By Minh Anh Ha
Hi everyone, my name’s Mina, I’m from Vietnam, and I’m an international student from Olympic College. I came to the United States eight months ago, and I’m currently living with my host family. Coincidently, my eldest host sister married her fiancée while I am living with my host family, so I was invited to be a guest of the wedding. I was excited and felt lucky, because this is the first time I have been invited to another country’s wedding. Almost everything was different from my country’s wedding. When I participated in the wedding, I learned more about American culture. Today, I’m going to use my writing skills to describe what the American wedding looked like through my perspective.
First, my host family had to prepare everything they needed to create the wedding, and it took them a year. My eldest host sister, Samantha, was proposed to by her fiancée, Connor, a year before the wedding. Unlike many Asian countries, in America, the bride’s family has to arrange and pay for the wedding, including the reception, which is a dinner party celebration. While I’ve been here, my host family had only prepared half of the wedding, and they had to change their plans because of the pandemic. I went to the wedding dress store with Samantha, and helped her pick out the dress with her sisters and best friend. She went to a few stores in Tacoma and Seattle to try different types of white wedding dresses, and finally picked her most favorite one, which was a white fish-tailed wedding dress with many delicate details. It was a little different compared to my country’s dresses, because in Vietnam we buy traditional dresses called “Ao Dai,” which is usually a red color, and renting a few more dresses to wear in the party celebration. My host family decided to get stuff for the reception, like wine glasses, decoration supplies, flowers, and for the venue, like a DJ, guests’ circle tables, and finally chairs. Besides that, they decided the main colors for the wedding, which were blue, white, and lavender. It was a long and costly preparation, but everyone seemed eager, including the ones getting married and me.
A few weeks before the wedding, Samantha had a “bridal shower” with her friends and bridesmaids. A bridal shower is like a tea party where the bride’s friends come and give her presents, wishes, and conversations. My eldest host sister arranged this party in the afternoon, and it was fun. Besides that, it was the party for the women, and no men were invited. After the bridal shower, one week before the wedding, my host family decided to have a “rosary party,” which is the party where my host family invited people from the church to pray for the wedding. This party happened in my host mother’s friend’s house. My host family is Catholic, and so am I, but the groom’s family isn’t Catholic, so this party was a celebration for the bride’s side. I went to my host mother’s friend’s house to help prepare for the party. I helped them set up some tables and chairs, and we decorated them with some white and blue tablecloths. My host sisters made some flower vases, so we put three of them on each table. Some of my host family came and helped us prepare the food too. There were many different types of drinks for the guests, including wines, cocktails, beers, and soft drinks. Because I have some photography skills, my host family asked me to be their photographer for the party. The party started when all the guests came and hung out after a while. After eating, we all went together and prayed. After that, we were talking and playing until late in the evening.
Two days after the rosary party, my host family and I were invited to Connor’s mom’s house for the “crab boil” party. Connor’s family is from the South in the United States, so usually, the people from their place will have a tradition of eating boiled crab before an important occasion such as the wedding. I was surprised and felt interested, because I had never heard about it before. I went to the groom’s mom’s house in the late afternoon and met new people there. The food was good, especially the crab meat. After eating, I improved my communication skills and started to meet new people. I met an impressive and interesting person, who is Samantha’s godfather, his name is Robert. He told me many stories about his life, and we had a great conversation. I also learned a lot of life skills and vocabulary words after talking with him. The next day, my host family was invited to a “rehearsal dinner,” which is a dinner where the groom’s family invites the bride’s family to a restaurant and they eat a meal, listen to music, converse with each other, and listen to speeches about the bride and groom. I wasn’t invited to the rehearsal dinner, but my host sister said that they went to a delicious pizza restaurant. Next day, which was the wedding day, all of my host sisters left the house early to prepare for the two o’clock wedding. The bride was dressed up, doing make up with the bridesmaids, who were the bride’s sisters and good friends. The groom and groomsmen dressed up in different places too. I was wearing a pink pastel dress with high heels, silk scarf and a white choker. All the guests went to the church before two o’clock to get ready. When the time came, the bridesmaid and groomsmen paired together, and alternately walked down the aisle. Next, the parents of the two families walked up, then the groom’s parents escorted the groom to the aisle, and finally, the bride’s dad escorted the bride and handed her off the groom. After that, they did some traditional rituals like saying vows, exchanging rings, and kissing in front of everyone. Then the wedding ended. After the wedding, we all went to the reception and got ready for the celebration. The bride and groom walked inside the venue with the music from the DJ and everyone screaming. The DJ then instructed guests to get food because it was a buffet party. After eating dinner, we had some brownies with ice cream for dessert. While we were eating the delicious desert, we listened to the father of the bride give his speech. After that, we had a little break, then the bride and groom had their first dance. Continuing with the dances, next was the father daughter dance, the mother and son dance, and finally was the sibling dance. After that, the DJ began the dance party for everyone. I danced with my high heels for three hours, it was the best dance party ever. After coming back home, I couldn’t walk and I was so tired, but I felt happy.
In conclusion, I learned many things about American style weddings, and met interesting people. I think it was a good chance for me to integrate more where I’m living and build good relationships with people around me. Also, it is important for international students to improve English skills through communications too. This wedding has become one of my most memorable memories during my studying abroad experience so far.
Minh Anh Ha, who goes by Mina, is a 16 year old international student from Vietnam. She is studying at Olympic College in Bremerton, Washington.