Well, sort of in a Vietnamese traditional tea ceremony kind of way.
It’s true, as of Saturday, December 14, 2013, Gerard and I are married. Technically. At least in our family eyes. That’s because last Saturday, Gerard and I had our Vietnamese engagement/tea ceremony.
Normally if you’re Vietnamese, you would have your tea ceremony on the morning of your wedding day. You can imagine how long and hectic that day would be so Gerard and I decided to pull forward our tea ceremony and combined it with our dam hoi (engagement ceremony). Neither family has done one before, so don’t quote me on the rules and the ways – we just wing’d it for the most part.
The day started off early for me with hair and makeup. Kudos to my HMU, Sinde Torres. She made me pretty.. hehe
On the other side of town, Gerard got dressed while the family prepped all the red gift trays and offerings to bring to the Bride’s house – a dowry in a sense. And on this day, let’s see.. I was worth a total of 6 red trays filled with traditional offerings like tea and cookies, fresh fruit, sweet rice, Vietnamese jello and liquor, Hennessy XO to be exact. Oh, and let’s not forget the roasted suckling pig!
Gerard’s family arrived at the Bride’s house at exactly 1pm. Here they are gathered outside the house. Aww, look at Gerard. Doesn’t he look dashing in his traditional ao dai man-dress? LOL
Here they are at the front door, lined up in order of: The representatives (the couple to speak on behalf of the groom’s family), Gerard’s parents, his two older brothers carrying the roast pig, his cousin Son and the groomsmen carrying red trays, and finally, Gerard with the rest of his family and friends in tow.
The Bride’s family is suppose to grant permission for the groom’s family to enter. Once granted, my side came out to accept the gifts. The picture below shows the hand-off, with my two younger brothers accepting the roasted pig, my cousin and bridesmaids accepting the red trays.
There’s Gerard in the back, waiting patiently with a bouquet of flowers in hand for me.
Once inside, it’s pretty straight forward. My father spoke for my side, welcoming our guests on this wonderful day and joyous occasion. Introductions all around before the representative for the groom ask permission to present the gifts in exchange for me, the Bride.
Meanwhile, I have been purposely stashed away upstairs, under the watchful eyes of six toddlers, while I impatiently wait for my mother to retrieve me. That is if my father accepts the all gifts.
Time flew by and not long after I hear my mother come up the stairs. She was just as nervous as I was motioning me to come forward.
I nodded as she quickly warned me NOT to trip her on the way down. In fact, her exact words were,
“Every woman for themselves, don’t hold my hand until we get down the stairs. I don’t want to trip.” My mother everybody.. *applause*
I know what she means though, it’s really hard to walk in those traditional ao dai dress and not trip over the long MC Hammer trousers.
Here comes the Bride!
My mother escorts me straight to my father.
I try not to look around – I knew my emotions would get the best of me. But then my father threw everyone for a loop and delivers a tear jerking speech. His hand nervously gripping mine as he spoke only to Gerard,
“I only have but one daughter. Only one. On this day, I pass her on to you. Take care of her, cherish her and love her as I do.”
My eyes begin to water as I look up and noticed, Gerard was too. Behind me, my bridesmaids, were all in tears. It was unexpected.
Once my father handed me off, Gerard presented me a bouquet of flowers, which I must add, was put together the morning of by my beautiful bridesmaid Diep!
Candle ceremony & exchanging of the rings.
We begin the ceremony with the blessing and lighting of candles and incense as we pray to our ancestors.
After the lighting of the incense, Gerard and I exchanged wedding rings.
Jewelry for the Bride.
Next came jewelry for Bride. Mother wrapped the gold chain around my neck to complete my ao dai outfit and gave me a pair of earrings. My mother-in-law gave me a matching bracelet to go with my earrings.
Serving of tea.
Lastly, the ceremony concludes with the serving of tea to the parents, starting with the Brides. As we serve tea to our parents, red envelopes are usually given to the Bride and Groom, a small token to wish us a prosperous marriage.
My aunt whom my siblings and I also called mom, or Mami, is in every essence a mother to us. She gave the last speech. But in true Mami fashion, she burst into tears before she could even get a word out.
My father ended the ceremony by inviting our guests to help themselves to the feast which Mami labored over the last two days. She’s the chef of the family and her chicken coconut curry is the best!
While guests helped themselves to a buffet of lobster, shrimp and fried rice, we took this opportunity to take lots and lots of photos.
Here we are with my family.
Here we are with Gerard’s family.
Gerard’s handsome groomsmen.
My beautiful bridesmaids!!
The day was every bit of a wedding – from my getting up at the butt crack of dawn for hair and makeup to my mother walking me down the aisle, I mean the stairs – it was a full on production.
Looking back, everyone asks why we would want to go through this. Our parents did not ask us to do it. No one in our family has done one before. It was a lot of work to pull off something we knew so little about. Imagine us flying blind, trying to rewrite the tradition. We were lost. I was stressed.
But to see our family come together, my girls in ao dai, Gerard in his ao dai, to see the looks on my parents face, made it all worth it.
We had a moment to ourselves to reflect on us. Needless to say my emotions got the best of me. This was nine years in the making..
As I watch the next generations grow right before our eyes, I hope that one day they can look back and ask, why did Auntie Q and Uncle Gerard wear those goofy dress and hat? To which I would proudly reply, it’s tradition, our culture. It’s who we are.
I wanted this for me, for us. And for our family and parents and the future generations to come.
We’re married, b*tches!
To everyone who helped us put all this together, thank you! We couldn’t have done it without your tremendous love and support. A special shout out goes out to Andre for the fabulous fotos. You truly captured the essence of us and our special day. We couldn’t ask for more.
If photos aren’t enough for you, Q’s cousin recapped this event on video. Great effort since it was his first time ever recording video with his digicam, you’ll see what we’re talking about.
Having done a traditional Vietnamese tea ceremony got us thinking,