A wedding is the legal union of a man and a woman in marriage. Wedding customs and traditions vary among countries, religious beliefs, and cultures. In Vietnam, wedding is considered as one of the most important ceremonies in their culture. It is a remarkable event not only for the couple but for both families as well. Like any other weddings, Vietnamese wedding follows ritual procedures.
In the past, most Vietnamese marriages were arranged by the parents, and as years pass by, this has completely changed. Official meeting of both families happens at the proposal stage. Parents of the couple will discuss the dowry and bride’s price in exchange for her hand in marriage. The bride and the groom will be represented by close family members or friends for the engagement ceremony. Usually, unmarried boys and girls are chosen to represent the bride and the groom.
The Betrothal or Engagement Ceremony (Lễ ăn hỏi)
On the day of the engagement, the groom and his family will walk to the bride’s house to formally present the engagement gifts to the bride’s family. On behalf of the groom, the groom’s representative makes the marriage proposal. Once the gifts were accepted by the bride’s representative, the bride and the groom will offer the gifts and pray to their ancestors at the family altar. The groom will wear his best suit while the bride wears the traditional Ao Dai for the ceremony.
Gift giving of the groom’s family is a symbol of generosity, and it signifies the groom’s capacity to provide for his future wife. Meanwhile, acceptance of the gifts symbolizes the bride’s humility and modesty. Gifts always include areca nuts, betel leaves, sweet cakes, tea, wine, tobacco, money, and jewelry. In Vietnamese tradition, gift boxes should be in even numbers for good luck. After the ritual, the groom will give the engagement ring to the bride and an enormous feast will follow.
The Wedding Ceremony (Lễ cưới)
During the wedding ceremony, gifts wrapped in red paper are carried by the groom’s family and relatives when they go to the bride’s house. Gifts are similar with the gifts during the engagement— betel leaves, areca nuts, wedding cakes, wines, and tea. The traditional Vietnamese wedding ceremony consists of three ceremonies. The first ceremony is to ask permission to receive the bride, second is the receiving of the bride, and the third is bringing the bride to the groom’s house to welcome her into the family.
Permission to Receive The Bride
In the past, the mother of the groom visits the bride’s home on the day of the wedding. She then officially asks to receive the bride and informs the family of the time the procession will arrive and further proceedings will follow thereafter. In the modern time, the couple will decide whether to go through this ceremony or not.
Receiving of the Bride
A small number of people, 20 or so will participate in the procession to receive the bride. This is usually led by the groom’s family in a specific order. The representative of the groom in the procession, which is usually a couple, will first enter the bride’s house with a tray of wine and invite the parents of the bride to take a sip. Acceptance of the wine means that the family of the bride allows the groom’s family to enter the house, and they shall proceed with the wedding ceremony.
After the formal introduction of the groom and his family, the groom will now present the gifts to the bride’s family before he can officially see his bride-to-be. Wearing the traditional wedding dress or Ao Dai, the bride will be escorted by her mother to meet his groom.
The couple will now make their way to the ancestral altar. They will both kneel down, burn incense sticks, and pray for permission to their ancestors to bless their marriage. The groom and bride will then take their vows and exchange wedding rings. Next, they turn and bow to their parents to show gratitude and then bow to each other as a sign of respect and gratitude. After that, family members will give gifts and advice for the newlyweds.
Bringing the Bride to the Groom’s House
The newlyweds will now proceed to the groom’s house. The bride will be introduced as the new member of the family and another ancestral ceremony will take place.
Today, some Vietnamese couples may choose to incorporate modern changes in their wedding, but traditional wedding ceremonies are still preserved.