A colorful and multicultural Indian and Vietnamese wedding

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 | Photography by Morni Studio
Photos by Morni Studio

Offbeat partners: Chanda & Loi

Location: Indian Wedding – Hyatt Regency Baltimore Inner Harbor in Baltimore, MD. Vietnamese Wedding – Both our homes in Maryland.

Give us a few highlights from your Indian and Vietnamese wedding: 

Being the youngest in my family and among my family friends’ kids, I attended many big Indian weddings growing up. I always wanted that big Indian fairytale wedding with a beautiful red lehenga, flowers everywhere, and a reception where we all danced the night away.

While our Indian wedding didn’t have a specific theme, I thought about every detail. It took a little over a year to plan, and as a graphic designer, I wanted to make it a truly memorable and beautiful experience for all of our friends and family. We chose our wedding colors and flowers early on, which influenced how I designed our wedding invitations and the rest of our decorations. There were white and pink roses with blue and white hydrangeas in almost everything, including our print pieces, the décor, and even our wedding website. Even my wedding lehenga from Khajana had pink, embroidered flowers all over it.

Our Vietnamese wedding was more intimate and held at our homes, starting with Loi’s family coming to my home and performing a small ceremony. Then we all went to Loi’s home, and we completed the ceremony by praying to his ancestors for blessings. The Vietnamese ceremonies were followed by a family lunch in the backyard.

Tell us about your Indian ceremony:

To celebrate our Indian and Vietnamese cultures, we had several Indian pre-wedding events and two wedding ceremonies. Our two-week-long celebration started with our Mehndi, or Henna, ceremony. Traditionally, the bride is adorned with mehndi because it has a cooling sensation that calms the bride's nerves. Completing my mehndi took about 6 hours.

The next event was our Sangeet, which brings the bride and groom's families and friends together in a night of eating, singing, and dancing. The word Sangeet means music which is a big part of Indian culture. We had many dance performances by our family, friends, and ourselves. After this, there was a traditional Jago ceremony where everyone took turns passing around a decorated pot after dancing with it on their head. The night ended with an open dance floor, similar to a wedding reception.

The third and final pre-wedding event was the Haldi, where friends and family take turns applying turmeric paste to the bride and groom to wish them well and give them a wedding glow. At the end of this part of the ceremony, Loi got hosed off and my sister-in-law washed the turmeric off me.

While we got cleaned up, everyone ate lunch, and we joined them afterward to eat and begin the Chooda, or bangles ceremony. During the Chooda, only my family members were allowed to participate because Loi's side could not see the bangles until the wedding day. I took my seat and closed my eyes because I could not see the bangles until the wedding day, either.

And those were just the pre-wedding events!

We have made it to the Indian wedding! The day started early at 4:00 in the morning with my hair and makeup. Our wedding venue was on the Baltimore Harbor, so we had our first look right by the water. When I tapped Loi on the shoulder, he turned around and had tears in his eyes.

After this, we parted ways so that Loi could proceed to his Baraat, which is the groom's procession. Loi made his way to the wedding venue on a decorated white horse with his family, somewhat like a parade. A mobile DJ followed them and played music for everyone to dance their way to the venue. My family and bridesmaids joined the Baraat to celebrate the groom's arrival and they sneakily tried to steal Loi's shoes. This tradition is where the bride's side holds the shoes as ransom so that after the wedding, Loi cannot take me with him without paying them to get his shoes back. 

Everyone proceeded inside to perform the Ganesh pooja to begin the wedding to bless the ceremony. I entered with my family under a floral canopy held by my brothers. The priest recited some prayers and lit a small holy fire to perform the wedding. We walk around the fire seven times, called the Mangal Phera, to symbolize our seven wedding vows.

When we finished walking around the fire, we sat down in our seats. To complete the wedding, Loi put the wedding necklace around my neck and applied vermillion, or sindoor, to my hair part to symbolize that I am now married. Then we exchanged rings and were officially married! We went around to each of our family members to take their blessings. Before we could leave the altar, Loi had to pay the ransom to get his shoes back. After a bit of fun and negotiation between Loi and my bridesmaids, Loi got his shoes back and the wedding was complete. 

The atmosphere got very emotional as I said my goodbyes to my family. We walked back up the aisle and the final custom was for me to throw rice behind me as I left with Loi. This custom symbolizes that even though I am leaving my maternal home, I will continue to pray for their health and prosperity. In the end, I sat in a palanquin carried by my brothers and then left the venue with Loi. We had our reception later that evening. 

Now tell us about your Vietnamese ceremony:

A week after the Indian wedding and reception, we had our Vietnamese wedding. This ceremony is much more intimate and held at our homes. The ceremony began at Loi's home with a prayer to Loi's ancestors.

Then the elders in my family and Loi's parents were seated at a table to begin the traditional tea ceremony. Loi and I served them tea to seek their blessings and best wishes as we began married life.

After this, Loi and I played some traditional post-wedding games. The first game was putting Loi's ring into a bowl of milk and flower petals and we played five rounds to see who could find the ring. Remember the bangles ceremony from our Indian wedding? During that ceremony, threads had been tied on one of our wrists and one of our ankles with many knots. So during this game, Loi and I had to untie these threads off of each other to see who could untie them the fastest. When we finished the games, we all had lunch and many participated in karaoke.

What'd you do at your Indian and Vietnamese wedding reception?

After our Indian wedding, we had lunch available for our guests. Loi and I wanted to add a touch of our personalities to the big day, so to make it special, we had bubble tea served. Our friends and cousins loved this detail, and it helped us make our wedding even more unique.

Our reception feels like a whirlwind in hindsight, but it was a night full of lovely speeches, a few more dance performances, delicious dinner and desserts, and dancing the night away. Growing up, I became a big fan of the Jonas Brothers and I am also a fan of BTS, so Loi and a few of my friends surprised me with dance performances to some of their songs. We also had a lovely first dance, and I'm really glad we were both able to remember all of the choreography.

Our wedding cake was the most delicious cookies and cream flavor. We got a custom topper made to look like me in my Indian wedding dress and Loi in his Vietnamese wedding outfit.

Overall, our reception was so much fun and we kept the dancing going even after the lights came back on!

What was SINGLE MOST the most important lesson you learned?

My biggest wedding planning challenge was trying to make every detail perfect and trying to make everyone happy. There was a point where when something small went wrong, I would say, “I can't care.” By this, I meant there was nothing I could do at that point, so there was no point in stressing or throwing a fit about it. My advice to other brides for when things go wrong is to try to go with the flow. If the problem can be fixed easily by your or someone you can rely on, then it's okay to try to fix it, but if it is out of your hands, try to accept it and compromise with the new circumstances.

While it sounds cliche, I will also advise all brides to really make the most of every happy moment on their big day. You spend all this time planning this one big day, but it genuinely goes by so fast, so make sure you enjoy it. Small situations and mistakes might happen, but what matters most is that you are marrying someone you love, so spend the day having fun with them.

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