Have you ever attended a traditional Vietnamese wedding? It’s an interesting experience as it reflects distinct features of our culture.
Happy couple in Vietnamese wedding
Through the event, you can learn a lot about our country’s routines and practices. If you want to know about, or hold your wedding in Vietnamese style - especially when you or your partner is Vietnamese - you’ll find in this article a lot of useful information.
In eastern culture, we consider marriage a major event in our life. Thus, we highly value wedding ceremony, even more important than the marriage certificate. After wedding ceremony, the couple has already become spouses in eyes of their families, relatives, neighbors, colleagues, and friends. In some cases, they can complete marriage registration long after their traditional wedding.
The wedding ceremony has different procedures and rituals in different regions of Vietnam. In this article, I’ll talk about non-religious traditional Vietnamese wedding in the northern part, or more specifically, in my Haiphong City area. I think it’s pretty same as in Hanoi capital. In practice, you will probably find out certain differences compared to weddings in other places of Vietnam.
Basically, there’re three main steps to a traditional Vietnamese wedding:
Having gotten to know and understand each other, if a couple is serious about their emotional relationship, the boy will ask his parent to visit the girl’s house, for the first time in many cases.
The meeting is usually in the evening. The boy’s family brings traditional offerings, which are simply betel and areca (trầu cau). In our tradition, when people mention "matter of betel and areca" (chuyện trầu cau) they are talking about marriage issue.
On this occasion, parents of both sides meet to know each other and approve the relationship between the two children. The two families also officially allow the couple to have more time to thoroughly understand each other. After certain duration, ex., several months, the couple will decide whether to proceed to a marriage or not.
In (of after) the proposal meeting, when the couple has decided to get married, the two families need to consent:
On the chosen good date, the prospective groom’s family together with closed friends and relatives bring proposal offerings to the future bride’s family.
At this occasion, the representatives of both families (usually old people) meet and talk with one another as a way to establish an official relationship between the two families. Young people including friends of the couple also attend to congratulate the happy ceremony.
Betrothal gifts are placed in trays or round lacquered boxes, covered with a piece of bright red cloth. The number of trays must be in odd number such as 5, 7, 9, 11 (deemed lucky number), as requested earlier by the girl’s family. Each tray has one or a few relating traditional presents in the following list. The first two is a must.
Young boys bring betrothal gift trays
Each gift tray welcomed by a girl
Each gift tray is brought by one unmarried young boy. The future bride’s family also sends the same number of unmarried girls to receive the gifts.
The delegate can go by rented bus (all in one bus), or by taxi (each on one car), or by cyclo (xích lô). They should stop about 100 meters away from the girl’s house to re-arrange all walk in procession into her house.
The fiancee has to stay in her (or a separate close) room waiting for her parents’ permission allowing her fiance to come in and take her out.
The fiancé’s family officially offers the proposal gifts and ask to marry the girl for the boy. Once the girl’s family accepts the marriage offering, they’ve agreed the wedding, and thus cannot receive the offer from any other family.
In the ceremony, part of the gift will be solemnly placed on the ancestor’s altar. The young couple lights incense sticks and prays at the altar for a moment. Then fiance gives engaged ring to his prospective wife.
The new bride brings tea pot to greet and invite all family members and guests. Meanwhile, the two families also sit discussing and fixing the date of wedding.
Fiance father's request
Fiancee father's consent
Praying at proposal ceremony
Couple inviting tea
Near the end of the event, bride’s family takes part of each gift, put on a tray and give back to the groom family. It’s called lại quả (back present)
After proposal date, the girl has become not-yet-married wife of her fiance. Then, it’s time for both parties to invite guests to the wedding. The girl’s family usually gives wedding invitations together with some above-mentioned offerings (i.e. bánh nướng, mứt sen, bánh cốm). Invitations should be sent out about 3-10 days before the wedding date. The inviters should go in person to each guest’s place.
Guests include relatives, friends, colleagues, neighbors, etc. The total number of guests depends on the families’ relationship network, and is usually around a few hundred.
The ceremony includes two important formalities:
The delegation goes to groom’s house have several beloved members of the bride, including her best friend. There, the bridegroom again light incense at the altar of ancestors.
Then they go back to wedding hall for the …
In reality, two families can jointly or separately hold the wedding party. On that day, the bridegroom wears formally attire, often in western style. The groom wears veston, and the bride is in long dress with gown, glove, and flowers.
The event is held in a wedding hall or sometimes at their house (if it’s large enough). It usually starts at the end of morning (11:00 am) or afternoon (17:00 pm), and lasts about a couple of hours.
The ceremony will enjoy foods while listening to traditional Vietnamese wedding songs performed by local singers or volunteering guests.
Guests should bring wedding gift, which is normally cash put in an envelope. Sometimes, closest friends may want to give tangible presents like electronic rice cook, pottery, pillow and bed sheet, etc.
Below are typical dishes in a traditional Vietnamese wedding ceremony:
After wedding ceremony has finished, the couple and family go home. Unlike before, now more and more couples go honeymoon after the event.
Three days after the wedding, the new husband and wife brings a chicken couple (male and female) to his parents-in-law as a thank-you gift.
At the following Vietnamese New Year, the new couple is expected to visit to introduce their new spouse to closed relatives of both families. This customs is especially necessary if they are living in countryside villages.
And here’re several interesting practices relating a traditional Vietnamese wedding:
It’s is to say Vietnamese weddings now have been simplified, but still retain their traditional features, celebrating the most important event of a person’s life.
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P.S.: All photos in this article are courtesy of Minh Dũng and Thùy Nhung. Thank you Dũng & Nhung for your permission to use your wedding's beautiful pictures on this page!
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