They told us the wedding was Sunday at six.
Later on, we found out that was 6 a.m., meaning not-so-bright and early in the morning. But from the looks of things, it was a big deal. The son of our hostel owner was getting married and all week, the staff had been setting up with decorations, an archway in the entrance and firecracker lights. Waking up with the roosters wouldn’t usually be my preference. And weddings don’t normally interest me. But the groom invited us and it was going to be held right there at the hostel and I didn’t know when I’d get the chance to see another Vietnamese wedding, so I went ahead and set my alarm clock for the crack of dawn.
I woke up at around 4:30 a.m. Asia stayed up later than I did last night, so I was on my own. I got dressed and went downstairs. Hardly anybody was there. It was raining outside and I wondered if the wedding would be canceled. Thirty minutes went by. The crowds started coming in, all dressed up in suits and gowns. But no bride. I was told that, as is tradition, the groom’s family goes to the bride’s house to give gifts to her family and pick her up. I watched from the side of the alley as they filed out, stepping around the mud puddles, and climbed into a row of taxis. I stayed behind and went back to the room.
An hour later, the phone rang. “The bride is coming now,” Trang, the receptionist, told me. As I headed back downstairs, everybody was going upstairs. I followed them to the roof, where tables were arranged with cans of lemon-flavored Iced Tea, muffins and dried watermelon seeds.
Around that time is when I found out that I wasn’t allowed to see the ceremony. I wasn’t alone. Nobody except for the immediate family was allowed in the rooftop Buddhist temple where the ceremony was taking place. That wasn’t a problem. The father invited me to sit down at one of the tables and eat with the families.
One of the bride’s cousins spoke English well enough and was able to answer questions I had. He told me the wedding date is chosen specifically based on “lucky days” on the Chinese lunar calendar. The morning, he said, has more positive energy than evening so traditional wedding ceremonies take place before noon.
Marriages were arranged in the past, so proposing wasn’t in the picture. But that’s changing. Younger generations, he said, are starting to propose now because they like how it’s done in the West.
“They see it in the movies,” he said.
It was around 10 or so when the wedding ended. Everybody left to go to a family restaurant near Le Loi Street for the reception. I went to the room. Asia was out of bed at that point. I used her dressing time for a moment to rest and then we went downstairs to get breakfast.