The woman behind Vietnam’s extravagant, over-the-top weddings

Lam Tran and Hien Vo tied the knot on December 19, 2014. The theme of their wedding was called “Love in the Air” because the couple loves to travel. It was an extravagant affair nine months in the making that consisted of an executive producer, 20 artists, craftsmen, and designers, and dozens more handymen and carpenters. Custom created and beautifully produced air balloons hung from the ceiling. The aisle was lined with rows of candles, yards of silk, strings of pearls and a veritable sea of hand-sewn roses in powder white, purple and pink. The walkway was paved with digital screens that mimic the appearance of cumulus clouds and the air in the ballroom was perfumed. A team of specialists supervised the lighting and music throughout the night. Halfway through the event aerial silk dancers from the Academy of Performance Arts entertained guests as they hung from the ceiling.

A week before the wedding took place at the InterContinental Asiana Saigon, the couple released a cinematic film showing the pair strolling through flower fields in Moc Chau before finding each other by a real air balloon rented and brought over from Thailand. The final bill for “Love in the Air” was over USD50,000.

The grand architect of the lavish wedding was Misa Vu (www.facebook. com/MisaVuLuxuryEvents), known in Vietnam as the “Queen of Luxury Events.” Though Misa Vu’s eponymous company has only been active for several years they have already designed and created 20 weddings and events, each just as grand and as costly (some more) as “Love is in the Air.” There is a saying in the industry: There is Misa Vu and then there’s everything else down below.

“It started with a wedding card in 2008,” shares Misa. Before the glitter and glamor she worked as a crystal painter and glass artist, but unsatisfied with using only one medium she started dabbling with making paper cards. “An acquaintance of mine asked me to make the cards for her wedding. I sketched out what I had in mind for her. A card of soft powder pink wrapped in delicate lace and gilded with mother of pearls, and a rose to keep it close. Four hundred cards with everything made by hand. She was so taken with my vision and enthusiasm that she let me decorate her wedding too.”

Evidently, Misa did a good job because a couple of months later another friend called to ask Misa to plan her wedding. The wedding was called “Alice in Wonderland” and she was paid VND400 hundred million and, although it barely covered her expenses, it did help launched her career. By Misa’s third event, a wedding inspired by Marguerite Duras’ classic book The Lover, her luxury event planning company was officially opened in 2010 with her work and life partner.

Labor of Love

Misa says that three factors constitute a truly luxurious event. The first one is the client’s expression. “A Misa Vu wedding cannot be a typical wedding. It cannot fit any preconceived mold. It is the expression of my client’s personalities, of their stories. It is their identity. It says what they want to say and shows what they want to show. Everything is tailored to the client’s preferences.”

The second is uniqueness. Not one Misa Vu wedding is the same. This is a promise the company makes to every one of their clients and has never failed to uphold it. The third is quality, a feature far more difficult to explain. “I never want to plan a typical Vietnamese wedding where people attend out of politeness, eat some subpar wedding food, listen to cheesy wedding music and awkward speeches made by anxious parents, check the time and then discreetly excuse themselves as they sneak out the door. A wedding is once in a lifetime. It should be a joyous occasion! So I want to create not just a party but an unforgettable moment, a never before experience. I want to compose a moment everyone in the wedding party shares, where they simply forget the time and just enjoy the night together. Everything I do, everything I plan—the decor, the flowers, the music, the perfume, the lighting, the dance and entertainment—everything must work together to orchestrate that one magical moment.”

These days, a one-day event, regardless of the size and number of attendees, starts at six figures in dollars. “I do not equate luxury with over-the- top expensive. Luxury is excellence and excellence requires the right funding,” she says. “When I started out, people had no concept of a wedding planner. My clients didn’t even know what a wedding planner did exactly so I had to work my hardest to show them my vision and convince them to go with it. I budgeted carefully, wasting not a single dollar to make sure I could squeeze in as much of my vision as I could. Still I had to leave out so many things simply because there was no money for it.”

She adds: “People think that we are raking in the cash but that’s not true because what we charge goes to pay for the materials, for the designers, artists and performers. What we do is less a business and more a labor of love.”

With time, Misa hopes to break the Vietnamese preconceived notions on weddings, the planning that goes into making them, and how much they should cost. “I want to do more events, better events, and bigger events. There are so many things I haven’t tried, so many things I haven’t done. My vision of the dream wedding is still not complete.”

Big Love

Images by Ngoc Tran and Misa Vu