Huong and her husband in Hanoi wedding hall on January 23, 2018
Kha’s wedding ceremony, then three months pregnant, was a success from the outside. Except that the groom was an engaged actor for the occasion, so that she would not be stigmatized as a single mother in a very conservative Vietnamese society.
„My parents would have been the first to be overwhelmed with shame if I found myself pregnant without a husband,“ says the young Vietnamese to AFP, a month after the false marriage that cost him more than 1,200 euros.
The wedding frontage sector is booming in Vietnam, where the marital institution remains unavoidable. And that goes well beyond single mothers: real young couples are willing to spend hundreds of euros renting the services of extras posing as their parents, aunts or uncles – to avoid the family disputes of end of banquet, when their families disapprove of their union.
Kha and her husband’s husband have never been legally married, but the important thing is that he played the game in front of his friends and family on the day of the ceremony, even if she then raises her child alone.
„I felt as though I was drowning – and it was my lifeline,“ said Kha, who asked to be identified under an alias, the subject being taboo.
His parents were in the secret. But to the rest of her family, Kha explained that her husband had left her shortly after the wedding.
„Hide my pregnancy was so tiring … But now I have confidence in the future,“ says Kha, who is due to give birth in April, his honor preserved.
The psychology researcher Nguyen Duy Cuong believes that „in countries like Vietnam, people do not have the courage to assume the choice of their heart, they find themselves face customs and traditions“. Certainly, beneath the surface of a conservative single-party communist society, social norms are evolving. But the younger generations are caught in a vice.
– Not a good enough –
This led a young couple like Huong and his boyfriend Quan to stage a fake ceremony. Quan’s family did not want this marriage because Huong came from a poor family and was therefore not a good enough party for their son.
Huong and Quan during their wedding party on January 23, 2018 in Hanoi
The two young men were married in Huong’s home province, but Quan’s family was replaced by extras. Father, mother, uncles and aunts were all paid to play the game.
„It was both fake and authentic,“ laughs the young groom. The only little hitch during the day: when the false uncle of the groom was mistaken, in his speech to hundreds of guests, on the place where grew up his nephew …
As for Quan’s parents, they do not even know that their son was married behind their backs.
„It’s good to spend money to make everyone happy, we avoided the headaches,“ says the young groom to AFP, in the car that brings him back to Hanoi, with his real wife and his fake parents.
Quan and Huong are among the hundreds of couples who have used Vinamost, a well-established company in the fake weddings business. Vinamost’s services run around 4,000 euros for the supply of guests and the organization of the party.
Nguyen Xuan Thien, founder of the Vinamost company, who organizes false marriages, on December 12, 2017, during an interview with AFP in Hanoi
Its founder Nguyen Xuan Thien claims to have organized thousands of weddings in recent years, an area in which no official statistics are obviously available.
The businessman claims to have more than 400 extras registered on his guest lists, compared to only a dozen ten years ago.
He says he’s sorry for those young couples who have to play the game and hire extras.
A customer of Vinamost, a company that organizes false weddings, December 12, 2017 in Hanoi
„Since the hospital treats diseases, we help fiancés and their families, but we do not want that to develop,“ he says. His business is in his eyes a work of public safety rather than a hen with golden eggs.