Wedding planning journal first page: Budget and Location

Hình minh họa: Đám cưới ở Trung Quốc (Hình: AP Photo/Andy Wong)

I am getting married soon. Very soon. And in the process of planning our wedding in Orange County, Calif., I’ve learned a thing or two.

Weddings are big business. In 2016, 2.21 million couples got married, according to The Wedding Report. And the average cost of a wedding? It’s $33,391, industry website The Knot says. An Orange County wedding costs $3,000 more than the average, a Los Angeles County wedding $11,000 more.

And that doesn’t include the honeymoon.

Our wedding budget is way more modest than that. And even on our budget, we want to plan an event that is personal to us and incorporates our family and cultural traditions.

As I said, I’ve learned a lot. Over the next few weeks, I invite you to follow my wedding journal in hopes you will pick up some tips for your special day.

Planning a Vietnamese American wedding

What factors should you consider if you are a Vietnamese American living in Southern California? Should you go for traditional or modern wedding rituals? Or should you combine both, that part of your identity where the worlds of Vietnam and America come into one?

Adding to the traditional/modern decision, couple sometimes have to consider how to blend religious backgrounds, as well as potential racial or cultural differences. It can be very overwhelming.

My fiancé is a Vietnamese American French. He was born and raised in France, spent most of his early adulthood in the U.S. and feels very connected to his Vietnamese roots with dual French/American citizenship. Throw on top of that is the fact he is a devout Buddhist, and I am Catholic. So challenges started very early in the planning process.

Dollar sign. (Photo: Titi Mary Tran)

The budget

We had a hard time deciding where we should have our wedding, based on our budget. One of our nieces just had a wedding that cost $80,000. One of my friends threw her wedding for $5,000. After much thought and crunching of the numbers, we decided our budget should be around $15,000, give or take, but no more $20,000. I was not going to put myself in debt because of a wedding, which, after all, is a one-day event.

Then we needed to find a location to the budget. Holding our wedding in Vietnam was out of the question because of the legality and marriage recognition issues, though quite a few of our friends secretly hoped we would marry there. Having a wedding in France was unrealistic since we live in California. We decided to marry at home in Orange County.

Yes, in Orange County, where the average wedding costs $37,050.

Challenge accepted.


Earl Burns Miller Japanese garden at California State University, Long Beach. (Photo: Titi Mary Tran)

So the hunt began for venues for both the ceremony and reception. We thought of finding a place that offered wedding packages, where everything from the wedding coordinator to the ceremony to the reception was included. We looked at having a wedding on a yacht in Newport Beach, but limits on time and the number of guests didn’t work out.

We called and visited at least five wedding restaurants in the Little Saigon area before one had our date available. Since we shopped for the venues less than six months before our wedding, most of the venues had already been booked on the date we wanted. The ones that had that date available were way over our budget; one venue wouldn’t book a wedding for less than $16,000.

As the days went by, the options become more limited and the stress started to rise. My future mother-in-law suggested a restaurant where she had attended an event. It had our date available and was just a bit over budget. Reception solved.

Next, I frantically inquired to see if one of many Orange County parks would be available for the ceremony. We had agreed to have a civil ceremony not affiliated with either of our religions, somewhat reluctantly on my part, so a part would be acceptable. Except there weren’t any available other than one that had a limit of 30 guests, including the groom and bride.

We both love Japanese food and culture, even though we’re Vietnamese. I looked into the Japanese garden that belongs to my graduate school, and fortunately, the date was available for two hours in the morning for the ceremony.

On to the next phase of planning.

NEXT: The dress-hunt journey, Do’s and Dont’s


(Titi Mary Tran/ Nguoi Viet English)