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Vietnamese wedding

Related to country: Vietnam
Translations available in: English (original) | Spanish


Nowadays, Vietnamese culture is influenced by globalization. There are both good and bad influences. Although making culture richer, it also modifies our traditional culture. To reduce bad influences, having knowledge about national culture is necessary, especially with student of Faculty of Tourism. Moreover, we can introduce our culture to tourists and their countries. Because ceremonies and festivals are unique features of culture, it is a good idea to research them.

In this assignment, we chose ‘Wedding’ for our topic. Wedding is the most special and important ceremony for a couple also their family. This ceremony marks the beginning of the marriage, as well as acceptance and blessing of family and friends to the bride and groom. To complete the rituals of the ceremony is the obligation for the bride and the groom to demonstrate the filial piety to mother and father, mutual respect and understanding each other.

To complete this assignment, each member has to responsible for the work that divided. At first, we search some general information from the internet and books. Then we compare them with the information gathering from the real life. Finally, we exchange our research and completed the assignment together. 

After finishing this assignment, we have more knowledge about Vietnamese traditional culture, deep in Wedding ceremony. Besides, we also exchange our knowledge learned with other students. It increases the confidence, presentation skill and ability for speaking and listening to English. This is a good preparation for our future job in hospitality industry.

Wedding’s background information:

     In former times, getting married, buying a buffalo and building a house were three most desirous and difficult things which a man wanted to achieve in his life. Wedding is one of the most sacred ceremonies to Vietnamese. The traditional Vietnamese weeding is important not only for the couple but also for the family and the village.  In the past, there almost were arranged marriages; just a few couples dare to get marriage only based on love. Therefore, the family and village played a big role to make decision from the beginning. Choosing the future bride and groom was done very carefully based on two the most important people: the match maker and the fortune teller.

    About the place, the Vietnamese traditional wedding ceremony took part on two days. The first day was held in the bride's home with formal proposal of marriage ceremony. The second day was celebrated in the groom’s house with the certain rituals and wedding banquet for all the relatives, friends, and neighbors. In the traditional wedding, the groom wore the traditional long coat in blue and the bride has to wear the traditional dress in red or yellow.

    Traditionally, weddings were usually held in an ideal period, it is called “wedding season”. It began from the autumn through the lunar New Year festival. At that time, people had spare time and money after finishing almost their seasonal farm work. The weather also was great and suitable for celebrating. Furthermore, following the spirituality, the newly spring is supposed the time for growing and blooming. It is a best sign to wish the newly couple will have the gifted and healthy children soon. The weddings should not be held in the summer because of the high and unpleasant temperature. It is also because of a sad legend “Qixi” Festival or “The Night of Sevens". Therefore, no one wants to celebrate wedding in this time if they do not have some exceptional reasons.

Wedding’s stories:

Nobody knows exactly that where and when the first wedding was happened. Ancient people usually use legend and folk song to explain and educate the next generation about some valuable customs. There are many legends related to traditional Vietnamese wedding but not many people know about “the old men in the moon” story (Ông Tơ Bà Nguyệt – match maker).

Once upon a time, the God was bothered by human’s cunning and many demands. Therefore, the God intended to ask for the human’s craft back. At that time, one mandarin suggested: “In my opinion, you should not take their smart back. People would assume that you are so mean. You just needed to limit the human’s cunning”.

The God felt curios: “How…”

The mandarin showed how scholarly he is: “Nothing works but love can make people be foolish. We just needed to delegate a genie bringing a cord to the earth. Each girl and boy who is near to each other will be tied by the cord. The cleverer they are, the more times we need to cover them. They would have the vicious circle and would have never thought of pestering you anymore”.

The god was so surprise. He praised: “What a clever stratagem!”

He sent an old fairy to the earth to bring this stratagem become true. From this day, people have more chances to fall in love and think of each other. They have not annoyed the God anymore. Also from now, this fairy has been called “The old man in the moon” (Ông Tơ).


Above, this is the story in the heaven. Let’s discover the next story to know more how the stratagem happens in the earth.

Long times ago, there was a Confucian scholar named Vi Cố. He was a brilliant and renowned person. One day, while he was roaming, he happened to see an old man with his big note book and the red silk cord.

It was strange for Vi Cố to feel curios and ask about those things. The old man replied with a smile: “I am the God of marriages. I decided all who the destiny of each person is. Here was the silk cord which is predestination for the lovers”.

Vi Cố was very excited to ask the old man about his future destiny. The old man said: “Your predestined wife was a three years old girl. She was a beggar’s daughter at Đông Đô market”.

Vi Cố was so upset and disappointed when hear that. The old men said: “It was a match ordained by heaven; you could not change it or avoid it”.

The day after, Vi Cố went to Đông Đô market. In fact, he saw a woman was begging for living with her three years old daughter at the corner of this market. He got angry and hired a bad man to kill the little girl. The wicked man accepted the offer and did the mission. After that this man runs away because of too scary.

Fifteen year later, Vi Cố passed the examination with flying colors. The prime minister noticed him. He decided to marry his daughter – Tố Lan for Vi Cố. Vi Cố was so happy and grateful. In the wedding night, Tố Lan’s beauty made Vi Cố admire. But he just found a scar on the back of her neck. Vi Cố asked to know why she had this scar. Tố Lan said honestly that she was a beggar’s daughter. Fifteen years ago, there was a wicked man had tried to kill her for no reason. Luckily, her mother could escape from that horror situation. Then her mother passed away, leaving her as an orphan. At that time, the minister had had no children, so he had adopted her. Listened to each word by word, Vi Cố was broken-hearted inside. He asked himself “What a predestined affinity!”. And all the things the old man has told recalling to him.

Ancient people said that:

“ Hữu duyên thiên lý năng tượng ngộ,

Vô duyên đối mặt bất tương phùng”


“No matter how far the distance is,

If we have predestination, we will have various opportunities to meet each other

If not, no matter how hard we try; we still will not match each other”.

    Preparations for wedding:

Getting married is one of the most important changes in somebody’s life; not only for the involved couple but also for both families. So it is necessary to have a good preparation before getting married. In Vietnam, the preparations for wedding normally take a long time. After the engagement, both of the two families will go to see a Buddhist monk, spiritual leader, or fortune teller due to the spiritual nature of the occasion to ask a best date and time for the marriage ceremony. This tradition does not change if the family is Catholic. The preparations before wedding in Vietnam normally follow these steps:

-         Decide the wedding’s budget

The whole of our life revolves around money and wedding is no exception. Hence, the first thing that the bride and groom need to do is decide upon their wedding budget. A budget will enable them to decide the grandeur of their wedding. The choice of location, numbers of guests are the factors that are primarily influenced by a budget.

-         Make a checklist

The next thing that the bride and groom need to do is make a detailed wedding preparation timeline. This will enable them to divide the tasks according to their priority and time at their disposal. Important tasks such as booking venue, honeymoon reservations, etc., should be done at least 3 to 6 months prior to the big day. Maintaining a checklist can help them to organize their time and will also ensure that they finish everything well ahead of time.

-         Bookings and reservation

Make all the important bookings when it still have 6 months to go. These include selecting a venue for wedding and reception, choosing a catering service, hiring a wedding photographer, booking a florist and decorator, hiring a music band, hairstylist, makeup artist etc. Meanwhile, also make sure to have the passport and other travel documents in place. Do not forget to make travel and hotel reservations for the honeymoon. 

-         Guest list and invitations

Firstly, they will have to make a list of wedding guests. Then they have to select and buy the invitation cards, send the wedding invitation cards at least 3 to 4 weeks before wedding.

-         Shopping

Shopping for wedding dresses and gifts takes up considerable time of the wedding preparation. The bride and groom will have to make several trips to the shops until they find a perfect wedding dress. Nowadays, Vietnamese brides often choose white dress instead of traditional dress Ao Dai. Besides, they will also have to arrange for bridesmaids dresses and gifts. Attending dress trials and shopping for accessories, shoes is another time consuming task. They will also have to shop for wedding favors, groom's gift, wedding rings etc. About one or two weeks before the wedding, the bride and groom will have to register for marriage certificate at The People’s Committee. One day before the wedding, houses of the bride and groom are well decorated with ribbons, flowers, etc. The atmosphere is full of music and happiness. Just before the wedding ceremony, the groom’s family decorates vehicles with flowers as their responsibility is to go and pick up the bride from her home. The couple needs to make up and dress well; they all want to become the most attractive people in their wedding.

    Wedding’s rituals and activities:

Wedding is one of the most important events in Vietnamese lifetime, not only with the bride and the groom but also with both their families. Therefore, it is usually concluding some main formal rituals. Depending on habits of specific ethnic groups and other areas in the country, getting marriage needs many different steps, but generally a Vietnamese modern wedding has three main ceremonies: The gate touching ceremony, the betrothal ceremony (or engagement ceremony) and the wedding ceremony. The wedding day often is an auspicious day which is chosen in advance. Following Vietnamese thought, a couple’s future depends on “age compatibility” of the bride and the groom, a good days and hours for the betrothal and wedding ceremony. Both parents of bride and groom often consulted a professional fortune-teller to choose a lucky days and hours.

The gate touching ceremony: The groom’s parents bring gifts to the bride’s house and formally ask for an engagement. The groom’s parents present a piece of paper in which groom’s name, age and birth date were written. The bride’s family decides to accept the engagement or not. Nowadays, the gate touching ceremony is not the same as it used to be traditionally in the past, but only the meeting between both families. It doesn’t need the appearance of the matchmaker as well as the cumbersome gifts. At this stage, one of both families can cancel the marriage.

The betrothal ceremony: This is an important ceremony to announce the marriage. This ceremony marks a significant stage in the lifetimes of the bride and the groom. After this ceremony, the bride will become formally the fiancée of the groom. The gifts of the betrothal ceremony usually concludes : betel leafs and areca nuts, cốm cake, wine, “husband-and-wife” cake (bánh phu thê), candied lotus seeds, tea, five fruits trays, a toasted pig.…to show the grateful of the groom to the bride’s parents. The betrothal ceremony is often held half a year or about one week to 10 days before the wedding day. 

The wedding day: It concludes some main rituals. Before the groom go to fetch the bride, his mother and another person in family come to the bride’s family with betel and areca nuts and a bottle of wine to annouce the time when the groom fetch the bride for the preparation of the bride’s family. After that, a respected old man in the family is chosen to be a representative person of the groom’s family. He will lead the groom, the groom’s father, relatives and the close friends of the groom to fetch the bride. The representative of the groom’s family normally go first, the groom’s father, the groom and his friends follow behind. At the bride’s house, the representative gives speech of making offer to fetch the bride in front of both families. With the permission of the olders in family, the groom enters the room inside for giving  flowers to the bride, pays homage to the bride’s ancestors. After that, both the bride and the groom come outside to make greetings to their parents, parents-in-law, relatives and friends. Then, the bride comes with the groom and his companions to the groom’s house. At the groom’s house, they are led to the altar so as to worship the ancestor and make greetings to her husband relatives. Finally, the groom’s family invites the bride’s family to take part in the wedding banquet. The wedding banquet is often held in a luxury hotel or big restaurant with the presence of both 2 families and friends of the bride and the groom.

In general, the wedding rituals has changed so much from the past to the present in order to make it easier, simpler and suitable with the modern life.

     Wedding’s special characteristics:

Just like weddings in other countries, Vietnamese traditional wedding is a colorful and happy event to not only the couple but also their family, friends and everyone who join the event. But there are some features that make a wedding in Vietnam different:

Wedding season in Vietnam is autumn or winter – when the weather is cooler and farmers have less work on the field. Meanwhile, Westerners tend to organize their weddings in the summer and then they usually have a short period of time called Honeymoon.

Because of some ancient believes and superstitions, Vietnamese people always ask the fortune teller to choose an auspicious date to hold the wedding, but this custom does not exist in the West.

Getting married both in Vietnam and in the West traditionally includes two steps: engagement (or betrothal) and wedding. While the groom in the West only has to ask the bride’s parents for permission to get married and present an engagement ring to show his commitment, Vietnamese groom and his family has to visit the bride’s family bearing a dowry: red lacquered boxes full of tea, cake, wine, areca leaf and betel nut, covered by red silk and carried by unmarried young men and women in red clothes. Then, the dowry will be set on the ancestral altar in two small portions, the smaller one will be returned to the groom’s family to show that they have been too generous and the bride's family is not greedy.

Vietnamese brides and grooms nowadays prefer wearing gown and suits like Western couples in the wedding. But traditionally, they wear Ao dai – Vietnamese traditional garment.

In both Vietnam and in the West, the wedding guests gift the couple presents to wish them luck. But Vietnamese people tend to gift the envelope with cash, meanwhile Westerners gift household goods like pots, tea sets, kitchen appliances...

The cakes in wedding are an essential part of every wedding. In the Vietnamese wedding, phu the or su se cake is indispensible. It is wrapped in green dong leaf, which represents for an eternal life and tied by red ribbon – the symbol of the destiny that connects the couple. Meanwhile, a large multi-layered cake, which is usually decorated with icing, always appears in a Western wedding.

     Wedding’s changes:

Up to now, the wedding rituals have many changes. Some bad customs were removed gradually. Besides, the modern weddings also effect strongly from the Western culture. The first change is the rituals. A traditional wedding need to have at least 6 main rituals: Nạp thái, Vấn danh, Nạp cát, Thỉnh kỳ, Nạp tế and Thân nghênh. However, some complicate rituals are removed in order to make the wedding easier and suitable to the young people. Nowadays, the wedding only has three main rituals as above. Sometimes, the gate touching ceremony can be removed as well. The wedding banquet is often held in the restaurants or in the home ground. The bride and the groom exchange their rings. Then they cut the wedding cake as well as pour the champagne to cheer. Secondly, it is the changes in wedding costumes. During the 1930s, when the marriage was still influenced by feudal concepts, the bride often wore váy lĩnh cạp điều (a dress of glossy black with a hem of bright red silk) and the áo tứ thân (four-flap dress). Nowadays, no one wears these kinds of costumes any more. After the first war against France colonialists, there are many changes in clothes styles. At that time, both the bride and the groom wear the áo dài traditional costumes. In the 1980s, the layered Western-style wedding dresses began to appear in Vietnam. Nowadays, the bride doesn’t just wear the traditional costumes in her wedding days. The bride often wears áo dài in the betrothal ceremony. Then, she will change to Western style wedding dress in her wedding day. The groom always wears Western costumes in every ceremony.

In general, the Vietnamese modern wedding has many changes but still storing traditional features. The symbol of wedding is still betel nuts and areca as well as the red color is the main color. Some main rituals are stored, showing the grateful to the ancestor. The betel nuts and arecas , “husband and wife” cake, five fruits tray, tea, Cốm cake,… is the important gifts in wedding custom and also bring the  Vietnamese traditional culture.

    Advices for tourists

Because wedding is a private event, tourists – especially foreign tourists are not welcomed to a Vietnamese wedding. You must be invited as the friends of the bride or the groom or the influential person to the couple or so on. But you can still take some photos of the wedding when some rituals take place outside, on the street… or pose with the couple when they are taking photos before the wedding.

If you are invited to a Vietnamese wedding party, you don’t have to wear a very formal suit with vest, white shirt or tie like you have to wear in a Western wedding, but not too casual either. All you need is a neat and polite outfit. When you are leaving, you should say thanks to the newlywed and their parents who invited you to the wedding.

If you receive the invitation but you cannot come to the wedding party, you should send a gift or an envelope with cash inside as your congratulation to their happiness.

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nigelhardwidge nigel
March 18, 2012 | 12:52 PM
Thanks for sharing information !
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