Thu’s Amazing Mekong Delta Wedding
The wedding marquee I’m sitting in stretches over the road. Motorbikes, bicycles and food carts trundle by as wedding guests eat, drink, laugh and take photos of each other.
This is the first stage of my friend Thu’s two-day wedding party in her home town in the Mekong Delta, the “casual” evening that is supposed to involve talking, laughing and dancing.
Like just about every wedding I’ve ever been to there’s an array of drunk uncles and a bevy of bustling aunts.
Some of the aunts (at least I think they’re aunts, they could be friends, neighbours or even caterers) are squatting over a small fire on the riverbank, barbecuing things. Fragrant smoke billows through the marquee as the drunk uncles propose toasts with shot glasses of rice wine.
Music is blasting from the front garden of Thu’s family home. The groom, the dashingly handsome Massimo, is looking a little lost. A brother or cousin is busting out his best moves on the dance floor, as is Miss M, who had decided her red tutu is just the thing for a casual wedding party.
Platters of food start being carried through the marquee. The groom leaps into action, distributing bottles of Italian wine.
A drunk uncle seizes a bottle of Sicilian red and pours himself a shot in the traditional Vietnamese manner. He downs it in one and then refills the glass and pushes it towards me. I reluctantly chug the wine, noticing it’s actually very nice.
The drunk uncle mutters something in Vietnamese that I can’t catch. Darling Man tells me he is complaining that the wine tastes like water. The uncle wanders off to find some rice wine, which will taste suitably fiery.
There are people everywhere, drinking, eating, toasting, dancing or just passing through.
Earlier, Thu had prayed to her ancestors, asking for their blessing for her new life with Massimo.
After the prayers, there was a family ceremony. I was roped to act as Massimo’s sister, accepting a tiny ceramic cup of rice wine poured by Thu from a beautiful black teapot. All the important relatives were offered wine. When it was her turn, Ms Thu’s mother dabbed at her her tears with a tissue. I held her hand, worried there was something wrong. But it turns out she was just so happy.
The night wore on. The Sicilian wine flowed. Darling Man raced around taking photos. Miss M danced. Vodka emerged. Ms Thu’s granddad posed for photos …
… and things got a bit hazy.
We left early, worried about Ms M’s cough.
The next morning we blearily told the hotel person knocking on our door that we hadn’t ordered a taxi.
Four-and-a-half minutes later we realised we’d slept in.
We rushed to get ready for the fancy second wedding party, the event at which we were to wear our good clothes.
Miss M, who is prone to vomiting, did just that. Her cough had gotten worse during the night but she said she felt OK, even though every second coughing fit left her retching in the bathroom. We decided to go to the wedding party anyway. It was either that or hide in our hotel room and wait for the 1.30pm bus back to Ho Chi Minh City.
Strangely, we arrived at the breakfast party before another group of Thu’s Ho Chi Minh City friends and colleagues, who had set out on time. Their taxi driver had gotten lost and they’d enjoyed a “scenic” route to the party, along the wrong side of the river and through a couple of rice paddies, held up by not one but two traffic jams caused by giant excavating equipment in the middle of the road. Their taxi fare was more than three times what ours was but they claimed it was worth every penny for the absurdity of the journey.
The second party started off in a much more subdued manner than the last one had finished.
I saw aspirin offered across the table. I saw people looking decidedly peaky. There were long pulls on mugs of coca-cola and iced tea. There was sickly refusals of beer. We found Paul, who we thought was comatose at the hotel. He told us the rice wine at the first party had defeated him and he’d slept at a neighbour’s house.
And there was some absolutely amazing food. A-MAZ-ing.
It’s boring to look at lots of photos, so here’s just one, of some of the dishes in the multi-course breakfast feast ready to be served.
Oh… and here’s just one more from the feast table. Spring rolls and a curled cold meat mountain, Chinese-style duck with tiny rice pancakes and prawn and pork salad.
After the first five or so dishes were served, people began perking up. Our friend Gabe suddenly announced he felt human again.
More and more food was brought out. And it all tasted incredible.
After so many years in Vietnam, the sight of caterers wiping their hands on the marquee curtains and blowing their nose on the road just made me shrug.
But even after all these years, there were still things that made me gape in amazement. The parade of people driving through the wedding marquee just made me shake my head. And when a motorbike piled high with mattresses — yes, MATTRESSES on a motorbike — came through, I started pointing and shouting. Unfortunately, in the excitement, no decent photos were taken.
As midday approached, it was decided it was time to make a move towards home.
Getting to Long Xuyen in the Mekong Delta had taken more than six hours. On a Sunday afternoon at the end of a long weekend, it was going to take longer to get home.
We sadly said goodbye to Tara and Massimo and piled into taxis so we could get to the first bus which would get us to the second bus which would get us to the bus station in District 10 in Ho Chi Minh City, from which we could take a taxi across town to finally get home.
It wasn’t until late Monday morning (after taking Miss M to the doctor for antibiotics for her cough) that we realised we didn’t have any good photos of Thu and Massimo together. Because it was hot in the Mekong Delta and Massimo (like me) isn’t used to the heat. We had a lot of photos of him looking sweaty, but none that captured the true feeling of the two-day wedding party.
Luckily the weather was much cooler on Tuesday when Thu and Massimo had their official wedding photos taken.
Meet the happy couple…
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I took some video of Thu’s wedding, which I hope to post on Facebook in the next few weeks. Don’t miss out!
8 years ago