who just had her 94th birthday, Nanny at 91, Zev - Ben's big brother, Kathy his sister in law, and their daughter,Ben's niece Lilah who thinks Huyen and Ben live inside the computer. We wish everyone could have come to be here today and we plan another celebration when you arrive in New Jersey.

Chúng tôi xin giới thiệu về đại gia đình August của Ben ở Mỹ rất mong chờ được gặp Huyền: Bà ngoại Cele đã bước sang 94 tuổi, bà nội 91 tuổi, anh trai cả của Ben: anh Zev, chị dâu Kathy và cháu gái Lilah của Ben.

Cuối cùng, chúng tôi xin gửi lời cảm ơn chân thành đến toàn thể các quý vị khách quý đã dành thời gian để đến tham gia lễ cưới của 2 con chúng tôi ngày hôm nay. Chúng tôi mong rằng một ngày quý vị có thể tham dự lễ cưới của Huyền và Ben ơ quê hương của chúng tôi: New Jersey, Mỹ.

We know that you two are so in love and see how happy you are together and we pray that this continues for a long and healthy marriage with many happy celebrations and generations. L"CHAYIM "TO LIFE"

Chúng tôi xin có 1 vài lời rành riêng cho Huyền và Ben: Bố mẹ biết rằng các con rất hạnh phúc bên nhau, và bố mẹ mong rằng tình yêu các con dành cho nhau sẽ là mãi mãi, chúc các con luôn hạnh phúc.

I thought it was a pretty great speech by my parents. Many of my students have commented to me since that my parents said very sweet words.

3. After the speech, as per Vietnamese custom, different family members from both sides put gold jewelry on Huyen and me. Huyen's mother, aunt and two sisters all gave her and me gold rings. Then my mother, sister and aunt all put gold jewelry on Huyen. This moment ended up being quite comical as the gold rings they tried to put on me didn't even come close to fitting my fingers below the second knuckle.

4. My family took out my Bar Mitzvah kiddush cup and said the Jewish prayer for wine. Then, for maybe only the second time in my life, I saw my father sip wine. This wasn't no Kedem though; this was hard core home made rice wine. Needless to say, my father had quite a grimace on his face and I believe coughed once or twice like a pissed off dragon.

5. Also in accordance to Jewish wedding tradition, I broke a cup with my foot. The MCs explained to the crowd that the tradition's meaning is that our marriage will last as long as the pieces of glass are never put back together perfectly. They then told everyone that once I broke the glass they had to yell, "Mazel Tov." They had everyone practice twice and then it was time for some glass smashing. My parents had brought a special glass from home which I totally stomped the crap out of. As soon as the glass was broken about three hundred people yelled, "Mazel Tov." If anything, it as this moment that will stick in my mind forever. In my wildest dreams I never pictures a village of Vietnamese yelling anything in Hebrew in unison.

(PICTURE: Those aren't water bottles; they're filled with home brewed rice wine.)

After the ceremony, Huyen and I went from table to table thanking everyone for coming. Part of this tradition is that the bride and groom are supposed to have a drink with everyone. Well, I tried to do that but it lasted about five tables. I hadn't eaten yet so the powerful rice wine was going right to my head. I decided that I'd fake drink for the rest of the morning until I got something to eat...which never happened.

(PICTURE: My students singing to us.)

Once all the eating was done (except for Huyen and I), the singing began. We had some great performances including a couple of songs by my students. This was only topped by my family singing the Beatles, "When I'm Sixty Four."

Overall, the wedding was an awesome experience. It didn't come close to matching the party atmosphere of the an hoi but it had a very special feeling from start to finish. My friend Long made a comment to me during the wedding that it was the most stadium like atmosphere of any wedding he had ever been to. There were pump-up-the-crowd theme songs when people walked into the wedding, tons of cheers and chants and great joy all around as if a team had just won the championship.

People keep asking me how the wedding was and all I can really say is that it was an experience -- one that I think nobody who was there will ever forget.