This is also the reason for us to possibly amid the vibrant and modern streets of Sydney mistake ourselves for being in Vietnam upon witnessing a traditional engagement or wedding ceremony. These ceremonies feature floral arches, best men and bridesmaids in the “ao dai” (Vietnamese traditional long dress), exchanging “trau” (betel leaves), “cau” (areca), “phu the” (husband and wife) cakes and “com” (green sticky rice) cakes.

A traditional Vietnamese-style wedding of a couple in Sydney, Australia

Do Thanh Ha is the young woman pioneering the Vietnamese-style wedding in Australia. She was born in 1994 in Hai Phong City and went to Australia for her study in 2011. Ha has always held a deep affection for the Vietnamese “ao dai.” She became the first to establish a boutique specializing in the traditional “ao dai” in Cabramatta, Sydney.

Ha shares, “When I first arrived in Australia, I didn't see any large stores dedicated to the ‘ao dai’ from Vietnam. The clothing was sold in a very limited number mostly through personal imports, with a restricted number of designs. Yet, many Vietnamese residents in Australia desired the “ao dai” for daily wear and important events.”

Quickly, Ha decided to collaborate with dressmakers and stores in Vietnam to bring the “ao dai” to Australia. She frequently travels back to Vietnam to explore and select the latest materials and designs to bring them to Australia. The emotional connection and the experience of wearing the “ao dai” made from silk or brocade (from Vietnamese silk villages), adorned with embroidered or printed landscapes, lotus flowers, daisy, or the iconic One Pillar Pagoda, have deeply moved many Vietnamese expats purchasing several “ao dai” sets for themselves.

Additionally, Ha offers the modernized “ao dai” to cater for the preferences of younger generations who wish to maintain tradition while embracing contemporary styles. Expanding from making the “ao dai,” Ha ventured into providing services for organizing traditional Vietnamese weddings in Australia. Many brides and grooms, including second or third-generation Vietnamese-Australian students or citizens, have sought for her services. Even native Australians marrying Vietnamese partners have supported the idea of a traditional Vietnamese wedding and expressed honor in wearing the traditional “ao dai” during their ceremonies.

As these weddings are conducted in the Vietnamese style, every aspect of organization and decoration reflects Vietnamese cultural nuances. Floral arches, signage in Vietnamese, the ancestral altar adorned with the “mam ngu qua” (five-fruit tray), “xoi gac” (steamed momordica glutinous rice) and “phu the” (husband and wife) cakes make in the authentic Vietnamese style.

Ha confides, “The farther I am from my homeland, the stronger I feel the responsibility to preserve our roots, and the pride of being Vietnamese among the diaspora.”

Translated by Trung Thanh