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Sunday, 8 January 2012

Of weddings and social life. Saigon. Vietnam

Of weddings and social life. Saigon. Vietnam

Life went on in Saigon. It was funny how one got used to living in a country at war. The Vietnamese had accepted it for thirty years so I accepted it too. We went to weddings. There was one very unhappy girl I knew, some vague cousin of KC, who's marriage had been arranged by her parent's. She seemed so sad, but on her wedding day her face was so heavily made up one could see no emotion at all.

One reception was held at the Hôtel Continental. A very big affair. They had closed down the terrace bar to be able to clear it of its rif raf. It was really sinking low now and its customers were most odd and I would never be seen there in the evening.

At one reception KC remembered she had to return some dishes she had borrowed, so just before leaving she gave me this packet wrapped up in brown paper. On arriving I found myself in a line of people waiting to be greeted by the newly married couple and handing over presents at the same time. I wonder what they made of those old dishes. I noted over a period of time that some wedding presents seemed to circulate.

Weddings in Saigon usually had three parts to them. A private Buddhist ceremony in the house of one of the couple to which only very close familly members were invited. I know I had about two dozen people. One did eat very well, but the food would be prepared by one's cook with the help of cooks from the neighbouring houses plus some of their crockery. It was always amusing going in the kitchen and seeing three or four women sitting on their haunches preparing the food and gossiping away nineteen to the dozen.

There would be a civil ceremony at the town hall. This might just have one or two witnesses present. In the countryside I believe most Vietnamese didn't bother about it. It had really only come into fashion due to the war and the subject of widows pension's. All so much easier to take care of if one had the proper paperwork. The war had disrupted the village structure of the society which was of course further complicated by the mass of refugees. Vietnam was full of beautiful, tragic young widows.

If one had the money there would be a formal reception in some hotel or in my case at the Cirque Hippique. These three ceremonies could take place on two or three days or over a month or two. It was not important. Putting up the bans at the embassy for foreigners and at the town hall, in the correct order, I forget which, and getting all the necessary authorisations complicated any planning. The only part that was absolutely necessary in their eyes was the Buddhist ceremony at home. Of course this did not apply to the catholic elements of society.

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