Marriage is widely believed to happen once in a lifetime by the majority worldwide and Vietnam is no exception. In Vietnam modern history, marriage is considered a meaningful and spiritual moment of love and responsibility. Therefore, getting married in Vietnam consists of many traditional rituals and ceremonies.
Typical beliefs of marriages
During the feudal period, children were put under a complete protection “umbrella” of parents and became passive in their every decision. At that time, parents had “appropriate” rights to impose a dogmatic view on their children’s marriage and the belief “children sit wherever their parents put them” had gained its popularity in all of the feudal families.
Due to the lack of concern about their children’s love affairs, parents only concentrate on finding a suitable alliance with similarities of social background and status or seek for the help of match-makers, leading to the widespread of an unsound custom called “ child betrothal”.
Moreover, Vietnam modern history also acknowledged the notoriety of arranged marriages between families with similar social status and the wedding ceremony tended to be organized as big and luxurious as possible to show off the family’s wealth and reputation. Wealthy families have the tendency to hold a massive wedding ceremony for their children and demand expensive and valuable gifts from groom’s family prior to the wedding.
Wedding customs and traditions of Vietnam in the past
The typical conception of marriage from Vietnamese ancestors was to maintain the family’s reputation and dignity so marriage became a common responsibility of the whole family, not only the children’s. Therefore, the decision of choosing the partner for marriage was put into parents’ hands.
In addition, getting married was not only for the blood-line reason but also for economical ones. The wives were believed to perform multiple tasks – giving birth to children to keep the blood-line as well as taking care of the daily chores of the husbands’ family.
Besides, the polygamy during the feudal period allowed men to marry as many wives as possible, especially when the first wife was childless or had girls only. Marrying a concubine became common without any needs to organize wedding ceremonies because she was considered an unnecessary part in the family and easy to be thrown away by the first wife or her own husband.
Vietnamese wedding ceremony now and then (Source: Google)
When the groom’s family gives a proposal to the bride’s family and receives an approval, the match-maker will be informed. This approval includes a challenge issued by the girl’s family to exact wedding-presents from the future groom’s family. The bride’s family often asks for a huge number of wedding presents, typically consisting of betel and areca, tea, fruits, rice, accessories, costumes and cash.
On the day of the wedding, the two families agree on an appropriate propitious hour to start, often in the afternoon or evening. An elderly man, who is highly respected by the villagers due to his age, personality and social status, is given the responsibility of leading the procession and acts as a Master of ceremonies.
In the North of Vietnam, the groom’s family usually waits for the bride’s procession. A hot steaming brazier is put at the doorstep with the purpose of burning all evil spirits following the bride home. After worshipping family ancestors, the parents-in-law give the bride money or accessories.
A ritual called “Red thread” (Lễ tơ hồng) often follows with simple preparations – an altar is set up outdoors, including incense-burners, candles or lights, along with several typical dishes such as sticky rice, chicken, betel, and wine. Two days after the wedding, the newlyweds come back to visit the wife’s family with a number of presents based on the different customs of each region.
Wedding customs and traditions of Vietnam in the present
After having marriage registration done, wedding couples are put under the protection of the law. Nevertheless, in Vietnamese minds and culture, marriage is nothing short of just a sheet of paper, it is a special occasion for families, relatives and friends to gather and officially acknowledge the lovebirds.
During the length of Vietnam modern history, the traditional wedding customs impresses Vietnamese cultural lovers by its diversity and complexity. In the past, the typical belief “Children sit wherever their parents put them” leads to a wedding ceremony of luxury and sophistication. Marriage at that time is believed to be a once-in-a-lifetime moment of one’s life and the root of a happy couple life so that it is necessary to receive approval from both families.
The development and improvement of social life have resulted in many changes in the customs and rituals of weddings. There are a few cut downs on unnecessary and complicated rituals due to the lack of time and finance. Nonetheless, Vietnamese people still preserve the basic ceremonies of a wedding: Marriage proposal, Betrothal ceremony and wedding ceremony
Marriage proposal (Lễ dạm ngõ)
Offerings traps in weddings (Source: Google)
This is the first important ritual in wedding ceremonies to officialise the marriage relationship between two families. It is considered an official meeting of the bride and groom. At the appointed time and date, simple offerings including betel and areca, fruits, candies in even number will be brought to the bride’s family for sealing commitment to marriage.
Marriage Proposal (Source: Google)
In terms of essence, this rite mainly acts as a moral behavior, through which the two families are able to know more about each other. Besides, on this occasion, both families also discuss the betrothal and wedding ceremonies to prepare in advance
Betrothal ceremony (Lễ ăn hỏi)
Betrothal Ceremony (Source: Google)
After the marriage proposal comes the second important custom of a wedding in Vietnam modern history is Betrothal ceremony. In other words, this ritual is considered an official announcement of marriage commitment and the alliance of the two families.
The offerings trays, commonly including betel and areca, tea, lotus jam, wine and cigarette, are given in odd numbers but the offerings themselves are in even numbers.
The meaning of the wedding offerings can be understood as showing gratitude to the bride’s parents for nurturing her. On the other hand, gifts also signify love and respect between the two families. Moreover, to some extent, the presents also show the good intentions of the groom to be willing to contribute financially in order to reduce the wedding cost.
Finally, the bride and groom are officially introduced to each other’s extended families and friends. The appropriate time between betrothal and wedding ceremony is often separated by three days, one week or longer depending on the decision of both families.
Through Vietnam modern history, the wedding ceremony is the official announcement about the marriage of the young couple. The girl is expected to follow her husband to the new house and becomes a married woman. After the betrothal ceremony, the couple needs to visit the local register office to apply for a marriage license.
At a chosen time and date, the groom, along with his family and representatives, comes to the bride’s house with wedding cars, bouquets, and offerings to ask for the bride and bring her home.
The procession of the two families is introduced, then the groom offers gifts and asks for permission to enter the bride’s room and both of them burn incense on the ancestors’ altar. Afterwards, the bride is led by her parents to greet all the elders as a formal acceptance of “letting her go”.
The next meaningful and important moment of a wedding happens when the lovebirds exchange wedding rings in the presence of both families. Simultaneously, the bride is given a dowry from her family like gold necklaces, bracelets, earrings, etc, representing as a small amount of capital for the young pair to start a new family.
After arriving at the groom’s house, the ritual is repeated just like at the bride’s. Eventually, the newlywed will welcome their guests, relatives and friends at the wedding party held at home or restaurant and enjoy a day of toasting, singing and dancing.
Nowadays, even with the rapid development of modern society in Vietnam history, important wedding rituals and ceremonies are still maintained and preserved for the most part with the purpose of expressing the unique beauty of Vietnamese culture. In order to adapt to changing times, several changes in organizing ways are made depending on each family’s financial situation. Also, the increased influence of Western cultures has made weddings in big cities become more expensive and less intimate.