Wedding Tips

What is a Vietnamese Tea Ceremony and How to Plan One Successfully?

The planning of a Vietnamese wedding starts with the determination of a “suitable” date for the marriage ceremony by a Buddhist monk or a well respected fortune teller.. Following the instructions of these spiritual identities will guarantee the couple a prosperous and happy marriage. The more traditional Vietnamese will also incorporate an Engagement Tea Ceremony where the groom’s family would visit the bride’s family with gifts as dowry to ask for their daughter’s hand in marriage, but most modern Vietnamese couples will skip this Engagement Tea Ceremony altogether.

Altar Location - For photographic reasons, choose an altar location where a big window is facing the altar instead of to the sides, this will allow light to hit both families evenly. Make sure the tea ceremony area gets as much natural light as possible.
Preparation - Do not wait until the morning of the wedding to start setting up the altar and the general tea ceremony area. Make sure to remove as much unnecessary furniture as possible to give room for your guests. Your photographer would rather photograph family and friends hanging out instead of rushing to set up so do everything well in advance!
Details - Have your photographer and videographer get detail photos and videos after the ceremony and have them focus more on bridal preparation and interactions among bridesmaids and family members.
Representative - Designate one person on either side as your representative, this person is responsible for leading the ceremony. Give them an order of event in advance so that they know what to expect.
Posture - Stand up straight during the ceremony and do not chew gum.
Don’t Rush - The mothers always rush when they put on jewelry for the bride, remind her to take her time and do it with a smile. If a piece of jewelry is too complicated to put on, have someone else put it on then ask mother to pretend putting it on for the photo and video team.
Smile Often - Remind everyone to smile often. When concentrated on a task, we forget to smile, so when you’re helping someone getting dressed or putting on jewelry, do it with a smile!
Strike a Pose - Remind your family members and guests to pose for a photo after they have received their tea and given their gifts.
Photos Before Feasting - Make sure to get family, wedding party, and couple portraits before releasing everyone for the reception. Once people sit down to eat, their clothes will wrinkle and their motivation for photos will be at the minimal.

Traditionally, on the morning of the wedding day, the bride will get ready at her parent’s house and the groom will get ready at his house. As dowry or a representation of wealth and luck, the groom’s family is to prepare gifts including but not limited to the following: a whole roast pig, fruits, cakes, and jewelry for the bride.

THE ARRIVAL (10-15 minutes)
The groom, his family, and close friends will then make their way to the bride’s house. There, the groom’s representative, usually the parents or another elderly family member, will knock on the bride’s parent’s door and ask for permission to come in and receive the bride. Once the bride’s family has agreed, the bridesmaids will line up outside of the house to await the groomsmen to line up in front of them and to receive the gifts. Once gifts are exchanged, the bridesmaids will take the gifts into the house followed by the groom’s parents, the groom, close family members, and then the groomsmen. Since the tea ceremony is usually held in the living room, space is always limited, for this reason, the bridesmaids and groomsmen will for the most part stay in the back to give room for the immediate family members.

THE FORMALITIES (10 minutes)
The ceremony will start with the bride’s representative giving words of welcome followed by the introduction of immediate family members. The groom’s representative will state their intentions and respond with words of appreciation and introduction of the groom’s side of the family.

THE TRADITION (10 minutes)
The fathers or representatives from both sides will each light a candle and bow to the altar as a sign of respect. The bride’s father will announce the entrance of the bride, at which time the bride’s mother will walk to where the bride has been waiting and walk her out to meet the groom and his family. The representative of the bride’s side will announce that the couple will light incense and bow to the altar to pay respect and ask for blessings from the ancestors. Sometimes, the couple will turn to the parents and bow, then bow towards each other. The couple will then exchange their wedding rings, however, in some instances, the couple sometimes opt to exchange rings at another church ceremony or at a separate American style ceremony.

THE TEA CEREMONY (20-30 minutes depending on the size of the families)
Typically, the best man holds the tea tray while the maid of honor pours the tea into two small tea cups. The couple then picks up the tea cups and offer tea to the family members starting with the eldest members such as the grandparents and the parents from both sides. After accepting and consuming the tea, the family members have their chance to present gifts and give words of encouragement, wisdom, and congratulations to the couple.

THE FAMILY PORTRAITS (10-20 minutes depending on size of the families)
Lining up in front of the altar or a decorative wall for photos is an absolute must in a Vietnamese wedding. You’d want to do this prior to releasing the family members to the reception. If space is limited, the outdoor is a great place for family group photos as well.

THE SHORT BREATHER (5-10 minutes)
The wedding party will quickly take a bathroom or water break to prepare for their photo session.

Not everyday do Vietnamese women dress up in the traditional Vietnamese Ao Dai, thus this is the perfect opportunity for photos.

This is pretty much the only opportunity the photographer will have to capture the groom and bride’s portraits, so remember to fit this segment into your day.

The tea ceremony ends with a feast, giving the groom’s side and the bride’s side the opportunity to socialize and get to know one another.

FIRST LOOK - Should you have one?

The First Look is when the Groom, with building emotions, gets to see his bride in her beautiful wedding gown for the very first time. The First Look is something we photographers always discuss with our clients. We would weigh the pros and cons to see if it fits them or not, it definitely isn’t for everyone. Let’s go over the PRO’s and CON’s of having a First Look.

Tradition - If you’re a traditional bride then having a First Look segment on your wedding day might be conflicting. That special feeling you have when your groom is on the other side of the aisle waiting to see you for the first time is somewhat dampened.
Cost - Since you are adding around another hour to your wedding photography contract for the First Look segment, you will have to pay a little more. However, as will be mentioned in the PRO’s section, this con can possibly be negated by having more moments and more photos being delivered in the end.

Emotions - For Grooms who are more private with their emotions, the First Look will give these Grooms a chance to express their feelings more privately; and since the First Look takes place somewhere quiet and private, the groom could take his time to absorb his bride in her beautiful wedding dress in all of their glory. For cinematography, we usually mic our grooms, so not only are the visible reactions are being eternal-ized but the audible reactions as well.
Time - If the couple decides to have the First Look, they would be able to knock out their portraits session right after and not have to wait until after the ceremony. Typically after the ceremony, family, wedding party, and the couple’s portraits ensue, which leads to very minimal time spent at your own cocktail party. However, some brides do like to save the big reveal for their wedding reception entrance. If joining your family and friends at the cocktail hour who you might not have seen in years is a worthwhile trade off of your reveal, then it might be something to consider!
More Moments - Having this extra segment in the day means more moments and memories to be captured. Also, as mentioned above, when having a First Look, more time is rationed towards your couple portraits session. Having this extra time could mean more photos and make your day less of a rush and more enjoyable.

As you should know by now, we have a slight bias towards our couples doing the First Look; we strongly suggest that you consider it with your significant other! Regardless of what you decide, we are bound to have an amazing time!

Wedding Venue Lighting Gone Wild!

Lighting, when done right, has the magical power to transform our mood.  Fancy restaurants use dimmed and warm lights to put us in a relaxed state so we stay longer and perhaps order that expensive bottle of wine.  Fast food restaurants, on the other hand, use bright fluorescent lights to keep us from feeling too relaxed and staying any longer than we have to.

Wedding venues use uplighting to keep a wedding's color theme consistent, this practice does amazing for photos and video when done right.  However, what prompted me to write this article was an incident that left me in aw as a photographer and a filmmaker.  This was how it all went down.  After the entire bridal party members were introduced at the beginning of the reception, the lovely couple made their way to the dance floor as the DJ screamed their names in excitement.  Without warning, BOOM! a magenta spotlight controlled by the venue's lighting person came on and painted my couple purple!  In photography and cinematography, we strive so hard to keep the skin tones of our subjects as true as possible; I have never met a couple whose true color tone is purple, have you???  After I recovered from the mini heart-attack, I quickly looked around the reception hall for the event manager to shut off the magenta spotlight.  Luckily, the spot light was shut off in time to still capture great photos.

We try to communicate with the venue and DJ so that surprises like these don't happen, but sometimes information don't leak down to the right people and unfortunately it still occurs from time to time.  When a special request is made to the venue and DJ  from the bride/groom themselves, it resonates a bit more.  So help us, discuss lighting with either the venue manager, the DJ, or the coordinator.

The examples below depict ideal lighting condition.

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How to Plan for an Amazing First Dance!

Spice up your wedding by choreographing and practicing for your First Dance!  It doesn't have to be a "Dancing with the Stars" episode.  YouTube is such an amazing resource these days to learn how to do literally anything.  Research how you would like your first dance to look like and practice 5 minutes a day, everyday, a month leading up to your wedding day and you could spice up your First Dance!  To be honest with you, the First Dance is what I am most excited about and look forward to the most on the wedding day; because a good First Dance could add so much value to your photos and video's final product.  Below are some tips to get great photos and video during your First Dance.


1.  Don't Talk During Your First Dance
Our lips move when we talk and when caught at the wrong moment, it usually does not make us look very flattering.  Have small talks, make each other laugh and smile, but keep talking to a minimum.

2.  Dance Right in the Middle of the Dance Floor
More often than not, couples would dance off center of the Dance Floor.  Doing this will limit the angles of your photographer and videographer.  We like to move around you to capture many different angles during your First Dance, being too close to your Sweetheart Table could limit our movements.

3.  Twirls and Dips!
If choreographing your First Dance isn't your thing, then the next easiest thing to do is to include some twirls to your routine and ending it with a dip!  I can't tell you how much more value it'll add to your photos and video!

4.  Start from Opposite Sides!
Start your First Dance by walking towards each other from the opposite sides of the dance floor.  What is more romantic, dramatic, and cinematic than walking towards each other slowly, all the while staring into each other's eyes, then finally locking each other's hands to dance an amazing dance that you had practiced for?

5.  Don't Cut the Dance Short!
Make sure that your First Dance lasts for at least 3 minutes.  The longer your first dance, the more opportunities the photographers and videographers get to capture this magical moment.  Remember, this is your day, you've planned it for months and months in advance, enjoy this moment!

Raise Your Chance of Getting Amazing Photos While Walking Down the Aisle!

You wouldn't think that anybody would need tips on how to walk down the aisle; but of all the weddings that we have shot, you would be surprise to know that many are not doing it right!  Below are a few tips!

1.  Walk at a Leisurely Pace.
Often times, bridesmaids/groomsmen don't want to be in the spot light and thus, walk quickly down the aisle.  I completely understand this, I am too an introvert, and do not like being at the center of attention.  However, walking quickly causes awkward posturing as well as giving the photographer/cinematographer very little chances to capture your beautiful faces.  Walk at a leisurely pace and enjoy the moment, this will make for a more natural movement.


2.  Look Up and Smile!
Instinctively we want to watch where we're walking and not trip over anything while everyone is watching, but you must look up and smile once in a while so that the photographer has a chance to capture your beautiful faces!  If you're walking with a partner down the aisle, make sure to coordinate with your partner in advance so that you both look up and smile at the same time!  You're also encouraged to look at each other!


3.  Windy Days Ruin Photos!
If the ceremony is being held outdoors and it happens to be windy that day, then tie your hair up so that there is zero chance the hair will cover your face as you walk down the aisle.  In the event that the hair gets in your face, simply fix your hair before continuing down the aisle; it takes 3 seconds to fix your hair but your photos will be fabulous for eternity!

4.  BONUS TIP!  Get Festive at the End of the Ceremony!
When the ceremony is over and you're walking down the aisle in the opposite direction, get festive, put your bouquets and hands in the air for amazing photo opps!  Having your guests throw rice could also add value to your photos; however, if the ceremony is indoor, make sure that your venue will not charge a clean up fee for tossing rose petals or rice.


How to Prepare for an Engagement Photoshoot

An engagement photoshoot is not something that all couples get as part of their wedding photography packages; as some studio will charge extra for it.  Our studio include an engagement photoshoot with every package that you book because it gives me an opportunity to meet and get to know my couples so that we could go past that clients and photographer relationship once we do meet again on THE big day.  So how should you dress for one of these things?  

1.  Choose formal over casual.  Well, at the very least, semi formal.
These photos are meant to last a lifetime, so you do want to put in a little effort.  These photos will most likely be printed out to be displayed at your wedding and thus we want you to not only look your best, but also dress your best!  If your photographer allows 2 outfits then you could have one formal and one casual, the best of both worlds!


2.  Wear clothes that fits you best.
This is meant more for the guys; the ladies seem to always have their fitment just right.  Loose or baggy clothing, especially formal attire, makes one look sloppy and not well put together.  While most suites are not designed to fit everyone, you could spend around $50 at a local tailor to make the pants and jacket fit better.  Men, if you're going to button your jacket up, button only the top button.

3.  Choose solid colors over patterns.
Busy patterns will make your photos distracting.  Photographers try very hard to have you, the subjects stand out by using light, bokeh, and composition; by having a flannel patterned top or something similar could work against us.  


4.  Control oily skin!
Oily skin will show up as shiny blotches on cheeks and foreheads.  Men, one way to control oily skin is to use moisturizers made specifically to minimize oil on skin.  Another trick is to use toilet seat liner; those papers are fabulous for absorbing oil.  I don't usually have problems with female subjects having oily skin since most of the time, the make up would fix that; but do keep in mind to avoid shiny make up.

5.  Classic style.
Trends will come and go, but the classic styles will stay, well..."classic" through the test of time.  Button up dressed shirts for guys and a dress for the ladies are examples of timelessness.  If you have a favorite watch, necklace, or sentimental jewelry items, then wear it; however, do keep accessorizing to the minimal.


6.  Wear a smile!
I always build a rapport with my clients by asking them how their day went, how they met, how did he proposal, whats for dinner, etc to loosen up any tension that they might have before the shoot; most people don't get in front of the camera very often so it is important to make them feel comfortable.  If your photographer isn't the talkative type, you could take the initiative and start some small talks with him/her, knowing more about each other will definitely loosen that tension.  Besides wearing your beautiful smiles, remember to HAVE FUN!