Art Institute of Chicago Wedding with Vietnamese Traditions

Tina and Jonathan’s Art Institute of Chicago wedding is an incredible exploration of culture, art, and history. Their shared love of art was reflected in every moment, from Starry Night socks for the groom (each groomsmen wore socks of different paintings) to cufflinks matching the iconic Art Institute lions. Jonathan even proposed at the museum! Tina chose to wear a traditional Vietnamese ao dai, and the couple held a traditional tea ceremony. Every moment captured by Gold Grid Studios is full of joy and love!

How We Met

Our childhood homes were down the street from each other; we went to the same high school; knew of each other through our high school theatre program and had several friends in common. However, our love story didn’t begin here, but rather 250 miles away at the University of Iowa.

We ran into each other the first week of classes (freshman year for Christina; sophomore for Jonathan) on the same day that our mutual friend (now groomsman) happened to be driving in to visit us for Labor Day weekend. Starting from that weekend, we began hanging out together, studying at the library, going to football games, and listening to music/watching movies. Our friendship grew closer over the 3-hour car rides back home during holiday breaks.

Over a year later, Jonathan asked me out on an official date. He gave me a pie chart indicating all the reasons why he liked her (c.f. Tina’s card to Jonathan on the wedding day). Our first date was dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Iowa City and a movie afterwards. To this day, we celebrate the anniversary of this first date each year with Chinese takeout.

The Proposal

Jonathan suggested that we go to the Art Institute to check out a new exhibit. As we walked around the new exhibit and visited some of our favorite pieces, we ended up in my favorite part of the museum, the Impressionist wing. Little did I know, Jonathan’s brother and his friend, both professional photographers, were trailing behind them and hiding behind statues and gallery walls until they popped out to photograph the moment in which Jonathan proposed to Tina. This moment took place in front of Renoir’s “Acrobats at the Cirque Fernando,” which then became a significant painting for our relationship as well as a source of inspiration for our wedding.

The painting depicts two young circus performers and one of the girls has gathered tissue-wrapped oranges tossed to them from the audience as a show of admiration for a wonderful performance. Our officiant worked the painting into our ceremony as a metaphor for our marriage, wishing that the success and triumph portrayed in the painting foreshadows the years ahead of us—that our blessings are so plentiful that they practically overflow from our arms and surround us at our feet, just like the oranges.

Traditional Vietnamese Attire

I stepped outside of the typical white wedding dress and chose to wear a traditional Vietnamese ao dai, which is a long, flowing tunic over trousers most commonly worn by Vietnamese women for special occasions. The ao dai was also a nod to my heritage because both my mother and grandmother wore one at their weddings.

During our tea ceremony, my parents gifted us family heirlooms (diamond earrings from my paternal grandmother, gold bangles from my maternal grandmother, a diamond bracelet and diamond necklace from my parents; and a jade necklace for Jonathan which is over 100 years old). All these pieces are very special because they are some of the few pieces that survived my family’s journey from Vietnam to the US as boat people during the Vietnam War.

A Wedding at the Art Institute

When we began discussing where we wanted to get married, it was a no brainer—it had to be in the city. The other sentimental locations that served as backdrops on the timeline of our relationship couldn’t compare—the North Shore was where we had grown up; Iowa City had been where we met and fell in love; but Chicago was where we grew to realize how much we loved each other as well as this city.

The Art Institute of Chicago is our favorite place in Chicago. We love spending hours walking through the museum and exploring new exhibits as well as visiting some of our favorite museum staples. Regardless of how many times we’ve been to the museum, there is always something new and exciting to discover. The iconic lions on the front steps is our meeting spot in the city; whether it is meeting up for dinner after work or getting lost in the shuffle of a parade or concert, we can always find each other in front of the lions. To be able to share our love for this place and for each other with our closest friends and family meant a lot to us.

Our Wedding Vision

We both wanted to create a wedding that, when looking back at our special day years from now, would be timeless and classic, but with a modern twist. Once we booked the Art Institute, we knew that all the details needed to reflect our love of art, the beauty of the building, and the beginning of Spring. This included details such as Jonathan wearing a navy tuxedo with cufflinks matching the AIC lions and socks featuring Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” (all of the groomsmen wore socks of different paintings), a string quartet playing modern songs before and during the ceremony & cocktail hour (Zepplin, Kanye, Britney, and Adele, for example), and Christina’s hand-painted table numbers and hand-cut photobooth props.

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