Soaked to the bone, the bride turned to me and said “no one tells you your wedding gown will be see through if it gets wet.”
As a destination wedding celebrant, I’m fortunate to meet folks from all over the world. All the weddings are unique and personal. This year I was extremely lucky to be contacted by Kirsty and Charles. They wanted to elope in Vietnam with their two young sons (who would act as witnesses). It’s becoming more and more common these days as people choose to wed the way they want and who is anyone to judge?
Kirsty and Charles wanted to elope at the My Son Sanctuary. Historically, the political and religious capital of the Champa kingdom in Vietnam and remains one of the most significant pieces of Cham history in the country. And the ruins, despite being nearly destroyed during the wars, are quite stunning. It’s about an hours drive from Hoi An and there’s quite a walk to get to them. In the summer it’s HOT!
Charles and Kirsty had chosen early November for their big day. November is our monsoon season. The first thing I recommended was an early morning ceremony. Firstly because in November, it would either be hot or it would be raining. Secondly, after 9.30am, hordes of buses laden tourists wearing North Face outfits and hiking boots would descend on the ruins, and they’d have several hundred uninvited guests at their wedding!
November is also our typhoon season, though I thought the risk was low. Little did I know.
Fast forward to November and the weather forecast did not look good. I contacted Charles and Kirsty and recommended they bring rubber boots: Wellington boots, or gum boots (as we call them in Australia) as heavy rain was predicted and there was a typhoon brewing out to sea. I suggested perhaps changing the venue.
Ever the adventurers, they weren’t concerned and told me they lived in a part of Australia where they rarely saw rain so if it rained, it would be fine. They wanted an adventure. Phew!
Ceremony day bought rain from coming from every direction, howling wind and localised flooding. We’d spoken many times about the weather and they were still keen to go. So we hopped in the van, Kirsty in full wedding splendor (looking stunning; no gum boots), Charles in his suit and the little boys looking so very cute in their matching outfits and bow ties. I was wearing gum boots. (I’m sensible, and they were happy for me to wear them).
We set off. Taking in the rising water and the fallen trees. The typhoon was making landfall about 500 kms south of Hoi An though it had brought a lot of wind and rain to Hoi An. We were being buffeted around like we were on a theme park ride. Then the “oh no” moment. Charles realised he had forgotten the wedding rings. (I guess that’s one benefit of having a best man). So we turned around and went back and got them and started out again. My Son is not on the coast and we hoped being a little inland would make the rain less severe. Nope. It was worse! The wind was ferocious as was the blinding rain. Fortunately one of the temple ruins has a roof on it. So we made the long walk in, drawing curious glances from the staff. It’s not every day they see people in full formal attire and a bride in all her glory, complete with veil. Our umbrellas were merely decorative. They were of little use.
We made a run for the ruin with the covered roof to decide our plan of attack. It was warm and dry with no one around. After we got settled and the boys happy, we decided to have the ceremony inside.Charles and Kirsty would then run outside with the photographer when the rain was teeming, instead of torrential, for photos.
The ceremony was beautiful, with many tears. Though it was also very funny. We laughed a lot at how the day had started and the odds of this happening on their wedding day. The tourists started arriving and everyone wanted a photo with the couple and their children. They were famous.
The flood water around the ruins was rising. When it was time to go and we barely made it over the bridge before it went under. The tourists hollered and cheered and congratulated Kirsty and Charles as we made our way back to entrance. It was a long walk. We were soaked to the bone. We were laughing. We looked very curious.
When it was time to say good bye, we promised to catch up for coffee before they left Hoi An. Later that night, the town of Hoi An was in flood and I couldn’t reach their hotel. A day later, Charles and Kirsty decided to get the boys to higher ground and a man in a little Vietnamese fishing boat paddled along the road in the waist deep water and got them to high ground where they could safely make their way to a dryer place.
Kirsty and Charles words will never leave me: “we wanted an adventure and we sure got one”. It was one of the happiest experiences of my life. I’m sure it’s one they will talk about for the rest of their lives.
Your wedding, your way.
Photography: Nam Quan, Mott Weddings Vietnam