General introduction to Vietnamese wedding.
Traditional Vietnamese wedding is one of the most important ceremonies in Vietnamese Culture which are wedding, funeral, birth anniversary and lunar New year called “Tet” which influences from Confucianism and Buddhism. Today topic will present to you about Vietnamese wedding from the old to present time, and of course, like anywhere else in the world, some traditions have been gone but some are remained. At least, wedding ceremony in Vietnam reveals some features of “Viet” spiritual life.
In the past, most of marriages were arranged by parents or extended family while children sometimes were consulted, it was nearly parents final decision and in many case, a two families, bride and groom got to know each other from a matchmaker. it was not unusual for the bride and groom to meet for the first time at the day of their engagement. Therefore, the newlyweds was matched with each other in term of social class, education, conducts and morality. The Confucianism made the male position is much higher than female and more likely the decision was made by the groom’s parents in the old day.
Luckily for female what occurred during our parents and grand parents have seem vanished. Today, man and woman marry based on love better than marriage. The decision is made by both families. Another obvious difference is average age of couple. In the past, a groom of 20 with an 18 year old bride would be considered as an ideal couple. Today, education and the need to pursue a career have raised their age up to late 20s and early 30s for city dweller, working class couples and in country side tend to marry earlier.
Some young people seek for the services from fortune teller or astrologer in advance to consult their future will be successful and happy. They also well plan in advance for the good day of their wedding or even a good year to have first child. In case the result was negative, they might face up with a lot of barriers or prohibitions from parents or relatives. Although the young couple was not truly believe in astrology but they don’t want to face up with such difficulties, therefore, they need to learn or consult carefully about their fiance’s horoscope which was not too bad to live together in life.
Decision maker of the wedding
It’s very interesting to know about the different points of Vietnamese youth and western youth on decision making for the most important turn point of their life – wedding! On the contrary to the west, Vietnamese youth still very much relies on parents whilst making this important decision. With the strong flow of Confucianism and ancestor worship in their body, young Vietnamese promises a lot with their partner when they are in love but when it comes to final decision, they would rather turn on their parents who they respect and trust or even afraid to go against their parent’s opinion. Most of parents give automatic right to involve very much about this issue because they thought their children are too young to decide it. Some parents are tolerance but some aren’t, they are ready to criticize or even prohibited their children from doing what they wish. Today, the groom should advice the bride carefully at the first meeting with the groom family and must know how to win heart and soul of parent in law. On the other hand, with rich experience in life, many parents gave valuable advices to children and they can avoid the break-up in the relationship as often seen in the western country.
Preparation for the wedding:
Preparations for the traditional Vietnamese wedding first begins by choosing a date and time for the marriage ceremony. This is decided by a Buddhist monk, Spiritual leader, or fortune teller. In the most case, book of astrology will be used for consultation which is based on birthday and couple horoscopes. This tradition does not change even if the family is Catholic.
The wedding consists of an extensive set of ceremonies: asking permission to receive the bride, receiving the bride at her house, and bringing the bride to the groom’s house. The western style wedding is popular now in the city but requirement of above ceremonies must be followed and respected. Today, we have seen bride and groom are standing in front of hotel or at reception, it is just a official reception and only traditional ceremonies have been performed at home or in church (for Catholic) already. Therefore, the wedding reception usually is not counted as traditional step of wedding ceremony and it is organized at any convenient day (usually Saturday and Sunday) and doesn’t affect on married life alter as belief.
1. Asking permission to receive the bride (Lễ hỏi)
Before the wedding day, the groom’s family would make a trip to the bride’s home with a gift of betel nut, wine and cake to officially ask permission to marry the bride. At this time, the bride’s family would confirm the wedding and further arrangements would take place. Both families will take this opportunity to discuss and decide final judgment of date, time of bringing the bride to the groom house, number of delegation of both families to join in the wedding party, mean of transportation. It’s also a time bride and groom family get to know more about financial issue of the wedding so they could help other side accordingly. There’s no spiritual worships during this event. Bride family may invite groom family for a lunch or dinner if they want to. There’s no fixed period of time after this step before the wedding, however, they would not let it longer than 6 months before the wedding day. After this event, the groom is officially consider as a ‘future bride” and not allow to know other boy because “face of her parents”. The bride should limit and be careful in relationship with different sex in order to avoid any negative comment of villager or friend who knows groom’s family.
2. Bringing the bride to the groom’s house (rước dâu).
The groom with his delegation about 20 to 30 people will come to a bride family with gifts of betel nuts, jewelry, wine, cake and all in well dress. Groom’s parent and close relative are preceded and odd number of young men in smartly dressed with white shirt and tie. They carry 7 or 9 lacquer trays are covered in red cloth. It depends on distance between two families so they can walk, travel by car or by boat in Mekong delta. Red color is represented for good luck and rosy future of newly couple. it appears dominantly at this ceremony.
Upon arrival, the young men dismount and wait for permission from the bride family. An old man, usually a uncle of the groom would come into a bride’s house asking for permission. Same number of young women dress in long dress (ao dài) are standing in row on both sides to receive trays (wedding gifts). It is interesting that young women (friends of bride) gives her male counterpart a small money in return after receiving gift to indicate that they are “working” as a paid helper and not affect on their married life in future.
The groom carrying a tray with a small bottle of wine walking behind his parents and uncle acts MC (man of ceremony). After diplomatic ceremony, The groom will invite the bride’s parents to take a sip of wine. By accepting the toast, the bride’s parents symbolically agree to admit the groom’s party. The groom’s family introduce themselves and ask permission for their son to marry the bride. A maser of ceremony (usually respective person chosen from the bride family) instructs the bride’s parent to present their daughter. The bride then enters in traditional long dress.
The wedding ceremony begins in front of the ancestor altar. The bride and groom bows down and prays, asks their ancestors to come back, witness and bless for their new life. Couple then turns around and bows to bride parents to thank them for raising and educating the bride since birth. Then they bow their head toward each other to show their gratitude and respects to to-be husband and wife. The groom and bride then exchanges wedding rings and parents give newly couple gold bracelets, earrings…etc
After ceremony, The bride’s parents allows the groom taking the bride to groom’s family. Usually, the bride’s mother will accompany with the bride on the way. As the procession arrives back at the groom’s house, the groom’s family members that did not take part in the procession but remained at home will light firecrackers (before firecracker was banned) in celebration. The newlyweds will be brought to the groom’s ancestor altar to present the groom’s ancestors, where another ceremony takes place and the bride is introduced to the groom’s relatives. Finally, the bride is brought to the couple’s room and shown their marriage bed.
The receiption at the groom’s family:
Following the ceremony at the groom’s house, all of the bride’s delegation (around 30s) and groom’s family and friends are invited to a reception that traditionally takes place at the groom’s house.
Size of the banquet:
In the country side, more often there are two banquets separately for bride side and groom side. Banquet of the groom side takes place first and at the the day before the day of the bride comes to take the groom to his home. The banquet of the bride side invites bride’s friends and relatives only without the presence of the groom side except the bride must be shown during the party. The banquet of groom side seem larger than the bride because of participating of the groom’s delegation.
Nowadays, however, the reception occurs immediately after the procession ceremony to the groom’s house, or takes place at any desired location—such as either couple’s house, a restaurant or a hotel banquet hall. The vast majority of newlyweds also have their own place. If so, they simply go to their house.
Number of participants in Vietnamese wedding and wedding gift.
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 platters then followed by hot dishes such as seasoned lobster, hot pot, and other Vietnamese and Chinese banquet dishes, often ending with dessert or a fruit platter.
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. At one point during the reception, the bride and groom will go from table-to-table to thank guests for their blessings and sometimes collect the envelopes. Most couples however leave a box at the sign-in table for guests to drop in their envelopes that makes the weddings today looks likely as a business. Frankly to say, the final collecting money is equivalent to what they paid for the banquet but they may lost money spent for photography and wedding dress. Occasionally, the government officer or famous newlyweds may have guests’ monetary gifts which would cover more than the cost of the wedding and reception. It’s more often today have name and tittle or rank of parents or newlyweds printed on the invitation card to expect the comers remember their position!
Bride and groom’s dresses.
In the west, bride and groom’s have their new dress made or used parent’s dress would be a great favor for them. In Vietnam, Vietnamese traditional long dress worn at ceremonious day usually made at the tailor shop but western stylish dress usually rent and wedding shop. For photos taken, it may be a bad omen if new couple photos are taken before the wedding day but it’s quite common in Vietnam. Photos are usually taken at the nice places such as Binh Quoi or Van Thanh amusement park, sometime, war cemetery could also be a photo taken place.
Betel nut and areca nut and betel leaf in Vietnamese wedding.
There were two twin brothers of the Cao family. Their names were Tan for the eldest brother, and Lang for the youngest one. They got schooling with a Taoist named Chu Chu who lived with his eighteen-year old daughter. He then married her to Tân, and the young couple lived with brother in law happily under same roof of house. One day, Both were working on paddy field and Lang returned home before Tan. The new wife stay at home and could not controlled her feeling when she saw his brother in law who she thought was her husband because they look very likely of each other. Lang knew that the serious mistake have been made by his sister in law and felt much shame about it and dared not confront and admitted to his brother.Then, Lang left the house wandering around the country. He reached a larger river and couldn’t cross it. He was so sad and missed his brother that he kept on weeping till death and was transformed into a lime-stone lying by the river side.
Troubled by the long absence of his brother, Tân went out to look for him. When he reached the riverside he sat on the lime-stone and died by exhaustion and weariness. He was transformed into an areca tree. The young woman in turn was upset by her unforgivable mistake and love sick for the long absence of her husband and got out for a search. She reached the same place where the areca tree had grown, leaned against the tree and died, transformed into a plant with large piquant leaves climbing on the areca tree. Hearing of this tragic love story, local inhabitants in the area set up a temple to their memory.
One day, King Hùng went by the site and gained knowledge of this story from local people. He ordered his men to take and ground together a leaf of betel, an areca nut and a piece of lime. A juice as red as human blood was squeezed out from the melange. He tasted the juice and found it delicious. Then he recommended the use of betel chewed along with areca nut and lime at every marital ceremony. He wanted every young couple should behave each other with respective ways and careful in their actions. From this time on, chewing betel became a custom for Vietnamese, and very often they began their conversation with a quid of betel.
In summary, Vietnamese wedding is changed quickly nowadays and many important customs have been ignored and replaced by western style. The traditional ceremonies in the old days were very complicated with compulsory services and cost of time and money. Today wedding procession is much simpler than before but it is also loosing its own values and becoming more “practical wedding”. The “competitive wedding” or “demanding family” have made newlywed become totally broke or in big debt after wedding. As thought, the wedding is a beginning of a new life for young couple, good traditional ceremonies should remain as supporting their spiritual life, good story should be told and share with new couple. Friends and relatives comes to a wedding with a good wishes for young couple and share with them the wedding cost.
Thank you for your reading!