An unforgettable date

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120 couples pose for a picture by the statue of President Ho Chi Minh in downtown HCMC on 12/12/12 just before their mass wedding, recognized by the Vietnam Book of Records as the country's biggest ever

One hundred and twenty couples celebrated the country's biggest ever mass wedding in Ho Chi Minh City to mark a once-a-lifetime date: 12/12/12.

It will be the last time in almost a century not until 01/01/01 will it occur again that the number is the same in all three columns.

The organizers, the HCMC Youth Union's Center for Support of Youth Workers, said mass weddings may have been held around the world on this day, but the Vietnam event was special because the brides and grooms were all poor people who could not afford a wedding.

The couples offered flowers at the statue of President Ho Chi Minh in the downtown area before arriving at the Grand Palace Wedding and Convention Center for the wedding.

Huynh Ngo Tinh, the center's director, said many factory workers in the city are poor and the economic situation made it harder than ever for the marrying couples to organize a proper wedding.

"Though life could be very difficult, love exists," he said, adding that his center has organized such mass weddings for a total of 222 poor couples in the last five years.

Grand Palace offered lunch for 1,200 of the couples' families and friends, the Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam (Vietcombank) gave each couple a gift of VND2 million (US$96), and other sponsors donated wedding rings and flowers and other services.

The wedding party was held at noon to sneak in one final 12.

The couples are all factory workers in HCMC and nearby provinces, but hail from provinces all over the country.

Du, a Can Tho native, said: "We repeatedly planned to get married by "˜next year,' and there have been many "˜next years,' but we could not carry out the plan."

Nguyen Cam Tu and Phan Thi Quy, who were among the lucky couples, are deaf and mute, and could only share their happiness through their eyes.

Kim Huong, owner of Kim Huong Gold Enterprise which gifted the rings, said: "I myself have overcome a lot of difficulties in life. I understand how they feel when they love each other but cannot wed because of poverty."

The event enters the Vietnam Book of Records as the country's largest mass wedding.

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