Monday, June 01, 2009

6 reasons to love Vietnamese weddings

Recently, I wrote about a traditional Vietnamese engagement, where I obtained a pig's head.

The engaged couple -- Mark and Ann -- were married Saturday. I was so taken with the beauty, art, and food at the wedding, I almost wished that I had had a Vietnamese wedding.

These are 6 reasons to love Vietnamese weddings.

1 - The clothes

Traditional American brides have only one dress -- white and , frankly, a little boring. Yet this lovely Vietnamese bride was required to wear 3 outfits during the day.

The first -- a red dress with stunning red hat -- was my favorite.

2 - The artistry

This wedding day had many beautiful touches you don't see in American weddings. For the initial ceremony at the bride's house, a relative made these beautiful green jello eggs:

The relative offered me an egg to eat. But it was so pretty, I didn't want to ruin it.

3 - The ancestors

We started the day with a small ceremony to introduce the families, secure permission for marriage, and to pray to the ancestors.

I appreciated the incorporation of the ancestors. At American weddings, we never any talk about the dead -- unless someone's close relative died within weeks before the wedding. In this ceremony, the couple sought the blessings of long-departed relatives. This communing with the ancestors invoked a sense of life's continuity, rather than placing all the emphasis on bride and groom.

4 - The Buddhas and monks

The wedding was at Linh Son Temple, near Dickinson. It was conducted by monks from the sangha, who seemed genuinely happy to conduct a marriage. They stood in front of large plastic Buddhas with lights flashing from their heads.

Because much of the ceremony was in Vietnamese, I understood few words. But after the wedding, I had a feeling of peace, as though I had been meditating for an hour. Perhaps something from the monks rubbed off on me.

Reason 5 - Yard art

I haven't been to many Buddhist temples. But if the Linh Son is any indication, Buddhists make great yard art.

After the wedding, the lead English-speaking monk encouraged everyone to walk around and "take pictures." If you like photography, a visit to Linh Son is a must.

Reason 6 - The food

Vietnamese weddings emphasize the feast. The reception guests were treated to a 9-course meal at Kim Son Ballroom.

I enjoyed ground shrimp wrapped around a sugar cane and coated with slivers of almonds. Most other versions of this dish in Houston skip the almonds. They added a nice crunch to a dish that is sometimes dull.

My table's favorite dish was a spicy, sweet salad of jellyfish, scallops, shrimp, and vegetables. Everyone ate it before I could take a photo.

Lobster with green onions and a savory sauce had an intriguing, salty/sweet flavor. Because the lobster was served in the shell, this dish forced all the anglos at our table gave up on chopsticks.

The most visually interesting dish was seafood birdsnest - a basket of baked noodles holding a mix of scallops, shrimp and vegetables.

Dessert was mixed fruit. When this dish arrived, my tablemates stared at it, without moving a spoon. Someone dared me to go first.

I reported to the table on the flavors: a little like a peach cobbler on top, strange pasty-textured substance on the bottom (red bean paste), and nuts that taste suspiciously like chick peas (ginkgo nuts?). I said I liked it. The rest of the table dove in. Sure, some of them stopped eating after a bite or two, but we were all happy to have had the experience.

Mark and Ann: Thank you for helping me see weddings a little differently. Have a long and happy life together.


Anonymous said...

Great report..loved it. Thanks. ONF (old Norchester friends)Janet and Phil

LW said...

It looks like taro paste with sugar syrup, topped with gingko nuts and lotus seeds.

HoustonWok said...

yes yes I agree! Vietnamese weddings compared to the average traditional American wedding is a bit more elaborate just as you reported.

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