How We: Planned A Shortened Vietnamese-Australian Wedding

Half as long. Twice as rad. Merging traditions all the way.

Garth, IT sales (Software Licensing) & Carolyn, Pharmacist

Vietnamese Australian Wedding | A Practical Wedding

Planned budget: $15 000 AUD
Actual budget: $14 870 AUD
Number of Guests: Somewhere between 90 and 100

Vietnamese Australian Wedding | A Practical Wedding

Where we allocated the most funds

CATERING: We had nearly a hundred guests, so food and drink was always going to eat up a large part of our budget.

PHOTOGRAPHY: Photographers get paid peanuts, considering how much editing goes into the finished product. When we realised this, we didn’t feel so bad splurging out on our vendor of choice. Darin’s style is fairly photojournalistic—most of his shots are candids and he’s fairly unobtrusive. To save money, we opted for the no-frills digital-proofs-only package.

Vietnamese Australian Wedding | A Practical Wedding

Where we allocated the least funds

TRANSPORTATION: We chose a venue within walking distance of home, so we ended up ditching car hire. When it came to the wedding day, Dad forgot to pick me up so I ended up having to catch a lift with the wedding photographer, which was probably a good thing, since his GPS was leading him astray.

DECORATIONS: A lot of our decorations came from our home, thrift shops, Freecycle, or hard rubbish scavenging. For instance, we used our collection of ugly teapots as vases, and the letters that spell out Garth’s surname, Honey, mostly came from a hard rubbish find.

Vietnamese Australian Wedding | A Practical WeddingVietnamese Australian Wedding | A Practical Wedding

What was worth it

OPTING FOR A SHORTER DAY: Most Vietnamese-Australian weddings go from 10AM to midnight: there’s the two tea ceremonies, the Western ceremony, couple photos, family photos, photos with individual guests, and an evening reception. We wanted something short and sweet so we merged the tea ceremony with the Western exchange of vows. Having our ceremony and reception at the same venue meant that there was no gap between the two. Hence we were able to stay fresh for most of the evening. It also made it easier for guests with younger kids.

Vietnamese Australian Wedding | A Practical Wedding

CHOOSING A GOOD CATERER: The Little French Deli caters for the French Consulate in Melbourne, so we knew that they had the credentials. They were super excited about being involved since we were their first wedding and we had given them a carte blanche. For the main, they insisted on making something warm for us, despite the limited kitchen facilities that the venue had; it was this mouth-watering slow-roasted pork belly with Peking duck marinade. Our guests are still raving about the pork belly four months on. It proves that you can pretty much get away with anything (including a thrift shop wedding dress and a low-key venue) so long as your guests have a full belly and a glass of wine in hand.

DIY HAIR AND MAKEUP: I wanted to learn how to do my own hair and makeup for the wedding, so I did. Now I can do victory rolls, Gibson rolls, and 1940s makeup whenever I want.

Vietnamese Australian Wedding | A Practical WeddingVietnamese Australian Wedding | A Practical WeddingVietnamese Australian Wedding | A Practical Wedding

What was not worth it

We really wanted to stick to budget, so we did. I’m proud of our achievement.

However, being strict with the budget added too much extra stress. For instance, I remember worrying over how we could borrow or cheaply purchase tablecloths. The venue gave us a couple of migraines too—they were cheap because they weren’t a traditional wedding venue but they were also unfamiliar with basic wedding prep. We had several tardy bowlers who lingered at the club up to an hour before guests were due to arrive, so setting up the hall and the grounds was a rushed job.

Vietnamese Australian Wedding | A Practical WeddingVietnamese Australian Wedding | A Practical Wedding

A few things that helped me along the way

Not so much things as people. People can be really generous when they find out that you’re getting married. Friends and family donated their time and effort: my nephew put together a band and practiced every weekend, a family friend gifted her wedding floristry services, whilst Garth’s mother acted as celebrant on the day.

We also had an events management student help out with the wedding planning. Tara was very hard-working and had a great eye for detail. She also appreciated our sense of whimsy. We were really lucky to find her and I’m glad that we did end up having her on the day because it allowed us to enjoy the night.

Vietnamese Australian Wedding | A Practical Wedding

My best practical advice to my planning self

Trust your partner’s judgment, and stop drooling over photos from other people’s weddings on Pinterest. Spend some time alone together after just getting married. We sat on a park bench and reminisced whilst the sun slipped under the horizon.

Vietnamese Australian Wedding | A Practical Wedding

Favorite thing about the wedding

We didn’t intend to do anything clever by merging the tea ceremony with the exchange of vows but our guests really liked it because it reflected both of our cultures, in the same way our outfits did.


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  • Bee

    You found that dress at a thrift store? It is perfect!! OMG. I love that dress. And everything else about this!

    • Carolyn Nguyen

      Yep. I wasn’t intending on wearing an actual white wedding dress because I knew they cost $$$! But I spotted this one during a thrift shop scavenge for wedding props and couldn’t resist putting it on. It was a pretty lucky score. The trick to secondhand dresses is buying something that’s easy to alter so that you’re not spending a fortune at the seamstress/tailor.

  • Great idea to have an event planning student help with the event! And I love that she uses the word “whilst” multiple times.

  • Bets

    I love this! Asian weddings with a western element can be long and exhausting, so I’m glad to see that the couple has made it much simpler without sacrificing the main traditions.

    A question for the couple: how did you handle the red envelope tradition? We want to do this at our mixed asian-american wedding, but are nervous about explaining the etiquette of explaining this (cash gifts) to our american guests.

    • Laura

      I second this question about the red envelope. Also curious if there were any language/translation issues that came up and how you handled them? Such a beautiful wedding! Everyone looks so relaxed and blissful.

    • Carolyn Nguyen

      For Bets:
      G and I explained to our guests that we preferred red envelopes since we were already living together and didn’t need any more furnishings for the home. Guests were mostly happy to go along with the tradition, though some still chose to bring a more personal gift.

      Our request was posted up on our wedding website (we actually linked back to a Wikipedia article about Vietnamese weddings). To diffuse any possible awkwardness, we tried to do the post in the most humourous way possible. We also explained that the money would be used on double glazing for our home.

      For Laura:
      I was initially worried about translation issues as well. Having a rehearsal helped; both the Anglo and Vietnamese sides needed to get a handle on the elements they weren’t used to. Not having a speech heavy reception program helped also; the only time we needed to translate was for bouquet bingo.

  • Kari

    I love that this post is published when it’s the middle of the night in Australia :)

    • Meg Keene

      Whadda gonna do? We tend to put British weddings in early spots because they’re still at work, but everything we publish is probably middle of the night in Australia!

      • Pippa

        This is true :)

      • KH_Tas

        At the moment the first one of the day appears around 11pm on the east coast, giving me time to read the first one in bed before catching up in the morning

      • Kari

        Meg, I wasn’t having a go at you. I was just saying it’s funny.

        For what it’s worth, I usually read the first post of the ‘day’ just before I go to bed around 11.

  • Kayjayoh

    1. TARDIS teapot! You are my people

    2. What is that tasty-looking food item in the photo just below the one of the TARDIS?

    • no thank you

      Yes, I am loving the TARDIS!

    • Jessica Nelson

      Kayjayoh – it looks like a croquembouce: I knew my addiction to baking shows would come in handy someday!

      • Kayjayoh

        Oh my. I need one of those, stat!

      • Garth Honey

        Indeed it was. It was the most amazing one I’ve seen or tasted. The toffee “wings” were incredible and the filling… I drool thinking of it now.

  • ART

    really lovely! i don’t know quite what “hard rubbish” means but I’m off to google it…

    • KH_Tas

      If you didn’t find it, it’s an Aussie custom (though some shires have stopped doing it, such as my hometown sigh) where items that don’t fit in the rubbish bin can be placed on the side of the road and a big truck will take them away. Before the truck comes, it is culturally acceptable for people to pick over other people’s piles, preferably discreetly, and cart the stuff they want away

      • ART

        Thanks! When I was in college, we called that “Berkeley shopping.” I once saw the most pathetic flyer on a tree in Berkeley saying “hey, bring my potted plant back, I put it on the sidewalk to get some sun and someone took it!” In a college town, stuff on the sidewalk = stuff for free :)

  • Lawn bowls!! That was totally one of our wedding venue options when we were considering Australia.

  • Rebecca H

    That looks wonderful! Quick question – what did Garth’s mum have to do to be a celebrant? I didn’t realise family members could do that in Australia!

    • Malorie

      I’m not the OP, but my sister is going to be our celebrant, and she’s doing a cert IV in celebrancy. It’s costing her about $800, so it’s much cheaper to hire a professional celebrant, but it means a lot to have her do it and it’s given us a lot of control over the ceremony content.

    • Garth Honey

      My Mum is a Uniting Church minister. She was extremely happy to act as celebrant for us. She did get a little teary during the ceremony. People loved it.

  • Michelle

    We’re getting married at a lawn bowling club too! Built in lawn games, don’t mind if I do! Beautiful wedding!

    • Garth Honey

      Check if they charge green fees in addition to the venue hire or if the bowling is included.

  • TARDIS TEAPOT at the reception! I guess a lot of tea fits there;) Now I know what I want at mine!