I’ve been in Vietnam for almost four weeks and I’ve seen at least 40 couples being photographed in wedding clothes, either in traditional Vietnamese outfits, the popular white gown and tuxedo, and even brides in bright pink sequin dresses. They can be seen in the city streets, in the countryside and even on rooftops.
The other day, in the countryside just outside Danang, I saw a bride and groom posing for photographs on top of a large boulder, which required a ladder to reach. It was an extremely cold and windy day and the bride’s dress and veil were billowing around her. The couple were striking crazy poses: pretending to shoot each other, maniacally waving hands in the air, and making silly faces
But then – and sadly I didn’t get any photos – a gust of wind blew the bride’s dress over her head. She was a cyclone of white with bony legs and white panties. At that moment, I was so grateful she was wearing underwear. Before I could whip my camera out, the bride slipped and her head landed in the groom’s crotch. I could not stop laughing.
Soon enough, a crowd of about 20 people came to take a closer look and started taking their own photos. Several minutes went by where the bride and groom held on to each other, for fear of being blown away. The bride’s hair was ruined and at one point, the groom took off his jacket to cover his bride’s private bits.
I figured at that point the photographer would call it a day. He didn’t. Instead, he had the couple sit on the boulder and the bride’s dress was kept down with rocks to stay in place. He continued to take photos of the couple: making sappy faces at each other, arranging their fingers to create a heart and another pose where it looked like they were smelling each other. It was freezing the entire time.
But here’s the interesting part: a local told me that none of these couples pose for photos on their wedding day. The photos are taken up to four months prior to the wedding date. Various outfits are worn over the course of several days of photography and then a video is created to show guests at the wedding.
The actual wedding day consists of an engagement ceremony, an engagement party, the wedding ceremony and the wedding reception, so there really is no time for photographs.
The photography venue is dictated by how much the couple can afford. At the top end, couples fly to Europe to pose for photos. Others are photographed in the city or at a park near their homes. Those who do not have much money are photographed in a studio, with different options for a backdrop: on the moon, in a different galaxy or in the jungle.
Weddings are big business in Vietnam. There are so many wedding shops all over The country. In Old Hanoi, an entire street is devoted to wedding shops. The one-stop shop offers everything required for the wedding: the invitations (simple or gold-leafed), the gowns (rented or purchased), the cake, decor and flowers, the food, (prepared by a local or Michelin starred chef), the photographer (on his own or with an entourage of assistants), and everything in between.