The Wedding: BloggedPosted: November 10, 2010
Grooms should be given the same advice as football players at a cup final – take time to enjoy the day or it’ll pass in a haze.
Even now, just over a week on, it seems like it happened to someone else. A Vietnamese blue marquee event in the morning with a cast of hundreds. A smattering of my extended Vietnamese family and assorted must-invitees from “their countryside”.
Then later a lakeside reception with a smaller more international crowd.
It started the night before which became an impromptu stag do with friends that had arrived from home. It wasn’t meant to be that way. Two beers with a mate fresh off the plane, followed by two more at dinner. Parents headed back to the house while friends promised just a couple more. Then they switched allegiances, twisting my arm to stay for a further three then four.
But I needed it. I was dead on my feet that week. Work pressures, worry and stress. I needed those friends from home just as I needed the night out.
The next morning. A headachey start. A beautiful day. Undoubtedly the most beautiful of the year.
Our minibus to the bride’s home is repeatedly stuck in traffic due to Asean motorcades. The bride is kept waiting at the altar. She calls. Friends giggle at the earbashing they imagine I’m receiving.
Then, by this time sweating, I climb the stairs again. Now with both bride and father in law. We approach the altar at the top of the house – dedicated to family ancestors. We burn incense.
We are married.
A short walk to the marquee – greeting people outside as they arrive and again, individually at tables. Both sets of parents joining us as we go table to table shaking hands and clinking glasses.
Soon I’m taking my wife home. In the evening she is to swap her traditional ao dai for a western white wedding dress. That means we can’t set off for the reception together – I want to be surprised by that dress too. I get there early to do the greeting – she is to arrive later for a big entrance.
Her “Here Comes the Bride” music is the Local Hero theme. We both love the film but it’s also a private joke for me and friends from Newcastle. Local Hero is the music my team run out to. I meet her at the gate and we pose like a red carpet couple – flash photography surrounds us. She looks heart stoppingly beautiful.
I am aware of my lip wobbling and my eyes watering.
And we do what you do. We mingle – often apart. Trying to spend time with each guest. Trying to introduce those on their own to others. We intend to not get involved in the running of the event but we have to sort out music and the timing and after we’ve eaten – the speech.
My father in law spoke at the lunch time event so now it’s our turn. My Father thanks everyone and, in the absence of a best man, I make a longer speech.
My notes soon go out the window. I tell how we met. I tell them how I had to fight myself not to ask Loan to marry me after only two weeks. I thank my parents for their ongoing support and their understanding. I thank my friends for making the long long trip to Hanoi.
Incredibly, without those notes I almost forgot to thank my inlaws. To do so would be unthinkable. I remember in the nick of time. Just before the toast.
Glasses are raised: “To the bride!”
Glitter cannons go off. We’re in a whirl of smiles now. We fill a pyramid of champagne glasses. Already undrinkable Russian champagne made literally poisonous by a “dry ice” chemical in the glasses.
And then the first dance. Grow Old With Me. The Glen Campbell version.
And these are the moments. Whole minutes perhaps. Speeches, glitter, smiling friends, dancing with my girl, other couples joining in.
And the look on Loan’s face is as it should be. Like she too thought she would never enjoy such a moment. A moment not just worth the stress, hassle and expense of a wedding but also a lifetime wait.
Grow old along with me. The best is yet to come.
Then dancing and drinking. Good times. The group slowly diminishing and then, with the music off, stragglers sit around to talk a while.
Before long Taxis come and soon it’s just us again.
Being Vietnamese, my wife asks for the buffet leftovers as takeaway.
It being Hanoi we drive the short distance home by scooter. The five foot sober bride drives in her wedding dress. The six foot, worse-for-wear groom is on the back, carrying armfuls of presents.
Most of the day is already a haze. Most but not all.
A life together starts here.
Grow old along with me
Two branches of one tree
Face the setting sun
When the day is done