Will you ever consider handing one of the most special celebrations of your life to me, a girl who was just recently out of job, had no portfolio whatsoever? Probably not. But someone actually did. And by that, she's changed my life completely.
My story with weddings started when I was a 10-year-old girl who for the first time, got the chance to attend a wedding, my uncle's. The joy of this special occasion immediately intrigued the curious happy little girl I was. From then on, I don't think my obsession with wedding ever go away, even for just a little bit. It's hard to understand why weddings are so special to me, but, I know I love it.
I moved back to Vietnam a couple of years ago, 3.5 years to be more accurate. Before going back, I made my mind clear, I would do either 2 things: fashion or wedding. After 2 years experiencing different roles, including a brief time being a marketing associate for the leading wedding planner (at the time) in Hanoi, I hit my quarter-life crisis. The reserved culture shock, being fraud, emotional breakdown, family trouble all came at once. I found myself being lost in a strange city, completely. After 6 months staying home, trying to cure my special skin condition, called "Vitiligo", which deserves its own story and I don't plan to bore you with it, I decided it was time to give up and back on my feet.
I remember vividly that hot May day, I was surfing my new feeds and spotted the engagement photo of Milena Nguyen & Raphael Augusto Fraga . Spontaneous as I have never been before, I messaged Mili, just to asked whether I could send her a bridal bouquet. And when she said yes, I bet myself big time and proposed her let me plan her wedding. I was 99% sure she would turn me down. Why would she say yes anyway? I was nobody, had no brand, no team, not even a glimpse of a portfolio, when the only thing I had was a vision in my mind.
But she said yes, she said YES. Could you believe that? I couldn't. We met in high school but after that, we haven’t been really close or anything, why would she agree? That question kept hanging in my head for a while till the first time I talked with Rapha, Mili's then fiance on skype. After briefly discussing what their vision was, I decided to ask Mili myself. And her response changed my life forever. She looked into my eyes and told me sincerely: “Why not? Since you were just a teenager and had nothing but a bunch of high school kids around, no special resource, no experiences, no nothing, you still pulled off class and school events like no one else that I know. There are nothing you can't do, absolutely nothing. Rapha and I can’t not be more blessed to have you". I never tell anyone, but I cried all the way home.
When I completely forgot my happy and confident self, there was Mili, reminded me that she's there, somewhere inside, and the only thing I need to do is to set her free. And for that, Mili & Rapha, I owe them so much.
Sometimes I'd like to think that I needed that 6 months to learn to appreciate myself the way I am, to have time to calm my inner mind, to listen to what my heart truly desires, to realise that despite all flaws that I, unfortunately own, I have an incredible entourage who would support me no matter what I decide to do.
The planning process isn't that easy. I hit my first mission, forming a team. After working together at the other wedding planner, Ngoc and I become good friends. We share the love for flowers, for weddings and every pretty little thing. Ngoc went on to work for another major planner before deciding she needed a break from weddings. By the time Mili said Yes to me, Ngoc had already secured her job at Foody, a rising-star website/apps based food reviewing company. But the love for flowers and weddings (and probably, for me), persuaded her to eventually becoming the second member of The F Lab.
Lan is the third to join the team. She was a third year student, who worked for British Council before I won her over in one of the most bizarre interviews in history. In preparation not to become one of those bosses who promise many things while even themselves are not sure they could deliver, I told Lan every ugly truth about the job right upfront instead of luring her into the team (even though I really needed the help). I would never thought a young urban girl with good background like her would actually join us.
After that, we started to seriously plan Mili's wedding together. With the great contribution from no other than the bride and groom, friends and all of our dearest partners (many of them have now become our real-life friends) everything was beyond our imagination.
When the wedding was blissfully coming to the end, I could finally come, hugged and cried, telling Mili how happy I am for her and how fortunately thankful I felt when she said yes. As for Mili and Rapha, we will forever love them and after every project, we'd always take a moment and think about them, about their kindness and trust that they had in me, in us. In honour of them, we decided to take their wedding day as the birthday for The F Lab. So that, every year, on that 1 special day, we can all re-live the beautiful moment that we had a great privilege to be a part of, the moment that started everything, the moment to remind us that ”never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game".