Every weekend I’m woken up early by loud music, singing and people counting down to do shots of rice wine. It’s a wedding.
Families often throw the wedding party at the groom’s house to save money, where they will put up a large marquee to sit lots of people and put on food etc. I dread the next morning each time I see a marquee going up near the school. Often, the party will last two or three days, and they’ll be noisy from 6 or 7 in the morning to late at night. I don’t mind the noise at night, but in the morning it’s pretty annoying.
Since I arrived in Vinh back in August I’ve been invited to 4 weddings, all of kindergarten teachers. I went to the first one I was invited to, but not to the other two. This morning I went to the fourth.
The first (Châu’s) was held in one of Vinh’s fancy hotels (the same one we went to on Teacher’s Day), but this one was in a marquee beside the groom’s house. None of the other foreign teachers from school went, but seeing as it was the teacher of my age 3 class from last semester, I wanted to attend. Plus, the bride, Huong, had been really excited to invite me.
My friend Phoebe (another kindergarten teacher) collected me at school and took me on her bike. She was very surprised that I was wearing a dress with no tights, but the only tights I have are full of holes, and she’d said to dress formal. We weren’t too far from the wedding, maybe a kilometre or two.
The majority of the school’s staff were there, all dressed up. I was glad I hadn’t gone back and put jeans on like Phoebe had suggested! It was nice to see everyone, even though I see them every day at school it was a different atmosphere. I actually don’t really get to talk to the primary and kindergarten staff as much as I’d like to because of classes and timetables, and the kids of course.
We struggled to find somewhere to leave the bike, but we squeezed it in somehow and headed down the lane to the marquee, all decked out in purple and white as many of them are.
Huong was outside with the groom and some of the kids from her class. I don’t teach that class anymore, but one of the little boys was really excited to see me which was just lovely. We walked into the marquee and there must have been about 400 people there. I felt very conspicuous as the only foreigner!
Phoebe and I sat with some of the primary staff and some of the admin/I.T staff. We had a few drinks, and ate some shrimps, chicken, pork and sticky rice. One of the members of staff sang on stage, as did a few other people from the party. There was constant talking into a microphone, which I have no idea what it was about, but people started clapping every now and then so I just clapped along so as not to look like a complete idiot. We weren’t even there for an hour.
In Vietnam, if you even vaguely know someone then you’re invited to their wedding. The assumption is that each guest gives money, so obviously the more guests the more money. This way they don’t end up with 4 kettles and all sorts of ugly vases and serving sets – quite a good idea actually. I had been explaining to someone recently about the wedding list system in the UK and they were quite impressed.
The Vietnamese tradition is that the bride moves in with the groom and his parents after the wedding, unless they can afford their own house. Women are not wanted as a bride here if they aren’t a virgin, so you often hear pregnancy announcements very soon after weddings. It doesn’t matter if the bride and groom sleep together before the wedding, but it has to be the bride’s first person. Couples often get married after 3 or 4 months of being together, and the engagement is only a few weeks before the wedding. Everything happens very quickly.
Divorce here is still very frowned upon, and men can be very cruel and difficult to their wife, but the women rarely complain. For them, it’s just normal. I think that’s really sad. I know of a couple of people who have difficult and cruel husbands but they think they won’t be able to marry anyone else, so are better with him than without. Men can marry again, but no man wants a divorced woman. Quite different from the UK.
So, that was my morning. Nice and different from a usual Sunday morning. I usually lie in bed all day until I have to teach later in the afternoon. I’m not teaching on Sundays anymore, so it’s turning out to be a good day!