The traditional Vietnamese wedding ceremony was held at my husband’s family home, and was simple, beautiful and very emotional. My amazing father-in-law may be a former South Vietnamese soldier who survived 5 years in a Viet Cong prison camp (which he escaped!), but he wept as he welcomed me to the family. Needless to say, Thao and I started crying like babies!
The ceremony consisted of traditional Vietnamese rituals. The bride and groom offer members of the family wine in exchange for gifts and well wishes. The most sentimental gift came from my mother-in-law, who presented me with diamond earrings we picked out together in Vietnam four years earlier.
This is Vietnamese tradition, and it was amazing to be part of it. The whole day was organised by Thao’s family, and they did an amazing job. The dress I wore was chosen by my mother-in-law, and custom made in Vietnam. The design was inspired by her own wedding dress, which means so much me.
After the ceremony we feasted on suckling pig and rice noodles (as is tradition).
The decor was simple and understated in style, pretty much the opposite of my incredible wedding cake which was definitely the biggest surprise of the night!
I’m not sure how many brides have an actual functioning water fountain on their cake, but I did and I loved how absolutely crazy it was! Apparently this cake was quite tame by Vietnamese standards, according to my husband (who’s been to his fair share of Vietnamese weddings).
At the end of it all we were absolutely exhausted, but blissfully happy, and amazed how we managed to pull it all off. With love and help from our family and friends, of course.
My husband and I had two weddings – a 1950s vintage wedding on the Saturday, and a traditional Vietnamese wedding on the Sunday.
We got ready at my awesome bridesmaid Rhonda’s awesome terrace house in North Perth (she and her partner recently renovated it from the ground up). Rhonda made a “Bridesmaid Survival Kit”, for each bridesmaid equipped with all the necessities. They were such an awesome idea, I started selling kits on my website quirkee.com.au (with Rhonda’s blessing, of course).
As the bridesmaid’s dresses were grey, I wanted to bring some colour to their overall look. This was achieved by them wearing different coloured shoes, and toting a gold mesh clutch, and donning gorgeous matching burgundy headbands. Hair and makeup for the girls was pure vintage style, taking inspiration from the Louis Vuitton-style beehive.
The 50s vintage wedding was a true team effort – we DIY’d almost everything either ourselves or with help from family and friends. I made the invitations, the menus, the program, the guestbook, the escort cards, everything basically. I made the brooch bouquets (with help from my wonderful bridesmaid Rhonda).
My wedding dress was a gorgeous Rosa Clara design. I really loved the lace detail on the sleeves and the vintage-style shape of the bodice. It was soft-yet-defined, so I didn’t get lost in the layers. I’m not the most traditional bride, so I wore burgundy suede Alexander McQueen pumps with the most amazing beading and embroidery.
The veil I wore was my something borrowed, lent to me by my gorgeous friend Zarni. Attached to the veil was an original 50s lattice headpiece with faux flower decorations. I kept my jewellery simple, wearing my mother’s pearl earrings, and a silver locket with pictures of my dear departed grandparents inside.
The bridal party’s attire was entirely custom made by an amazing tailor in Hoi An, Vietnam (Sun Tailors). The bridesmaid dresses was based on a vintage Mollie Parnis design modelled by supermodel Dovima in a 1954 issue of Vogue magazine. I am blessed to have 3 mothers, my mother Robin, her partner Julie, and my wonderful stepmother Rosalee. All 3 were decked out in vintage style. My mother wore a replica of the green suit worn by Grace Kelly in Rear Window and her partner Julie channelled Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton in her mod-chic ensemble. My stepmother wore a made-to-measure vintage recreation of a dress designed by Edith Head for Grace Kelly.
Not to be left out, my little flowergirl Kristina rocked a custom made miniature version of the classic Rear Window black and white dress.
I took a deep breath, gathered my bridesmaids (Kelli, Rhonda, Emily, Eve and Katie), and headed for the North Perth Town Hall. I was so thankful I had my best girls with me for this somewhat overwhelming moment in my life. We arrived at the ceremony in a vintage 57 Chevy stretch limousine, while the boys waited nervously at the altar.
We walked down the aisle to Fleet Foxes’ version of Can’t Help Falling in Love, my brother Richard on bass, friend/bandmate Vish on guitar, and dear friend Cath (from The Shallows) on harp. They made it one of the most memorable moments of my life (they also made it a bit hard for me and my Dad to hold it together, we’re both massive sooks).
The ceremony was classic, personal, and emotional. The venue was styled by Crystal Lane of Doilies and Daisies. We collaborated together, exchanging ideas, sourcing items, and her handiwork literally took my breath away. Our vows were actually the ones Elvis and Priscilla took at their Vegas nuptials (even the vows were vintage). My mother recited a reading from The Hours (my favourite book). Our celebrant was Tamara Cohen, who did an amazing job. She is not a full-time celebrant, she is actually a counsellor who occasionally does weddings. This brought a sensitivity and warmth that I can’t really put into words.
At this point, the so-far perfect day took a little turn down “Really?” lane. As we walked through Hyde Park to take some pictures, the first drops of rain seen in 5 months began to fall from the sky. Then they poured. All over my hair, dress and burgundy shoes, which dyed the bottom of my dress pink! Despite the monumentally rare chance of rain, I’d planned for it by opting for indoor venues. I hadn’t thought of what we’d do if it rained during the photo shoot!
Our photographers were fashion photographers, not wedding photographers. Sam Hughes is a former student of mine (I occasionally teach a creativity unit at Edith Cowan University). I found my prinicpal photographer Dominique Felicity Chapman after I saw an amazing shoot she did for Vogue Italia. They both did a fantastic job even in these circumstances!
Choosing a videographer was an interesting task. My husband and I are filmmakers who have been working side-by-side for 8 years. We run two video production companies, Moving Still Productions, and Glass Ribbon Wedding Videography. Naturally we were very selective, and managed to find Grey Ghost Media, a company that has always impressed us with their work over the years, and were happy to let me edit the film myself!
After the photo shoot, I was absolutely soaked. I needed to change clothes, hair, everything. I decided to wear the dress I intended to wear to my Sunday reception, and found an ivory headband originally intended for the bridesmaids. I re-curled my hair, changed shoes, and finally made it to the reception (nearly an hour late, eeek!). The rest of the night went beautifully. The reception was a “Midnight Tea” theme held at the Mount Lawley Bowling Club.
The reception venue was setup the day before by myself, my friends and family. The colour palette of the vintage wedding consisted of rich, indulgent fall autumn tones, including gold, plum/deep burgundy, ivory, and exchanging the traditional brown for auburn, charcoal and rich reddish black.
Each table was set with amazing vintage crockery from Noveltea Vintage. Canapes were served high-tea style by Wallis Catering, and the food was fab (though I didn’t get the chance to taste much of it!)
My brother David (Richard’s twin) was the emcee, and relished the opportunity to roast his big sister with stories of how weird and daggy I was and still am. The speech of the night belonged to my now husband Thao, who is usually a man of few words, but on this occasion was anything but – blowing us all away with his hilarity and loving words. At the conclusion of my thank you speech, I surprised my father by introducing Late Harvest, a barbershop quartet from the Men in Harmony, a barbershop chorus group my grandparents were proud members of for many years. They told stories of tea and scones while rehearsing at Grandma Barnett’s house, then sang my grandfather’s favourite songs. This was a very special moment.
We had our dance, cut the cake (lovingly made by my talented cousin Alicia), and left the reception early, because we had to be up early for our traditional Vietnamese wedding the next morning.
“Have a values list on the front page of your planning book of things that define you as a couple and family-to-be. Then when tough decisions have to be made you can use the values list as an objective filter. Make small decisions quickly then don’t dwell, just have fun planning a party and remember its the promise of yourself to another person for life that matters, everything else is just icing on the cake. ”