Friday, January 20, 2012

Traditional Vietnamese Weddings

Photo by: Mike Fernwood

Weddings in Vietnam are a sight to see.  The Vietnamese have a strict traditional culture on how, when, where, and even who one marries.  Having only lived here for a year, I have already been to about 4, maybe 5, weddings.  Every day, someone somewhere is getting married in Vietnam.  It’s not uncommon to see the bride and groom taking wedding pictures at the local park and throughout the city in full wedding dress and tuxedo.  It’s actually pretty big business here, I would imagine.  In fact, the street I live on just so happens to be a bride’s dream come true.  There are bridals all along my street.  Almost every single storefront is a bridal.  Hence, it has been dubbed “the wedding street".

The Vietnamese go all out when planning a wedding.  For the most part, at least the part I have experienced, the wedding is a big fancy dinner at home, a restaurant or a dining hall.  I was wondering if there was anything else to what I have seen so I asked a Vietnamese friend to explain to me a traditional Vietnamese wedding ceremony.  This is what she had to say:

“There are two main ceremonies.  The first is the betrothal ceremony and the second is the wedding ceremony (Today, life is pretty busy. So, many families usually skip the betrothal ceremony, but is still part of the wedding ceremony).

Betrothal Ceremony
Before the wedding day, the groom’s family and relatives go to the bride’s house with round lacquered boxes. The round lacquered boxes are covered in red fabric and carried by girls or boys that are chosen carefully. According to the Asian culture, the color red represents happiness and wealth. There are four or six round lacquered boxes as betrothal gifts. The gifts consist of betel leaves and areca nuts, tea, wine, cakes, fruits, etc.  Before the betrothal ceremony, the groom’s parents meet with a fortune-teller to set the day of the wedding. This is very important because if the wedding is held in an unlucky day the couple may not be together forever.  Then the groom’s parents tell the bride’s parents the date the wedding ceremony will take place.

Wedding Ceremony
On the day of the wedding, again, the groom’s family and relatives go to the bride’s house with four or six round lacquered boxes but only if there was betrothal ceremony before. If not, there are only two or three round lacquered boxes. The procession is led by a respected man. Usually, there are four girls, four boys, four old men and four old women in the procession. Sometimes, there are six girls, six boys, six old women and six men in the procession.  The women are dressed in Ao Dai or traditional dress. Men can wear a suit or traditional men’s Ao Dai.

Pink wedding ao dai.
The procession stops in front of the bride’s house and waits several minutes.  The leading man enters the bride’s house with a tray of wine beforehand. He invites the bride’s parents to take a sip.  By accepting the toast, the bride’s family agrees to marry into the groom’s family.  The groom’s family then enters the house. The bride follows her mother to meet the groom while wearing a red traditional wedding Ao Dai. The bride and the groom carry out the wedding ritual in front of the altar. The couple bow and pray to ancestors for a happy future and good family, then express their deep gratitude to their parents for raising and protecting them. After that they exchange gifts together, usually the groom’s mother gives the bride some jewelry such as: necklaces, earrings, bracelets and so on.
Finally, the groom’s family receives the bride and returns to their house. The bride’s family and relatives follow the bride.  After finishing another ritual at the groom’s house, everyone enjoys the wedding party. The wedding party can be held at the groom’s house or a restaurant. The guests toast the bride and the groom.  The couple goes to each table to get gifts and money in red envelopes from the guests, indicating their best wishes*.”

*From my experience, once everyone is at the wedding party, guests place their gifts (envelopes with money) into a decorated collection box at the entrance to the restaurant.

Well there you have it, a traditional Vietnamese wedding explained by a traditional Vietnamese person.

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