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Fashion / Weddings

When the Marriage Proposal Came Before the First Date

This Unforgettable Houston Wedding Brought Vietnam and Elvis Together

BY Jenny Antill Clifton. Edited by Catherine D. Anspon. // 02.17.16
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Duyen and Marc’s East-West nuptials

PaperCity is celebrating all things matrimonial this month, and as part of our February Wedding issue, we’re taking a look back at some special weddings that happened over the years. Here’s to all the loving couples out there!

VIETNAMESE TRADITION + COMING TO AMERICA

The Happy Couple: Duyen Huynh & Marc Nguyen

Trip Down the Aisle: July 27, 1991

HE SAID, SHE SAID
Marc recalls: In 1984, I went back to college after a couple years of unsuccessful ventures and met Duyen through classmates. She used to laugh at whatever I said, which made me feel awesomely cool. We dated for five years before we decided to get married. No engagement. I guess I was a pretty typical guy, just didn’t want to deal with all the social protocols. So we set the date. Duyen had just finished college and was waiting to get accepted into UT dental school in Houston. We tried to keep the wedding as simple as possible.

The Dare: Knowing her awesome cooking skill, I made a dare — if she baked the wedding cake, I would make [both] her wedding dresses. I could not believe she took me up on it. Vietnamese tradition called for the bride’s silk brocade ao dai. Duyen opted for a deep-red silk emblazoned with gold dragons and a not-too-traditional metallic fabric headdress, perfectly paired with a traditional piece of jewelry given to Duyen by her parents, a gold hand-carved dragon necklace.

The wedding dress made out of white silk peau de soie ended up taking me more time than I had planned. Thank God it was the only dress I would ever have to make. As for the cake, I had only two requests: a lot of butter cream, and that the cake be spiked with a lot of rum. So in the midst of the summer heat, Duyen had to labor to make enough for over 300 guests. To this day, she bakes her awesome cakes with butter cream — and, yes, the cake is always laced with rum so we can reminisce about our wedding adventure.

The Vows: Since we both were choir members at the old Sacred Heart Catholic Church, we elected to have our wedding there. Between the time we began planning and the actual wedding date, the church was renovated, and out went the beautifully carved altar dating to the turn of the century. Luckily, the rest of the old church remained: the carved doors, the gothic-style ceiling, stained glass and, most awesome, the choir loft with its magnificent pipe organ.

At the time, I was playing in a wedding band, so as a fringe benefit, we got entertainment for free. The reception was held at a now-defunct Chinese restaurant that we frequented as students. Since most of our guests were college friends, we were completely non-formal in our setting, as if it was just another wild college party.

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Reunion Day: Since I left Vietnam at the end of the war, our family became separated — brothers and sisters relocated to all parts of the world. Our wedding was the occasion that brought all of us together after 15 years of not seeing each other. We were exhausted from planning our wedding, yet so elated to see all of our loved ones.

The Ultimate Gift: Best of all, two days later, a letter arrived in the mail announcing Duyen’s acceptance into UT Health Science Center Houston Dental School.

Duyen’s side: About eight months after we first met, Marc called me one day and asked me out for our very first date, and also asked me if I would marry him — even before we went out on our date.

East Meets West: On our wedding day, we had our Vietnamese traditional tea ceremony at our home first, with both sides of families present. After some light bites, we all went to church together for the ceremony, and dinner reception afterward.

Heirlooms: We didn’t register. I guess because in our country, wedding registries don’t exist. The jewelry from my parents and my in-laws have been my favorite gifts, and I’ll treasure them until I pass them down to my children. We celebrate our anniversary every year with dinner at a restaurant, as a family with our four daughters.

Elvis in the House: I will always remember when Marc sang “Can’t Help Falling In Love” by Elvis Presley at the reception, with me in his arms. My heart still melts to this day thinking of that.

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