What are Vietnamese wedding traditions?
This question can not be answered unless you realize that Vietnamese life revolves around the welfare of the community in which they live. Their wedding traditions naturally have roots in their customs and traditions of their community. Most Vietnamese believe that the marriage must promote the interests of the community and the family. The bride and the groom are, therefore, carefully selected and a number of formalities are observed before announcing the betrothal and marriage.
The Vietnamese wedding traditions demand that the marriage is elaborately performed. The discussion begins with an informal and then official proposal to the bride’s family, followed by a plighting ceremony, the wedding to the marriage tie, the ritual of sharing the bridal cup of wine, the wedding ceremony at the bride’s home, the wedding ceremony at the groom’s home and the newly weds first visit to the bride’s family
How Partners are selected in Vietnamese Wedding Traditions?
You will find that the marriage proposals in the past used to be made between families who were equal economically and socially. The purpose of the marriage was establishment of a social alliance between the two families. Hence, the groom’s family approached the bride’s family through an agent. These agents could be relatives of the groom or an official matchmaker. The matchmaker collected the horoscope of the bride and the groom respectively and made the bride’s horoscope available to the groom and vice versa. The families then consulted fortune tellers to see if the horoscopes were compatible and also used their services to select auspicious days for performing the ceremonies for the bride and groom, on the basis of the horoscopes. Hence in the past, the couple had almost no say in the matter.
However, the modern Vietnamese wedding traditions allow the girl and the boy to choose their partners. They need to obtain formal permission from the families to their marriage. The groom has to visit the house of the bride with a group of friends or relatives and formally request the parents of the girl for her hand in marriage. You will be told by the natives that this Vietnamese marriage custom is known as Nap thai or cham ngo. This is a speech given by the groom or his family elders requesting the bride’s family for her hand in marriage. The groom then presents the wife with beetal nuts and leaves symbolizing the unbreakable bond of marriage. The family of the bride then makes a formal request with betel leaves and areca nuts to their ancestors at their family altar.
Every family member (including members of the extended family) is expected to participate in the organization and arrangement of the wedding. The van danh or an hoi is the formal introduction of the bride and groom to each other and the future relatives on both sides. This is followed by nap cat, which is an elaboration of the wedding plans by the groom’s family to the bride’s family. The thinh ky is the announcement of the final decisions taken by the bride’s family about the wedding.
Engagement in Vietnamese Wedding Traditions
The date of the engagement or the formal acceptance is normally fixed at least two weeks before the date of the wedding. However, in modern Vietnamese wedding traditions the engagement is sometimes held on the same day as the marriage for convenience
You will find that most Vietnamese have adopted the western dress for the wedding ceremonies. However in conservative families the traditional blue ao-dai is worn by the groom and the red and yellow aodai is worn by the bride. The groom gifts the bride with jewelry before the ceremony begins.
A representative of the bride’s family brings in the dowry of the bride at an appointed time and date. This ceremony is known as nap te. The wedding rituals themselves are known as than nghenh.
The actual wedding ritual requires that the groom visits the bride’s home at an appointed hour and takes her back with him as a procession which is led by an old man. Traditionally, that old man wears dark robes and carries an incense burner. You will note that the bridegroom follows dressed in new clothes. His attendants surround him and women holding betel leaves and areca nuts to offer to the wedding procession. On reaching the bride’s home, the groom is welcomed only when he enters the front door. This is an interesting custom that must be noted as welcoming the groom at the gate of the house is considered to be very uncouth and pushy.
Once the groom has entered the bride’s home, he is offered tea. After taking the tea, he requests the bride’s parent’s permission to take the bride with him. The father agrees and performs a ritual before the family altar to request acceptance of the proposal by the ancestors. The bride and groom also make a request to the ancestors. A banquet is held and the bride and the groom proceed in procession to the groom’s home. Did you know that little children are allowed to set up road blocks to the procession? They have to be paid to remove the road blocks!
As the procession nears the groom’s house, firecrackers are set up and the guests are invited in the house. This is followed by the ceremony appeasing the genie of marriage or the Rose Silk Thread God. You will note that a special altar is set up with lighted candles and incense sticks with the older members of the family leading the ceremony. Three cups are filled with white alcohol. The family elder bows three times and hands a cup to the groom. The groom sips a bit and hands it to the bride to sip. Ginger and salt are shared between the bride and groom. A red sheet of paper is burnt and people bow once again to the genie.
In Vietnamese wedding traditions, the marriage is considered complete now.