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Officially Engaged

12 Aug

Our Dam Hoi engagement ceremony and celebrations last weekend were a resounding success. It’s taken me a week to recover. What I thought was a slight hangover turned in to actual sickness – severe allergies apparently – but I am happily medicated and on the mend. We laughed, we cried, we danced. Our families came together around tradition, stories from our childhoods and, of course, alcohol.

Preparations continued until the day before, but we pulled it all together and I was able to get out to my parent’s house for an early bedtime. It seems like we’ve been waiting for ages to get to the dam hoi. We were engaged in July 2012, so it was just over a year getting to this point. Now we’re only three weeks away from the wedding.

The day started bright and early with a dear friend who agreed to beautify me at 6 AM. There was much coffee, indeed. My ao dai fit beautifully and – bonus – was almost as comfy as my pj’s. Unfortunately the khan dong (or circular hat – like a halo) didn’t fit. Either the fabric retracted and tightened or my head shrunk massively. Either way, I couldn’t get it to sit properly on my head and there was no pinning it in place. At least I got to have a fuller up-do as a result.

Wearing the Vietnamese hat

See? We tried. There’s tons of daylight on both sides of the hat.

The weather was overcast and drizzly throughout the morning, which makes for gorgeous photos and even, muted lighting. I hope to get our professional photos back this week, which I will of course share with you here.

In the interim, here’s one of my favorites thus far spending a little quality time with my nephew who was a trooper and spent the entire day with us.

Holding my nephew before the ceremony Continue reading

Dam Hoi Ceremony Preparations Continue

31 Jul

We are now T – 2 days until our Dam Hoi Engagement Ceremony. Things are getting done and it’s certainly a team effort.

Last night we prepared the mam or trays that will carry gifts to my parents. We hung some decorations to make the house more festive for the celebration and that even helped raise the excitement level, for me anyways.

Here are the gift trays prepped and ready to roll to my parent’s front door:

Red gift trays for the Engagement Ceremony

We will also have fireworks outside his family’s house as we return. Check out my MacGuyver work on these (formerly)hand-held fireworks:

Fireworks for the Engagement ceremony

I am told the fireworks ward off any negative energy around us as we move forward to join our families together with a clean slate and positive energy. Pretty cool tradition.

I won’t share any more photos as I don’t want to spoil what will be the finished product that will be well captured by our photographer that day.

Our Dam Hoi is starting early in the as we would normally during the work week. As such, my good friend will be at my parent’s house (with bells on, no doubt) at 6 AM to do my hair and make-up for the day. That’s 6 o’clock in the morning if you missed it when abbreviated. That means I also have to be showered and mostly dressed by that time. I may be building in a siesta later in the day until I catch a second or third wind!

I asked about the significance of the ceremony time, and Ba (dad) told me that traditionally families often consult a fortune teller to find the lucky time for the promising ceremony to take place. We didn’t go that route, so thus counting backwards from noon-ish when people are hungry, we’re starting the ceremony around 9 AM at my parent’s home.

Makes sense to me!

Having previously scoured the Internet, there doesn’t seem to be any absolute rules and customs that are followed through and through. Especially as families move away from Vietnam and relationships become more modern, it’s logical that the ceremony evolves a bit. However I do love the essence and foundation of our Dam Hoi is deeply rooted in tradition.

Can’t wait to share the traditions with my family as I join his.

Dam Hoi Countdown

29 Jul

While our American wedding is in just under two months, the Dam Hoi engagement ceremony is in five days. 5. As in less than one week.

Shocked Supernatural character animated image

Now that we have that out of the way, I can fill you in on everything that has been going on over the past couple of weeks.

First of all, there hasn’t been any cooking since Operation Happy Nurses. I may have grilled some bread and veggies from our garden, but that’s about it.

The very BEST news is that my sweet nephew went home with Mom and Dad this past Friday, so the family is finally getting settled in their own digs.

Isn’t he a handsome buddy?

Nephew chase

Snoozing on my lap. He’s already a good snuggle buddy.

AND he’s a great eater 🙂 Can’t wait to cook for him!

Feeding baby nephew

Ok, ok, ok, enough handsome nephew photos.

Last weekend was my bachelorette party in Atlantic City where I had a blast with some good friends. We had an amazing dinner at Buddakan AC – which I highly recommend – and partied down at a club in the new casino Revel.  It was a weekend to remember (mostly), and couldn’t have asked for a better celebration of my last days of single-dom.

On to the Dam Hoi. It’s this Saturday wowza.

My super photographer Katarina Price will be there bright and early to catch the first phase of the ceremony where my groom’s family lines up bearing gifts and is welcomed in to my parent’s home (where I’m supposed to still be living). They’ll arrive between 8:45 and 9am which means my hair will have to be done and guests in place by 8:30.

After my Father agrees to welcome my Mr. in to the family, Ba (his father), will unveil the gifts and explain each before our families mix and mingle for an hour or so to get to know each other.

I’m planning a mimosa bar and will make a batch of Banh Pate So to go with fresh fruit and other small bites.

Around 11am we’re going to leave my family’s home and caravan to his for the rest of the Engagement Ceremony. I won’t share all of the details here, as I’m still a tad bit fuzzy. But we will bow at his family’s worship table and offer sake to our elders for words of wisdom and thanks.

I’m super excited to wear my ao dai, made special for me in Vietnam, and really share in this meaningful tradition.

I likely won’t write before the ceremony, but hope to catch up soon with photos and recipes!

Ao Dai Measurements and Alterations

17 May

As I wrote previously it was difficult to find a business or individual in Northern Virginia who would take measurements for my Dam Hoi (Engagement Ceremony) Ao Dai (long dress) without getting the actual dress made there as well. As a result, we took our own measurements and sent over to the shop who would be making my dress.

I guess I never followed up with you guys, but they wouldn’t accept our measurements and conversion from US to metric. My next step was to go to one of the shops who said they “didn’t know how to take ao dai measurements” – yet they all MADE the dresses for people I know – and have them make me a basic, cheap ao dai to wear for any occasion and get the measurements.

Fortunately a seamstress my sister in law knows at Eden Center had just returned from Vietnam and said she would take my measurements. So off we went to Eden Center and found Phuong Alterations, which is just across the hallway from Nha Trang in the Saigon East section.

The woman didn’t speak English, so my sister in law showed her the dress style I wanted and she got started with the measurements. I have no idea what transpired, but after many measurements and decisions made we were finished in less than 10 minutes. I gave her $20 for the measurements and bought a box of mangoes. Because that’s what you do in Eden Center.

So the good news is that in less than a month my ao dai is FINISHED. It will be delivered to the States later this month by my sister in law’s relative who is coming to visit and I can’t wait to try it on!

If you’re in the Northern Virginia area and are planning your own Dam Hoi or attending a formal affair, definitely look them up.

Phuong Alterations
6757 Wilson Blvd
Saigon East. Unit 6
Falls Church, Virginia 22044
Phuong 703-203-5614
Thuy 571-344-0894

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