|Illustration by Trịnh Lập|
by Khánh Dương
One day a friend of mine received a wedding invitation from a colleague. The invitation was sent to every one in his 400-employee company including colleagues having close relationships with the groom and those only meeting him for one or two times, even never before.
“How awkward I was to decide whether I should join the event or not. How much money should I give them as present?” my friend asked me.
As wedding is the business of the two families, not only the two people themselves, wedding ceremony in Việt Nam with a series of traditional customs comes along with a reception where relatives, friends, colleagues of the bride, groom and the couple’s parents are invited to enjoy a big meal. Unlike small wedding parties in the West, a typical Vietnamese wedding has up to hundreds of guests from both families. Don’t be surprised if you are invited to a wedding of a colleague’s sister or your boss’s daughter.
Vietnamese people have the custom of giving money put in envelopes to the couple as a wedding present. How much money should be enveloped depends on how close the relationship between the guest and the couple is. Sometimes the money is decided based on how luxurious the restaurant where the party is held. A banquet at a five-star restaurant must definitely be worth much more than a party at a demotic restaurant.
The couple has spent money on the wedding ceremony and reception and it is believed that the guests should give them something back. Money is a practical present.
The value of wedding envelopes, however, has been so important to many people that many couples invite people, even only of distant relationships, acquaintances or those who they meet only some times without any impression because they want to collect money as much as possible. The more the merrier.
In the modern life, it is not too critical to say that the wedding gift money has been commercialised, and its meaning has been distorted by someone who wants to have more gifts.
Wedding is a public occasion to announce that the couple has been married and a happy moment to celebrate with others. For sure the invited always want to deliver the best wishes of happiness to the couple. The participation of the guests is supposed to be the couple’s honour.
But sometimes the guests are not always happy being invited to the wedding of couple that they don’t know much or they don’t want to join. I bet the guests feel awkward rather than honoured finding themselves in this situation.
Is it really “the more the merrier” if it is a reluctant attendance?
Not long ago, another friend of mine was put into the same awkward situation when she received a wedding invitation through a phone call which took her a few minutes to recall memory about the classmate she was talking to.
A wedding invitation came suddenly ten years after graduation during which they have neither kept in touch nor heard anything about each other. My friend decided not to attend the wedding but texted her friend a lifelong happiness wish.
But not everyone says no when they are asked what to behave in the same situation.
One of my colleagues said that he would probably join the party because maybe it is a good time for classmate reunion.
I think each person will have different behavior depending on each situation and their characteristics. But spending a huge sum of money on a luxurious wedding reception and inviting lots of guests is such a waste, isn’t it?
VNĐ10 billion (US$45,500) is the spending revealed on media for a lavish Europe-style wedding recently held in some 5,000 sq.m premises in Hà Nội’s Đông Anh District with the attendance of 3,000 people. The couple revealed that it took 50 days for workers to level the surface, dig up water drainage system and cover the ground with grass.
Another couple spent VNĐ250 million ($10,600) on a wedding photo album. More excessively, VNĐ2 billion ($85,100) is given out on decorative flowers at the wedding venue.
The deluxe spending doesn’t stop there.
During the ’Pick up the Bride’ ceremony, a Vietnamese compulsory wedding tradition in which the groom and his family come to the bride’s house and ask her parents permission to bring the bride home, instead of picking up the bride by car like others, a groom, a businessman in HCM City, hired a charter flight to pick up his wife from northern Nam Định Province.
Recently, a couple in Hải Phòng City shared with media their small and cozy wedding tea party of only over VNĐ1million ($43). Nguyễn Văn Thành, the owner of the party held in a simple and saving way, said that wishes he and his wife receive from the guests are far more meaningful than any kind of presents.
In fact, a campaign to encourage people to organise wedding ceremony in a thrifty way has been launched for years. There is even a document urging State officials not to organise wedding parties at five-star restaurants and limiting the number of guests at no more than 300 from each family.
But practical actions are still needed more than words.
Group wedding ceremonies, for example, should be multiplied in communities as a way of saving.
Saving but still joyful and meaningful, why not? — VNS