The wedding in Vietnam is considered the most significant ceremony, which is affected strongly by Confucian and Buddhist ideologies.
Traditional wedding clothes since the Nguyen dynasty
Traditional clothes of Vietnam have been changing according to the time or eras, people know that the Nguyen dynasty started the tradition of wearing Ao Dai, women wore the beautiful Áo dài at weddings as the show of Vietnamese traditions and customs, its design is relating to the Áo mệnh phụ (royal Áo dài) of court ladies in Nguyen Dynasty. The design of Ao Dai from the Nguyen Dynasty has remained until nowadays. Áo Mệnh Phụ differs from Ao dai in details, for example, Áo Mệnh Phụ is embroidered with Phoenix, the cloak is exaggerated. The favorable color can be red or pink, and the bride usually wears a Khăn đống headdress in her wedding as a traditional costume. The groom’s suit is simpler (which is often in blue), and the accessories attached are not so much.
To begin a wedding, Lễ Dạm Ngõ is the first event, called the proposal. This is the first meeting between two families in Vietnamese wedding traditions. The groom’s parents and relatives first visit the bride’s family to ask for the official relationship of their children, then the wedding will be arranged accordingly.
Lễ Dạm Ngõ is a simple meeting, there are no complex procedures in this event, The groom’s family will bring along small gifts which are stuck to the legend of a Vietnamese long-lasting couple, the gifts include the betel and the areca. This meeting aims for both families to meet each other and arrange how the marriage will be held. A proposal is not only romantic but also vital for a happy and long-term marriage as people believe it to be.
The root of this event is from the past when most weddings were arranged by parents, they met each other to discuss their children’s wedding. Many years ago, the couple usually did not know each other until this first event, everything before the wedding was decided by their parents. Today, this event is still followed in most weddings to show respect to the tradition. A few months before the wedding, the two families will have an intimate meeting to discuss what would happen in the wedding and host it best. Under several circumstances, this may take up to two years.
This event is the next step after the proposal, an engagement ceremony or the Đám Hỏi, depending on the regions, it happens one day or event the half-year before the wedding. The engagement ceremony is considered as an announcement to family members and friends about the upcoming wedding. It’s an official sign, saying that the girlfriend and the boyfriend are now fianceé. It is also on this day that gifts for the bride and groom are exchanged.
In the old days, the bride and the groom would follow their families’ arrangements, and it was not unusual for them to meet each other for the first time on the engagement day. Nonetheless, the engagement ceremony is not so well-practiced in recent years. This can result from the development of our modern society, and in the mindset of young people, they want to focus more on the wedding rather than the engagement.
What is in the red gift boxes?
The broom’s regulation usually brings 5, 7, 9, or 11 gift boxes to the bride’s family on betrothal day; these gifts are also called Le Vat. The Le Vat can be considered thanks from the groom’s family to the bride’s family for letting them step into their house and family. There are several gifts in Le Vat. They are explained as below:
The betel nut: This is the most important and traditional gist as it is the symbol of a long-lasting couple and loyalty.
Alcohol and tea: These are the presents to show respect and thankful gratitude to the bride’s ancestors. Two families put the alcohol and tea on the altar as the petition gifts for the ancestors’ permission and allow them to become husband and wife.
Fresh fruit: This stands for many children the couple will have in the future, which means the wedding is fruitful, happy, and a blessing (traditionally, Vietnamese believed that children were gifts, if they have many children, this means they have luck and many precious gifts in their life).
Wedding cake: It is one of these cakes is placed in the box: Vietnamese husband and wife cake (Banh Phu the), young rice cake (Banh com), pia cake (Banh pia), or the wedding cake. It stands for five yin and yang elements, indicating that the bond between husband and wife cannot be broken. Some regions will replace the cake with roasted pork.
Traditional Vietnamese wedding gifts from the groom’s family which are brought to the bride’s family: Betel & Areca catechu, tea box, Banh Com, Banh Phu The
The Đám Hỏi resembles to the real wedding ceremony, though less uncomplicated and with some alterations. The groom and his family members and friends will then go to his bride’s house to give the gifts, including wines, fruits, tea leaves, and other gifts prepared. The gifts brought are covered in red paper or cloth. Several unmarried men also carry them from the groom’s family. The number of gift boxes is always odd, except for the roasted pig, and the quantity in each box is even to one another. If you wonder why it’s red and odd numbers, then here would be the explanation: These two factors are believed to be lucky for young couples on their wedding day.
The groom will then wait for his bride at her door, and a group of young, unmarried women also come out and receive the gifts. This group is of the same quantity as the male group from the groom’s family. Guests of both houses also wait with the groom and enjoy the treats by the bride’s family, which are often fruits and cakes.
Next, a representative would introduce members from both families, including the groom, the bride, and their parents. This representative also has the responsibility to talk about the ceremony’s purpose and announce it to everyone sitting there.
Once the gifts are unwrapped and approved, the bride would step down and see her husband. The bride and the groom will then pour tea for one another and the gifts brought will be placed in different places in the house. Some will be placed on the ancestral altar while others share with everyone as a “thank you”. The future bride and groom will burn incense at the altar to present the upcoming wedding to their ancestors.
Jewelry on this day often refers to engagement rings, a pair of earrings, and at least one circular gold necklace called a kièng, which the bride would carry on her neck. The future bride, especially, may put on an Áo dài that had been presented to her by her own family to celebrate her forthcoming engagement.
Le Vat in the south of Vietnam is kind of less than in the north. However, in two areas, The Le Vat, boxes, or gifts are decided by the bride’s family. Traditionally, they include wine, tea, betel leaves, a couple of candles, fruit, wedding pies, a full roasted pig, a traditional wedding dress, and more.
Commonly, future brides tend to embroider a couple of lovebirds by herself, known as chim Uyen Uong, and hand them to their grooms when the ceremony happens. The gift was the equivalent of today’s engagement ring, and the birds symbolize fidelity and love.
As a tradition, the bride would wear ao dai on her engagement day, often in bright colors. The groom can also wear a matching ao dai or a suit, depending on his taste. The guests attending can wear traditional clothes or formal ones if they want, as long as it suits their types.
Many foreigners wonder what they should do during this event, the answer is: be relaxed and follow the crowd as there will always be someone to guide you.
Moreover, there are some guidelines for visitors if they want to know exactly what is going on in the engagement procedures.
On the morning of the betrothal ceremony, the groom and his team (including the family members, relatives, and friends) will bring all red-covered gift boxes to the bride’s house. Grandparents and parents will lead the group, followed by the groom, the ceremony team, and other people. Upon arrival, a person from the bridal side shall do the greetings at the gate, taking in the gifts as well as presenting the incoming guests to the entrance. Simultaneously, the gift boxes from the groom will be handed to the bride’s team. The gift then is brought in and placed on the altar. Next, each member of the family from the bride’s side as well as the groom’s will be introduced. The one representing the bride’s family (usually the father or grandfather of the groom) will give a speech about the event as well as briefing on the gifts to the bride’s side. Contrarily, the bride’s representative will give thanks upon receiving the gifts. The gifts are opened later. Once everything is finished, the bride will be taken to the ceremony room by her mother, hence begin the tea ceremony. The person hosting (or the matchmaker) and the bride’s representative will be offered tea from the groom. The mother of the bride then picks out some gifts and brings them to the altar. The to-be husband and wife kowtow to the ancestors, praying for good fortune and wealth for their life later on. Afterward, the bride’s earrings will be put on by either the groom or his mother, thus starting the gift-giving ceremony. Earrings are also essential items in every wedding giftset. The brides will be presented with several different jewelries such as necklaces, bracelets, and money from different family members. But this is optional.
Finally, the bride’s family will divide the wedding gifts into two parts and send them back to the groom’s family. The gifts are distributed by hand, without any knives or scissors involved. The box cover will be placed upside down, then handed to the groom, while the family members will stand by two lines at the house’s gate. Each ceremony team member will be given a red envelope with money inside, which shows the gratitude and good luck from the newlywed couple.
A Vietnamese wedding is considered a family reunion; family members of each family usually travel to the bride or groom’s house to prepare for the big event and witness the ceremony. The members do not only help with wedding preparation, but are also witnesses of the ceremony.
The wedding is an extensive series of ceremonies, starting with asking permission to take the bride, then coming to the bride’s house to receive permission, and the bride would only be able to leave to the groom’s house after that. Both Vietnamese residing in the country and diaspora favor the hybrid of traditional and Western styles, including an additional Western-style ceremony. Both ceremonies ended with a wedding reception to farewell the two families and guests showing up in the ceremony.
Asking to Receive the Bride
On the day before the official wedding day, the groom’s family usually takes a trip to the bride’s house with a gift of betel nuts to ask permission to receive the bride officially. Once received approval from the bride’s family, the groom will continue the ceremony.
These days, families still practice this, but they do so in informal settings with snacks and drinks. This is also another occasion for the in-laws to familiarize with each other and discuss wedding plans. Such a procedure can last for days.
6 months before the wedding, an engagement party will be held to announce the couple’s upcoming nuptials. The progress is quite similar to that of the wedding, but the setting is often more casual. Instead of white, Western wedding gowns; the bride wears an Áo dài prepared by the family.
Receiving the Bride at Her House
A casual custom between the bride and the mother will happen the night before the wedding. The mother will brush the daughter’s hair to keep the memory of their last-second together. During this time, the mother will train the lady to be a decent spouse, mother, and daughter-in-law for her new family. The atmosphere is often emotional. Even though it is not generally practiced nowadays, it symbolizes the solid connection between mother and daughter in Vietnamese culture.
On the day of the wedding, the parade of the groom’s family will arrive in this order: the first one will be the spokesperson of the groom’s family, followed by the groom’s father, the lucky man and the rest of his friends and family. To let the bride’s family best welcome them, the number of people in the parade is often around 20.
In the past, the groom’s mother was not allowed to join the ceremony, due to a taboo that she would threaten the future bride. Due to that reason, some mother-in-laws even had to “hide” when the bride arrived at the doorstep. However, this peculiar custom has been removed.
The groom’s family will bring with them the elaborately decorated mâm quả, or lacquer boxes covered in red cloth, each box includes either betel leaves, fruit, cakes, a roasted pig, fabric, or jewelry, served as dowry to the bride’s family. The groomsmen will carry such boxes, often prepared in odd numbers such as 5, 7, or 9.
After showing up at the bride’s home, the parade lights fireworks to notify the lady’s family. Customarily, the husband-to-be and his company are not permitted until the bride’s family accepts. The boxes are handed to the bridesmaids and placed on a table. The spokesperson of the two families introduces every relative to the other sides and then asks the lady’s family for authorization to take the lady home. Then, the gifts are unwrapped, with some placed on the ancestral altar, which means the groom now has permission to take the bride with him. The groom will bow to his in-laws and hand his bride a bouquet.
The couple will then “claim” their wedding to their ancestors by burning incense sticks, asking for the ancestor’s blessings, then turn and bow to their parents to express thanks for their upbringing, then bow to each other. In front of all their guests, the parents will give blessings and advice to the couple, and give speeches to confirm the amalgamation of the two families.
The bride’s family will then show their wedding gifts, which often include a pair of earrings and at least one kieng, indicating good luck. The couple may exchange rings then. Since modern weddings are much influenced by Western culture, just a few Vietnamese families, especially Catholic ones, reserve the custom of exchanging wedding bands.
Welcoming the Bride to the new home
Half of the dowry will be given back to the groom’s family to express humility and gratitude for their generosity. The reception ceremony will follow, when the groom brings the bride to his house with his entourage. The bride is welcomed to her new husband’s with fireworks and brought to the groom’s ancestral altar as an introduction to the groom’s kin, then finally to their new bedroom. Today, this part of the ceremony is often replaced by a Western-style ceremony or straight to the reception instead.
After such, all family and friends of the couple are invited to a reception ceremony held at the groom’s house. Today, the couple can choose to hold their reception ceremony at nearly any place of their choice: either the couple’s house, a restaurant, or a hotel banquet hall. The reception ceremony is the official welcome and confirmation of the bride’s joining the new family, after which they can head to the groom’s house, their own home or drive their way to the honeymoon.
As the most important ceremony, the reception often welcomes many guests, usually in the hundreds; including extended family members and family friends not showing up in the previous ceremonies. Course meals are served with at least 7 to 10 different dishes, from cold platters to hot banquet dishes, and desserts include hot chè or a fruit platter.
Different forms of entertainment are performed after the main ceremony and during the meal, where singers are invited, and sometimes guests perform the songs of their choice. Western practices such as cake cutting and the first dance can also be incorporated, and each party can take as late as after dawn.
“How should I dress for the occasion?” is a commonly asked question for wedding guests in Vietnam.
Formal and casual clothing is acceptable, but the most important thing is to dress conservatively, excluding shorts and sleeveless, sometimes
short-sleeved items. While men often dress in tuxedos or suits, women wear formal modern clothing instead of the formal áo dài, except for the couple’s mothers or elder relatives.
In Vietnam, a wedding is a perfect time when people want to show off with their best-looking outfit because it’s time to dress up nicely! On this occasion, the lady guests can pick a cocktail or formal long dress or a nice ao dai. Meanwhile, the men usually wear vests, or just jeans and shirts.
It’s often ideal if the dress code is included in the wedding invitation and sent to the guests beforehand. But what if they don’t? Which color should you wear to show your respect to the tradition and the couple?
Any elegant suit or dress is fine for such occasions. However, asking friends for reference or notice the dress code in the wedding invitation are also good ideas.
For many years, black and white are the two must-not colors to wear on a wedding day because they represent bad luck. Black is believed to be worn on funerals, not weddings, even though it’s an iconic color when it comes to fashion. And of course, white or cream-color dresses should be avoided by guests so as to not rob the spotlight from the bride.
Traditional Vietnamese Wedding Gifts
Usually, the gift to the newlywed couple takes the form of money tucked inside an envelope. This was seen as a symbol of prosperity, health, and happiness, and actual gifts were discouraged. The money specifically given at weddings is referred to as “money warding off evil spirits” and is believed to protect the people of younger generations from sickness and death. An immediate family usually gives more money to the bride and groom and many couples use the money to pay for the entire wedding.
During the reception, the bride and groom will do the table greetings as a big thank you to those who have joined their happiest day and give their guests the best wishes and collect cards and gifts. Usually, each table selects a representative to give a quick congratulatory toast to the bride and groom.
Unlike American, Vietnamese adults are not in favor of leaving a box at the check-in table to drop the wedding gifts. Nowadays, most people usually give the newlywed couple money, jewelry, or pictures as safe gifting options.
An old tradition says something a little different about wedding gifts though. I, myself, also don’t believe that gifts can curse anyone. However, in the past, due to Chinese influenced tradition and feng shui, many Vietnamese people believe that you should avoid giving couples these things because of their bad meaning:
In Vietnam, a wedding is not only a happy day for the couple but also a day for the parents to show off their social status. However, bringing your company without notice beforehand is still considered impolite. When you receive your wedding invitation, if you see a plus sign (+) next to your name, it means you can feel free to bring an extra guest. In case you wish to bring a friend but there is no “plus” on your card, be kind to inform the bride or groom a few days in advance.
Weddings and when you should avoid joining them
In Vietnam, people believe that avoiding joyous occasions such as weddings is a must when your family has just lost a beloved one not to bring bad luck to the hosts. People say that you should wait at least one year since the funeral, then join any wedding
The rules are less strict today and you don’t have to wait that long, but if you just attended a funeral in the past couple of months, you should still call the couple to let them know and apologize for your absence. Excessive as it might sound, but from another perspective, it’s a way to convey respect and consideration for your friends or family members on their big day.
If you cannot come to someone’s wedding, just inform them, with whatever reasons. If you cannot come to a wedding, you should send a gift for the new couple or money in an envelope having your name on it.
The money is considered a gesture of goodwill symbolizing your support for the new couple’s finances and wishes for them to start a new life together. The message here is that you wish them the best despite your physical distance.
You might be wondering why I have to mention what not to say to the new couple. Sometimes I attend a wedding and often feel like I don’t know what I should and shouldn’t say to other people, which leads me to play with my smartphone most of the time. Some sentences might sound like blessings to you, but in fact, it’s quite sensitive to the listeners.
Their child plan: Middle-aged or elderly Vietnamese people often ask the married couple, making not many young couples feel comfortable answering this intimate question.
The wedding cost: Discussing the finances of the wedding is not a good idea.
General complaints: Even if the food is terrible, the organization is all over the place or something goes wrong, don’t tell the couple or their relatives since the wedding is a special day.
A traditional Vietnamese wedding party consists of four stages:
Stage one: Greeting guests.
The groom and bride will stand in the wedding hall to greet the guests. Guests of both families would come to the wedding, do the greetings, and it’s already photoshoot time! Make sure you’ve gotten yourself a great camera man! You should take photos with the newly married couple first, then your friends, and yourself.
Stage two: The introduction of the bride, groom, and their family to the guests.
In this section, there would be professional performers dancing on the stage for the opening. In the following parts. The couple will do some traditions and ceremonies included in the wedding such as pouring champagne, giving rings, and delivering a speech.
Third stage: This is the moment you have been waiting for: dine and photograph.
During the party, the groom and bride and the in-laws will go to every table to drink, take pictures and receive blessings, and express their gratitude for the guests’ attendance. At the same time, those who desire could also perform one or several on stage. If you have always wished to be a pop star performing on stage in front of a couple of hundred people, it’s time to shine. But remember to grasp your chance as soon as you can.
Fourth stage: This is the grateful moment.
The bride and groom will go back to the lobby again to say goodbye to guests and take group photos. There might be an after-party but this is typically for close friends and family.
How to read your invitation?
Hon le means wedding ceremony. This ceremony usually happens at the bride’s house on the morning of the wedding, in which the groom, his family, and friends will bring dowries to the bride’s house for custom activities. The bride will then be brought to the groom’s home. Timing is flexible during weddings but do know that this is mostly family time, so if you want to partake, let the bride and groom or their relatives know ahead of time.
Tiec ruou means the wine treat, and it’s a must-join for everyone! It is time when the couple starts greeting guests and having fun with photos. You are allowed to take pictures with the gorgeous bride and groom in front of the wedding hall for about 30 minutes to an hour. You should estimate your travel time and come to the wedding around this time frame as it will be awkward to arrive when they are walking down the aisle to the stage. Then the food would be served to wedding guests.
The Tea Ceremony is the combination of the marriage celebration with honoring the family’s ancestors and relatives. This makes it one of the most compelling and emotional components that nearly no Vietnamese wedding lacks. In this proper meet-up between both families, the bride and groom take their vows and exchange their rings. After the exchange, both of them will serve Green Tea or Chrysanthemum Tea to every family member, starting with the eldest family members. When the bride and groom are gifted with money, jewelry, and advice on how to lead a happy, long-lasting marriage. The ceremony’s ending is marked by burning dragon and phoenix candles embodying the fusion of two families.
The most iconic image captured in any Vietnamese Wedding is the Vietnamese Wedding Dress or the Ao Dai. Both couples wear the Ao Dai during the traditional Wedding Ceremony and the gatherings when they greet and thank their visitors. The Ao Dai has a fitted top with floor-reaching length and silk pants worn inside, and sometimes worn with a special round headband called a Khan Dong.
For those who favor, the Wedding ceremony is the chance for the bride to dress up in the Western white dress and the grooms with tuxedo. The venue decision is open to the couple’s choice, sometimes churches and sometimes restaurants or hotel halls.
The wedding receptions in Vietnam often follow the same convention as in America, where the couple takes a grand entrance, makes the first dance, cut cakes, dances, and enjoys the party as they want.
Moreover, welcome photographs are mainstream among Vietnamese wedding gatherings. The lady and husband-to-be will stand at the wedding hall entrance to take pictures with every one of their visitors. Before their visitor’s departure, the photographs are printed to thank them for their adoration and backing on this important day.
Table visiting is also a well-observed custom in most Vietnamese weddings. The bride and groom have to make their way to every guest table and cheer with their wedding guests.
The most significant or close-knit family and friends are first visited, and the most important person at each table will be given a speech of acknowledgment. Once the bride and groom have completed their cheerings and thanks to every table, the party officially begins!
However, there are still significant differences. For example, for non-religious families, they will invite a trusted friend of the couple or a highly respected relative, or a professional MC to host the ceremony. The bride is often not taken by her father to the grand stage and handed to the groom, but both of them will walk down the aisle with their parents by their side. Confetti also popped out in significant moments, which somewhat resembled the tradition of throwing rice in the West.
The major difference is the large number of guests that gather in Vietnamese weddings. The Vietnamese see a wedding as the business of two families, so nearly everyone acquainted with the couple, even to the in-laws, is expected to show up. As the result, the couple and their parents can often sit down and have their meal once most guests have already finished their course.
This tradition, of course, is totally peculiar to foreigners. However, after their exhausting wedding day, the couple promises to have a life together with everyone’s blessings!
1. Noticeable and romantic outdoor wedding.
Let the guests of the bride and groom be more comfortable with an outdoor wedding ceremony which not only brings enjoying cool outdoor space or the blue sky. However, to make the wedding even more special, try to add some melodious songs. Decorating some fresh flowers is also a great idea to conduct to elevate the romantic levels significantly. Outdoor weddings are predicted to be the hottest trend in the next few years.
2. Buffet wedding
For Westerners, buffet weddings are not an uncommon thing when it comes to weddings. But for the Vietnamese, this is still a new trend because while buffet weddings often last for a whole day, a typical Vietnamese wedding is normally organized either in the afternoon or in the evening. However, this is also one of the top wedding trends for couples who like to have fun and extend their wedding party.
3. “Natural” Wedding
This wedding style is simple but has a bit of a Western-style. Offering a space close to nature that seems simple but very subtle, the “Natural” wedding style will create a special highlight for the wedding.
With a “Natural” wedding style, decoration is essential. Wooden materials, dried twigs, tree branches and green leaves are the perfect combination for the natural vibes.
4. Vintage Wedding
The more modern life becomes, the more simple and vintage style people desỉe for their wedding. A vintage wedding is a combination of classical, luxurious, and artistic styles. Antique items such as old typewriters, paintings, or suitcases are used to create a perfect wedding picture. Instead of canvas, in a vintage wedding, wood, lace, or burlap will be used to the maximum. All these decorations blend and create a classic vibe at the wedding.
5. Beach Wedding
A wedding by the beach is favored by many young couples, thanks to the romantic and natural vibes it brings to the wedding. Instead of being restricted in the space of a house yard or a restaurant, the beach wedding offers airy space, cool breeze, blue sea and glorious sunset.
In the past, when people reached marrying age, parents would find a matchmaker and conduct a wedding even when the bride and groom had never met before. The matched couple was considered by their social and economic status or their family, instead of personality traits. Nowadays, arranged marriage is no longer practiced in public, but the role of the so-called matchmaker remains a part of the ceremony. The matchmaker will be the one who leads the group of the groom to the bride’s house.
Luc le – The six ceremonies
In many areas nowadays, people compact all the necessary ceremonies into just one day. However, in some regions across the Mekong Delta, a wedding will have six ceremonies (known as “luc le”, “luc” means six, “le” means ceremony) that are scheduled on different days, including:
– Le giap loi (Introduction ceremony): The groom’s parents will head to the bride’s house, with the matchmaker’s company, to start the discussion on the marriage.
– Le thong gia (Connexion ceremony): The bride’s family will pay a visit to the groom’s house as invited.
– Le cau than: After the two families reach a consensus, the groom’s family will deliver two gift boxes to the bride’s.
– Le dam ngo (Permission ceremony): The groom’s family visits the bride’s family to express their request to have the bride as a part of their family.
– Le an hoi (Betrothal ceremony): This event is considered an official declaration of the couple’s marriage, which will happen a month or two before the official wedding.
– Le don dau (Wedding reception): Once again, the groom and his family head to the bride’s house with decorated cars, bouquet to take the bride to their places. After this is the official wedding ceremony.