(For Part 1 of the wedding, click here.)
We all took a quick nap, and then it was time to change and put on makeup (in Misou and Sylvie’s case anyway). Around 5 p.m. we met up with the family again to take a couple of xe taxi over to the reception.
The reception was a blast! The Vietnamese approach to wedding receptions is like a cross between a Broadway spectacle and a banquet. Typically, the family will invite as many people as possible (Bê’s wedding had 350 guests, a vast majority of whom actually showed up—though there are no RSVPs in Vietnam). Either they rent out one of the city’s multi-story restaurants for the reception or they book a room in a special reception hall. There is a huge demand for big celebrations in Vietnam; it’s not unheard of to throw thousand-guest weddings!
Bê and Minh’s wedding was held at one of the newest grand banquet halls, aptly named Grand Palace, where there were six (!) receptions being held on the same night. The place was sumptuous, and the entrance was flanked with men and women dressed to the nines.
When we entered the dining room, we saw that there were several waiters standing at attention at each of the thirty tables. The guests took their seats, and then the “show” began. After a group of young girls gave a dance performance, Bê and Minh were introduced like a couple of rock stars, striding up the aisle amid a storm of flashbulbs. Cậu Bi gave a short speech thanking all the guests for coming (Misou, Sylvie, Matt, and I got a special mention for traveling all the way from America to attend).
Misou interrupts: It is very common to have a performance at the beginning of a wedding reception. In my cousin’s case, while we agree that it is too cheesy, we couldn’t opt out since it is part of the package at this particular wedding hall. We decided to choose a dance by little girls (and one very flexible boy!) because it’s cuter than grown women dressed like angels parading around the couple.
After the toast the bride proceeded to change to another dress (her third of the day) while everyone tucked into dinner. While not excellent, the seven-course meal was decent considering it was being made by the thousands. The newlyweds were then joined by the parents of both side and they made their rounds to each table, mingling and having their pictures taken.
It was a bit surprising to see how abruptly the affair came to an end. As with a typical Vietnamese meal, everyone ate and then took off. There was no dancing, which is normal here, so the event was over by about 10 pm!
Or at least it would have been if Matt and I had not stumbled upon Cậu Bi chatting with his close friends, all of whom had made the most of the bottomless glasses of beer at hand. We soon found ourselves in a half-English, half-Vietnamese conversation, most of which revolved around how we were meant to be drinking more. (Luckily, our alcohol-related vocabularies are more or less up to snuff.) A half hour and several glasses of beer later, we tottered back to the cab to head home.
Congratulations, Bê and Minh!