Marriage in Vietnam
Thanks to my wife Nhi for helping me write this post
Traditional Wedding Ceremony (“Lễ Vu Quy”), December 31, 2014 #
This winter I got married in Vietnam and did a traditional ceremony. It was fun and I wanted to share some of the details and intricacies such a wedding entails.
On the day of the ceremony, the groom organizes a procession that travels from his house to the bride’s – Obviously I don’t live in Vietnam so we used a hotel in Saigon. The procession is led by two representatives: a married elder couple who is chosen to help organize and respect the traditions. They are followed by the groom, the groom’s parents and family, and the groom’s friends.
Procession, Gifts & Significance #
In the procession, the groom, his family and friends bear decorated boxes covered in red cloth. These boxes contain gifts representing the wealth that the groom’s family will bring to the bride’s family. Typically the gifts are betel (see below), fruit, cakes, a roast pig, an Áo Dài (it’s a traditional dress, see below), and jewelry for the bride.
Usually the number of boxes must be an even number: typically 6, 8, or 10 but never 7 or 9 since those are considered bad luck. In Vietnamese beliefs, the even number and the red color bring luck to the young couple. The people hold these boxes are also carefully chosen, usually the groom and bride’s best friends or relatives.
Women are all dressed in Áo Dài. Historically, women wore the Ngũ Thân, which was redesigned in the 1920’s, leading to the current national robe: the Áo Dài. Men typically wear a western suit or a traditional male Áo Dài.
Trays of fruit are offered to the ancestors. Most Vietnamese are not religious, or believe in “Vietnamese folk religion”, therefore they praise their ancestors’ spirits. The fruit are placed on the ancestors’ shrine. Most Vietnamese have a shrine in their homes, which they occasionally visit to pray to their ancestors. The fragrance and sweetness of the fruit represent the richness and sweetness of life and love.
Since ancient times, palm trees have symbolized the male body and tree leaves the female body, where one supports the other. Betel leaves and areca nuts are blended together to create a red ink, symbolizing a long lasting and happy marriage.
Tea & Wine #
Tea and wine are also offered. They are presented to the parents by the bride and groom.
Roasted Suckling Pig, and Sticky Rice #
The red color and softness of the pig and sticky rice symbolize a strong and faithful couple.
Sticky Rice #
Husband and Wife Cakes (“Bánh Phu Thê”) #
Among the gifts are “husband and wife cakes” or Bánh Phu Thê. They are small cakes made from rice and mung bean, wrapped with coconut leaves. These cakes are arranged into shapes that symbolize tying the knot.
Wedding Cake #
Groom and the groomsmen
Groom and the bridesmaids
The groom’s parents close the boxes and prepare for the procession.
Members of the procession go to the bride’s house.
Upon arriving at the bride’s home, members of the procession are introduced to the bride’s family, and the bride’s family introduces their members to the procession.
Flowers and balloons form a gate, to enter bride’s house.
The groom’s family and friends line up to wait to meet the bride’s family.
The groomsmen and bridesmaids carry the boxes to the bride’s home.
Members and friends of the two families greet.
The ancestor shrine is decorated for the wedding.
The groom’s father gives his speech and the gifts are presented.
The bride’s parents agree for the marriage to happen and the bride finally steps in, and seen for the first time wearing her wedding dress.
The permission ceremony begins in front of the bride’s ancestor shrine. The bride and groom burn incense sticks, asking for permission from the ancestors to bless them. The couple turns and bows to their parents, gives thanks for raising and protecting them. The bride and groom then bow to each other.
The bride and groom then turn to their parents. Each parent gives advice to the couple regarding marriage and family. A candle ceremony follows, symbolizing the joining of the bride and groom and the joining of the two families. The groom’s gift boxes filled with jewelry are opened by the groom’s mother, who then puts each piece on the bride for good fortune.
Due to Western influence in the concept of wedding rings, modern weddings include the giving of jewelry to the bride but are also followed by the exchange of wedding bands.
The groom then takes his bride to his home.
Bride, Groom, Bridesmaids, and Groomsmen
Following the ceremony at the groom’s house, all of the bride and groom’s family and friends are invited to lunch at the groom’s house. In my case we celebrated it at Bach Kim Restaurant.
Wedding Reception (“Lễ Thành Hôn”), White Palace Convention Center, HCMC, January 1, 2015 #
After the ceremony, the reception can take place at any desired location. The number of guests in attendance at these modern-day receptions is large, usually in the hundreds. Elaborate 7 to 10 course meals are served, often starting with cold dishes, followed by hot dishes such as seasoned lobster, seafood hot pot, and other Vietnamese banquet dishes, often ending with dessert or a fruit platter.
Groom and Bride
Guests are expected to bring gifts, and it is traditionally in the form of money in an envelope. Immediate family usually gives more money to the bride and groom. Most couples however leave a box at the sign-in table for guests to drop in their envelopes and cards.
Because of the New Year, the bride chose Ông Địa and Dragon Dance to open the reception ceremony.
The bride and groom wear a special traditional Áo Dài for the opening dance.
Guards bring the couple to the stage.
Cutting the cake
Opening the champagne
The parents of the bride and groom get on stage to greet the guests.
In modern weddings, the bride usually changes into three different gowns during the course of the reception. Her dresses usually comprise of a Western white wedding gown, a second Western dress to be worn at the end of the evening during the dance, and a third traditional Áo Dài to be worn during the traditional table visits to personally thank the guests for coming.
At one point during the reception, the bride and groom go from table-to-table to thank guests for their blessings.