14 Nov 2019
Wedding Planner&Celebrant Nadine Ziegeldorf on how to plan the perfect day here in the city of lanterns and the extraordinary transformation she has witnessed in her twenty-five years living in Vietnam.
Today Vietnam is one of the most up-and-coming destinations in South East Asia. With high-speed internet to rival that in Europe, international airports in most major cities including nearby Da Nang and most of the amenities you would expect in Europe, it is a ‘soft’ entry to Asia that still retains much of its authentic local character.
But it hasn’t always been that way. With over 20 years of experience planning weddings, working for non-governmental organisations and tour companies in Vietnam, Australian-born Nadine Ziegeldorf has seen it all. She was a part of the extraordinary growth Vietnam experienced in the late 1990 and early 2000s.
‘You could not imagine Hoi An back then. There was one tailor shop, there was one hotel that you could stay in. Foreigners had to stay in rooms at the back, with basically 8 foreigners allowed in town at a time.’
‘You couldn’t get to An Bang,’ the local village on the beach where The Watermark is located, ‘there were no roads here from Hoi An old town. From the end of An Bang onwards was military land so you couldn’t access it. You could only get here by following a sandy path.’
‘It was also [and still is!] very hospitable. Everybody here had been living inside a closed country so the curiosity was so natural. The interactions were quite extraordinary. It was precious. I am so blessed to have experienced Vietnam at that time. It’s very hard to explain it.’
So what first attracted Nadine to Vietnam and how did she first discover Hoi An?
‘I came by accident. I had worked for a travel company in Australia when Vietnam had first opened its doors about 25 years ago. Then I left the company and traveled to explore other parts of the world. I was in that region and they [the company] said would you like to come back and just come and work for two months? And the two months turned into 21 years.’
‘The tourism industry was fresh and emerging and very new in Vietnam.’
‘I came and I fell in love with the country and then I went home. I tried to live in Australia and it didn’t work. After the freedom that I had here and just how open and loving and responsive the people are here, it was just amazing.’
‘Then I did seven and a half years in the NGO sector. I worked for two organisations in Hanoi that supported street children. That was an extraordinary experience. it took me to a deeper level of Vietnam than I have ever been as a tour guide. So I’ve had two polar experiences. As a result of working with street kids, I realised I was in a position to make a difference to an individual and I adopted my first daughter and then three and half years later, my second daughter.’
‘When I knew that I was adopting I wanted to live in a beautiful place that was by the ocean, that had nature. So we moved to Hoi An. So then I started my event planning and wedding planning business – Hoi An Events Weddings.’
‘I started in Hoi Chi Minh City, the South, I went to Hanoi in the North and I’ve ended up in the middle!’
Tell Us More About Hoi An as A Wedding Venue
‘Couples are romanced by the lanterns, they are romanced by Vietnam in general. So people would perhaps not want a wedding destination in Thailand, Bali or Fiji but they’d choose a Vietnam beach wedding because of its history, its culture, its diversity, its food.’
‘Young people chose Vietnam because they have Vietnamese family heritage that they want to honour. There are also couples from different parts of the world that have to meet somewhere and Vietnam is perfect for that.’
‘Hoi An, with the international airport at Da Nang, is far more accessible. It’s also a soft entry into Asia if you have never travelled to Asia before. It’s easy, it's small, its got so much to do for young people and children to elderly people.’
‘Of course, we could have the beaches, the riverfront, and the rice fields but we also have the ancient town as well. So we have these four really strong choices to have a wedding. It depends on what type of person you are. Some little girls have been dreaming about their beach wedding all of their lives, others are quirky and want to put an edge, a twist to their wedding. There are smaller venues at the beaches you can use, there are big, luxurious resorts if they are wanting to do something high end.’
‘I think the diversity is what makes it so appealing to so many people. When you have a destination wedding, it isn’t just one day. You’ve got people flying in from all over the world, you need to take care of their experience. As a planning company and as a celebrant, a Vietnam wedding planner, we help couples make sure that that experience is totally all-rounded. Between the beach and the river and the town…and the food. Making sure that once they’ve left they’ve had every single food experience that is available here,’ such as Cao Lau’ There are cooking classes, motorbike tours, jeep tours…photography tours there is just so much here to offer as an awesome experience.’
How Can The Watermark Be Part of The Big Day?
The Watermark, with its host of staff and the unique ability of guests to book out the entire hotel, can provide the perfect place for the family to stay in the run-up to the big day.
‘There is no average wedding. Every wedding experience is unique to that couple. The Watermark can house 18 people so it would be ideal for a smaller and intimate wedding. Or if the wedding group is bigger, the core group could stay here.’
‘A lot of our clients come from Hong Kong or Singapore or they are expats living here so families are often flying in and have sometimes never met. The Watermark could be an ideal venue for that.’
‘We would suggest they have a welcoming experience that has a touch of Asia to it and a guys and girls thing that allows the couple to be with a smaller number of people. The Watermark is perfect for that: the guys' or the girls' party could stay here.’
A Family-Friendly Town
‘Hoi An is family-friendly…’ and this is perhaps what sets it apart from other Asian wedding destinations like Bali or one of the Thai islands.
‘If you have Grandma then it’s still easy for Grandma to walk around and enjoy something of Asia. There’s a load of stuff for kids, great stuff for young people. There is so much diversity, of different levels. You can be a little bit more adventurous. You can go scuba diving or snorkeling, you can go motorbike driving or you can go and do a lantern making class. You can do an art class, you can do something softer. There’s the madness of Vinpearl Land, there’s the Lune show, the Hoi An Memories Show. The town is filled with so many choices. It caters to everybody. If you go to an island and you’re stuck at a resort you’re limited. Hoi An is limitless. The experiences you have…you just have too many choices and couples actually find this hard. How do we narrow it down? That’s what I do. I help create the perfect experience for them and nurture them along the way.’