A wedding ceremony reflects various traditional cultural elements of a country and Vietnamese wedding is no exception. From the preparation and ceremonies for the wedding, you can have more understanding about Vietnamese people’s beliefs and mindset, which are influenced by Confucian and Buddhist ideologies.
There are some small differences between wedding ceremonies in different regions of Vietnam, but generally, they are all the same. In this post, we will describe the wedding ceremony in Southwestern Vietnam, from which you can learn about traditional Vietnamese wedding.
The first step in any wedding preparation is to opt for the auspicious date and time (lunar calendar) in consultation with a fortune-teller. Vietnamese people believe that if the wedding ceremony takes place at the right time, the couple will receive good luck for the rest of their married life. Therefore, when the date is picked, the wedding must be held on that day regardless of what happens.
Traditionally, Vietnamese wedding consists of three main ceremonies: asking permission to receive the bride, receiving the bride at her house and bringing the bride to the groom’s house. The ceremonies usually occur at different times. Once all of them finish, the two families will hold a wedding reception for relatives and friends.
Asking permission to receive the bride (Đám Hỏi – Betrothal Ceremony):
“Đám hỏi” – or betrothal ceremony takes place about 1 or 2 months before the official wedding ceremony.
In the ceremony, the groom’s parents and relatives go to the bride’s house with gifts “sính lễ” including betel and areca, wine, tea, a whole roasted suckling pig, fruits and gold pieces of jewellery. The groom’s family representative then asks permission to receive the bride. The practice has existed since the old time of forced arranged marriages to confirm that the bride had not fled home and the wedding would proceed as planned.
At the end of the ceremony, the groom’s family is invited to stay and have a meal with the bride’s family. A part of the dishes served are the gifts of the groom’s family.
Preparation for the wedding begins two days before with the joint effort of close relatives and neighbours. While the men are building tents and setting up tables and chairs, the women are busy with cooking. Everybody is chatting with one another happily. Weddings are also an opportunity for family members to reunite after a long time of separation. Happiness fills in the whole family and in the heart of every person.
The bride’s ceremony (Lễ Vu Quy):
In Southwestern Vietnam, the bride’s ceremony, called “Vu Quy”, takes place at her house one day before the wedding with the meaning of saying goodbye to her family.
In the morning of the bride’s ceremony, her relatives, friends, colleagues and neighbours, are invited to her house to celebrate her marriage. After most of the guests and the groom leave, the ceremony continues with the practice of ancestor worship by the bride in the evening. Then, she serves tea for the elders and receives red envelopes of lucky money and best wish from the close relatives. At the same time, the practice is done by the groom at his house.
After that, the bride folds her clothes and packs them into luggage to prepare for moving to the groom’s house on the next day. Then, her mother tells her about dos and don’ts when living in her husband’s house.
*The wedding (Lễ Tân Hôn):
** Receiving the bride at her house (Lễ Xin Dâu):
In the morning of the next day, the procession of the groom’s family, led by his parents, carries elaborately decorated lacquer boxes covered in red cloth. Inside the boxes are gifts representing the groom family’s wealth given to the bride for supporting the couple’s future life. The gifts usually consist of betel and areca, wedding cake, fruits, pieces of jewellery and especially wedding rings.
The groom’s family sends a group of young and unmarried men to give the gifts to the bride’s family. Each box, carried by a man, is handed over to a young and unmarried woman in the bride family. The men are dressing in Ao dai or white shirt with a tie, while the woman is in Ao dai.
Once arriving at the bride’s house, the groom’s parents carrying a tray of wine must enter the house first, then invite the bride’s parents to take a sip of wine. By taking the sip, the bride’s family agrees for the groom’s family to enter their house.
The groom’s family introduces themselves and asks permission for their son to marry the bride. The master of the ceremony, usually a respected person in the bride’s family, instructs the bride’s parents to present their daughter. The bride will follow her parents to go out of her room. She appears in red traditional wedding dress Ao dai and is followed by her bride maids.
Standing in front of the bride’s ancestor altar, the couple burns incense sticks and ask the ancestor’s permission for their marriage. Then, they express gratitude for both groom’s and bride’s parents by serving tea to them. After that, the couple exchanges their wedding rings. The groom’s mother opens the boxes filled with jewellery and put on each piece on her new daughter-in-law.
**Bringing the bride to the groom’s house:
When the procession arrives back to the groom’s house, the newlyweds will practice another ceremony in front of the groom’s ancestor altar. The bride is introduced to the groom’s relatives and then brought to the couple’s room in which their marriage bed has been carefully prepared.
** The wedding reception:
A wedding reception is held at the groom’s house for all the couple’s relatives and friends. A restaurant or a hotel banquet hall is sometimes chosen, depending on their financial situation. A band and singers are invited to entertain guests. The guests can contribute a song at any time. The couple is dressing on Western costumes and may change to traditional ones when making table visits to personally thank the guests for coming and receive the wishes and celebrations from them. A photographer will help to take a photo with all the guests in each table making a toast to the couple.
Some symbols in Vietnamese wedding:
– The dominant colour in all the ceremonies of a wedding is red, representing good luck and happiness.
– One indispensable word in any wedding is the word “song hỷ” (囍), in which “song” means double and “hỷ” means happiness. A wedding is a double happiness to both of the families.
– Betel and areca nuts are the most significant gifts because they are symbols of a faithful relationship of the couple. The image of betel vines climbing arena nut trees represents the image of the couple sticking together. The talk between the two families about the young couple’s marriage is started with the tradition of chewing the mixture of areca nuts and betel leaf (“Miếng trầu là đầu câu chuyện”).
– Money is usually given out as a gift in the wedding. It is believed that “money warding off evil spirits”, which means to protect the couple from sickness and death.
– The number of the boxes of gifts is either odd or even number, depending on regions and their beliefs. In the Southwestern Vietnam, the number 6 or 8 is preferable, and 7 is believed to bring bad luck, while in the Northern Vietnam, the number of the boxes must be odd number such as 5, 7, 9, and 11.
Video about a wedding in Southeastern Vietnam where people traveling on a boat to receive the bride and take her to the groom’s house 😉
Writer: Nhi Nguyen – Minh Nguyen