Why Vietnam's Single Mothers Are Staging Fake Weddings

Wedding in Hanoi
Wedding in Hanoi | © Oxana Mamlina / Shutterstock

It’s her big day, and everything looks amazing — especially the groom. Many of the guests know she’s pregnant, but they probably don’t know that the man next to her isn’t the father. In fact, she barely knows him. He’s an actor, working for a company that rents out fake grooms.

Who are they trying to fool?

These brides aren’t putting on fake weddings because of their own vanity — or because they’ve given up on dating, hoping to fulfill a marriage fantasy that makes them the center of attention. Quite the opposite, actually. These women are pregnant, and there needs to be a wedding before that child is born. Either that, or the baby needs to disappear — which is part of the reason why abortions are so prevalent in Vietnam.

In traditional Vietnamese communities, a pregnant, unwed daughter is seen as an embarrassment to the family. If the new mother doesn’t get married before her child is born, she’ll be a pariah in the community. Her family might even cast her off to live with distant relatives. For many women, the choice is often a desperate one: have an abortion, or live in shame. Now, there’s a third option.

Wedding in Hanoi

How does this all work?

These fake weddings and hired grooms aren’t cheap, but reputation means more than money in traditional Vietnamese communities. With a fake groom, the families have plausible deniability. They choose what kind of involvement they’re looking for — whether they need a groom for just the day of the wedding, or if they need the complete deal: family dinners, public events, maybe even the odd appearance around her home to keep up the illusion of a normal domestic life. The more complex the deceit, the higher the price — as high as $4500USD.

The grooms also come with fake parents and detailed backstories. These companies employ hundreds of people from different levels of society, so even the wealthiest of families can choose a respectable groom — or one that looks the part, at least. But it isn’t enough for these actors to just show up; they also have to study the part. Before the day of the actual wedding, the fake groom and his parents meet with the bride and her family to learn their names and any other information they’ll need to know — whatever it takes to trick the guests. The clients even have the option to involve the fake grooms in a fake divorce later on.

Wedding in Hue, Vietnam

A different kind of marriage contract

The ceremonies are often deliberately planned to avoid the usual show of signing the certificate — and without a marriage certificate, it’s not a legal wedding. The only valid contract is the one between the client and the bridal service company.

The companies have faced criticism, but they claim they’re only fulfilling a need — pointing out that it’s society that forces these women to have fake weddings, not them. These brides and their families go through all this expense and effort to save face, because if they don’t, they’ll be rejected by their communities.

Regardless of how ludicrous these weddings appear to be to the outside world, they’ve helped many single mothers get through difficult times. Some mothers have even said that their children wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for the services these companies provide — so until social norms change, theatrics will do.

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