Besides the wedding ceremony, there is also an engagement ceremony
which takes place usually half a year or so before the wedding.
In the past, most marriages were arranged by the parents or extended
family, and while children were sometimes consulted, it was almost
always the parents' final decision. While this has changed completely in
modern Vietnam, in the past it was not surprising to find that a bride
and groom had only just met on the day of their engagement or marriage.
The traditional Vietnamese wedding consists of an extensive array of
Due to the spiritual nature of the occasion, the date and time of the
marriage ceremony is decided in advance by a fortune teller.
In the past, on the wedding day the groom's mother (along with a few
other close relatives) would make a trip to the bride's home, carrying
along a gift of betel. The mother would officially ask permission to
"receive" the bride and then notifies the family of the time the
procession would arrive to bring the bride to her new home. It was at
this time that the bride's family would confirm the state of things and
proceedings would take place. In actuality, this now obsolete ceremony
was used in the past to confirm at the last minute that the marriage
would even take place. Due to often forced arranged marriages, the bride
sometimes fled beforehand and so this ceremony was essential in
confirming that things were going smoothly.
In modern Vietnam where people choose their own marriage partners
based on love and individual needs, this ceremony is chosen upon the
couple whether to go through the process or not.
The procession of the groom's family is led by specific order;
usually the first person will be a man chosen as the representative of
the groom's house (he should have a good manner of speaking along with
high status in society), followed by the groom's father, the groom, then
the rest of his immediate family and close friends. Huge traditional
umbrellas are carried and accompany the front of the procession.
Interestingly, in the past the groom's mother did not take part in the
procession as a sign that she would not be a threat to the future bride
(and she would even hide for a short period upon the bride's welcome
into the groom's home). However, this practice has long been abandoned.
The number of people participating in a procession varies but is
usually restricted to a smaller number (20 or so) to make it easier on
the bride's family who will be receiving all of the guests. In the
procession, the groom and his family (among others) will be bearing
elaborately decorated lacquer boxes, covered in red cloth. Inside these
boxes are gifts representing the wealth the groom's family will bring to
the bride's family. Gifts include: betel, wine, tea, fruit, cakes, a
roast pig, and an abundance of jewelry for the bride (the amount of
jewelry depending on the personal wealth of the groom's family). Usually
the number of gift boxes varies from 6 or 8, but never 7 or 9 which is
seen as bad luck.
Upon arriving at the bride's home, firecrackers are lit to alert the
bride's family, who then light their own round of firecrackers to
welcome the groom's family into their home. After each gift of food is
accepted by the bride's parents, the groom then receives permission to
greet the bride, who is finally brought out.
- Asking permission of the bride's ancestors
The ceremony begins in front of the ancestor altar in the bride’s
home. The bride and groom will kneel down in front of the altar and burn
incense sticks, asking permission from the bride's ancestors to bless
their marriage and their future family.
Afterwards, the couple will turn and bow to their parents giving
thanks for raising and protecting them. The bride and groom will then
bow to each other.
- Tea, candle ceremony and speeches
While tea has always been an essential part of Vietnamese life, for
commoners Vietnamese tea culture never became as complex or bogged down
with rituals as its counterparts in Japan or China.
Nevertheless, a traditional wedding is about the only time in a
Vietnamese person's life that a formal tea ceremony is essential. The
bride and groom in front of all their family and friends will serve tea
(or wine) to their parents. Each parent will then give advice about
marriage and family to the couple.
A candle ceremony will follow, symbolizing the joining of the bride
and groom and their families. T
he gift boxes filled with jewelry that were brought by the groom's
family will be opened by the groom’s mother who will then put each piece
on the bride for good fortune.
Due to western influence in the concept of wedding rings, in modern
weddings what usually follows is the exchanging of wedding bands
(however Catholic Vietnamese families save this for the separate church
The bride and groom will then be presented with small red envelopes
containing money from close family members.
Finally, the groom officially asks to bring the bride to his home,
and she follows with the procession to the groom's house.
ceremony at the groom's home
As the procession arrives back at the groom's house, the groom's
family members that had stayed behind will light firecrackers in
The newlyweds will be brought by the groom's parents to their own
ancestor altar, where another ancestor ceremony takes place and the
bride is introduced to her new relatives.
Finally, bride is then brought into what is to be the couple's room
and introduced to their new marriage bed.
Following the ceremony at the groom's house, all of the bride and
groom's family and friends are invited to a massive banquet party.
However, nowadays the order of these ceremonies are slightly rearranged
and usually (especially in big cities) the banquet takes place right
after the ceremony at the bride's house, with the bride being brought to
the groom's house only afterwards.
The number of guests in attendance at these banquets are huge,
usually in the hundreds. Elaborate 7-10 course meals are served, with
popular dishes including seafood hotpot, the Vietnamese seven courses of
beef, and so on so forth. Guests are expected to bring gifts, often
money, which the groom and bride at one point in the banquet will go
from table to table collecting. Occasionally, the newlyweds may profit
from the monetary gifts from their family and guests even after they
have paid for their lavish and expensive feasts or reception.
In modern weddings, brides usually change into 3 different gowns
during the wedding banquet, 2 of which include the western white wedding
gown and once again into the traditional long dress she had worn for the
compromises and differences in religion
While most Vietnamese are Mahayana Buddhists, a significant minority
are Catholic, which actually does not change much about most traditional
Vietnamese weddings, whether celebrated in Vietnam or overseas. This is
explained because since most Vietnamese practice ancestor worship
regardless of denomination; even Catholic Vietnamese have no qualms
about the ceremonies traditionally performed at both the bride and
However, before the banquet, Buddhist families usually visit a temple
whereas Catholic families will attend the typical western ceremony at a
Most Vietnamese weddings even these days incorporate both eastern and
western traditions; one such compromise is the bride wearing both a
western gown and a long dress throughout the day.
Traditional and modern symbols of marriage are often featured during
Vietnamese marriage ceremonies as decorations on the wedding umbrellas,
lacquer gift boxes (or the red cloth that covers them), or even the
decorations in the homes of both the bride and groom. They usually
include lanterns, doves, initials of the couple, so on so forth. However
one symbol that is indispensable are the words "song hỷ" (also written
as the character 囍). Vietnamese was written formerly in Chinese
characters as well as the vernacular Chinese influenced Nom script
before the 20th century, and while literacy in these scripts during
feudalistic times was restricted mostly to scholars, officials and other
members of the elite, characters such as these have always played an
aesthetic role on important occasions such as wedding.
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)