Custom & Culture

Wedding ceremony

Wedding is very important to Vietnamese, not only to the couple involved, but also for both families. Thus, it is usually including quite a few formal ritual observances. The Wedding day is usually chosen well in advance by the groom and the bride's parents (in the old time, it is not necessarily Saturday or Sunday, as well as they believe it is good based on the groom and the bride's age).

Depending on habits of specific ethnic groups, marriage includes various steps and related procedures, but generally there are three main ceremonies:
 
Engagement
In Vietnam, the engagement is a festive ceremony involving the fiance's and fiancee's families, and arranged in advance by the parents. The engagement is considered very important, and in some areas, even more important than the wedding.
Well before the engagement day, each family chooses two representatives from their side. The representatives can be family members or friends, but are usually a married couple who have a happy family of their own. Although there are two representatives, the man is the one who actually does the  representation, requesting for the fiancee's hand in marriage on behalf of the fiance's family, exchanging gifts, and controlling the flow of the ceremony.
In addition to selecting their representatives, the families get together to negotiate the dowry and a date and time for the ceremony.  Traditionally, the date and time are chosen based on the fiance's and fiancee's dates and hours of birth, but in a fast-paced society, such as that of the United States, it is usually a matter of convenience.
Several days prior to the engagement day the fiance's parents prepare gifts to proffer to the fiancee's family.  These gifts include betel leaves and areca nut fruits (trau cau), wine, tea, husband-wife cake (banh phu the), sticky rice, other foods, and jewelry.  They are placed in trays and wrapped in red plastic paper, with the belief that red will bring good luck.  In addition to the other foods, a whole pig is roasted and placed in a large tray, to be carried to the fiancee's home by two young men.  Meanwhile, the fiance is getting the ring ready, and the fiancee, preparing herself for the ceremony.
On engagement day, the fiance's family bear the gifts to the fiancee's home and is greeted by the fiancee's family. Once everyone is inside, the fiance's representative asks the other representative for the fiancee's hand in marriage on behalf of his party.  The fiancee's representative graciously accepts the gifts and presents the fiancee to her in-laws to be united.  Together, the engaged couple prays in front of the family altar and asks their ancestors for approval.  When the prayer is finished, the fiance places the engagement ring on his fianced's finger.
Following the ring presentation, the representatives formally introduce their party's family members according to his or her family role.  From this moment forward, the fiance and fiancee are official members of their in-law family, and should refer to their in-law family members by their respective roles--"dad", "mom", "uncle", "aunt", and so forth. The parents in return accept a new son or daughter into their own family.  After the ceremony, the families celebrate the momentous occasion with a feast organized by the fiancee's family.  It is expected that half of the food gifts received be unwrapped and shared before the fiance's family leaves. 
 
Le an hoi (betrothal ceremony):
Some time before the wedding, the groom and his family visit the bride and her family with round lacquered boxes known as betrothal presents composed of gifts of areca nuts and betel leaves, tea, cake, fruits, wines and other delicacies covered with red cloth and carried by unmarried girls or boys. Both families agree to pick a good day for wedding.
The day after the Betrothal, the couple and their parents visit their neighbors, friends, co-workers, and relatives who could not attend the ceremony. They bring some betel leaves and areca nuts, tea and/or wines to spread the good fortune.
 
Le cuoi (wedding ceremony):
Guests would be invited to come to join a party and celebrate the couple’s happiness. The couple should pray before the altar asking their ancestors for permission for their marriage, then to express their gratitude to both groom’s and bride’s parents for raising and protecting them. Guests will share their joy at a party later.
On the wedding day, the groom's family and relatives go to the bride's house bringing a lot of gifts wrapped in red papers. These gifts are similar to those of the engagement: betel leaves and areca nuts, wines, fruits, cakes, tea ... Those who hold these trays are also carefully chosen, usually they are happily married couples. Ladies and women are all dressed in Ao Dai. Men could be in their suits or men traditional Ao Dai. The troop are usually led by a couple that is most wealthy and successful among the relatives, this means to wish the to-be-wed couples a blessing life together in the future.
The groom's family would stop in the font of the bride's house. The leading couple should enter the house first bringing a tray with wine and tiny cups on it. They would invite the bride's parents to take a sip. By accepting the toast, the bride's family agree for the groom family to enter their house. The firework is immediately fired to greet the groom's family.
The groom's family would introduce themselves and ask permission for their son to marry his bride. The Master of the Ceremony (usually a respected person among the bride's relatives) instructs the bride's parents to present their daughter. The bride then follows her parents out. She is in Vietnamese traditional wedding Ao Dai which is usually in red. Followed are her bride maids.  The wedding ceremony starts in front of the altar. The bride and the groom would kneel down and pray, asking their ancestors' permission to be married, also asking for blessing on their family-to-be. The couple then turn around and bow down to the bride's parents to say thank for raising and protecting her since birth. They then bow their head to each other, which means to show their gratitude and respect toward their soon-to-be husband or wife. The Master of the Ceremony would gave the wedding couple advices on starting a new family. The groom and the bride's parents would take turn to share their experience and give blessing. The groom and the bride then exchange their wedding rings. The parents will give the newly wedded value gifts such as golden bracelets, ear rings, necklace... The ceremony is ended with a round applause.
Today, a lot of Vietnamese couples have their wedding ceremony done in Temples or Churches which is very much similar to American and Western style, including exchanging vows and wedding rings. However, they still maintain Vietnamese traditional ceremony in the bride's home before heading to temples or churches.
A wedding banquet is scheduled in the evening at a hotel or a big restaurant. It is always a delight feast that all relatives, friends, and neighbors are invited. A music band is usually hired to play live songs.
At the banquet, the groom, bride, and their family are once again introduced to the guests and everyone will drink a toast. Dinner will be served at the tables.
During the reception, the groom, bride, and their parents will stop by each table to say thank to their guests. The guest in return, will give envelopes containing wedding cards and money gifts to the newly wedded couples along with their blessing. A lot of weddings nowadays are followed by a dancing party, which is opened by the groom and the bride's first dance. The party does not recess until very late at night. The newly wedded couples then leave for their honey moon.

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