The development of society makes the traditional style change to suit modern life. However, the core of culture still follows the local people. And, although the Vietnamese wedding has some differences, the traditional wedding ceremony includes four major steps: Lễ giạm ngõ (meeting ceremony), Lễ ăn hỏi (engagement ceremony), Lễ cưới (marriage ceremony), and Lễ lại mặt (reunion ceremony).
1. Lễ giạm ngõ (Meeting ceremony)
Lễ giạm ngõ (meeting ceremony) is the first official meeting between the two families, creating the first step to start the traditional Vietnamese wedding.
During this event, the boy’s family goes to the girl’s house to ask permission for the couple to officially and publicly get to learn each other before deciding to get married.
In fact, this ceremony is just a cultural behavior through which two families better understand each other’s backgrounds. The presents for this activity following Vietnamese wedding customs are very simple, only betel and areca. Some places in Vietnam can carry a couple of tea bags and wine bottles.
For some families, because they live far away, this ceremony can ignore. But, without it, it can cause a sudden thing, typically for the girl family, so they cannot have enough time to prepare the spirit to organize the wedding.
Although the meeting ceremony is not so important, it is a good trigger for the marriage process. And, a plus point for this tradition is that it is inexpensive to offer gifts (only betel and areca, or a couple of tea bags and wine bottles). But, it still shows the national cultural identity.
2. Lễ ăn hỏi (Engagement ceremony)
This step is a vivid action according to Vietnamese wedding customs in the past and now because it plays the role of officially announcing the marriage promise between the two families. The engagement ceremony also happens in the house of the girl.
This stage gets a new level in the marriage of the couple: the boy and girl become fiancé. The boy has been approved and accepted by the future parents-in-law as a son-in-law.
What does the boy’s family need to prepare for the engagement ceremony?
- Select the clothes for the groom that is different from uniform outfits for other people who follow to visit the female family.
- Choose a few young boys wearing uniforms with fresh appearance, younger than or equal to the groom’s age, and they are still single.
- Engagement ring: for traditional culture, this time is when the boy gives the girl an engagement ring.
- Gifts to ask for a wedding ceremony: For the Vietnamese culture, the engagement ceremony is indispensable for betel and areca, and especially the couples of wife-husband cakes. The required number of presents must be an even number (multiple of 2, representing the couple).
What does the girl’s family need to prepare for the engagement ceremony?
- Have the outfit for the girl, usually a traditional long dress – Ao Dai, and the clothes for people who welcome the boy’s family.
- Clean the house and decorate the altar of ancestors with flower vase, fruit, and cake.
- Decorate the space to hold the engagement ceremony, set up a canvas with the name of the bride and groom as a place to take souvenir photos. Writing on the canvas covers: Lễ đính hôn của (Engagement ceremony of) the names of girl and boy, and date)
- Prepare the party to serve the boy family and relatives, which depends on the female family conditions.
3. Lễ cưới (marriage ceremony)
The marriage ceremony takes the most important role in the Vietnamese wedding. This activity officially allows the boy and girl to live together at the same house, room, and bed.
The process of Lễ cưới can have a little difference from the regions in Vietnam and religions. In general, it includes the Xin dâu (Ask for a bride), Rước dâu (Welcome the bride), and wedding party.
Xin dâu (Ask for a bride)
Starting with the ask-for-a-bride ceremony, the male family sends a person (usually the mother or uncle of the groom) to the female wedding. That person brings wine bottles and betels to ask for welcoming her, and the bridegroom group will come.
This step can be ignored with the allowance and discussion of two families when they stay too far away. However, it still happens when it is combined in the activity of Rước dâu.
Rước dâu (Welcome the bride)
This step is the most essential in the process of a Vietnamese wedding. When the bridegroom family comes near the bridge house, they will stop to fix the clothes and the formation.
- Taking the lead in the group to pick up the bride’s family is usually the representative, then the groom’s father, groom, relatives, and friends. Depending on the agreement in advance, the group can have more or fewer members. But, not too many people will make the process of welcoming the bridge more convenient and comfortable.
- The family of the bridge will sand in front to welcome the groom’s family coming to the house. After the two families have their sitting positions, a presentative will introduce the members of each side while they have a hot cup of tea.
- After that, the representative of the groom’s family will have a few words, formally ask for the bride to welcome her back to the male family.
- Having received their permission from the bride’s family, the mother of the bride will hand the girl to the groom. Then, the couple will come to the ancestral altar and performs ancestral reporting rites.
- After the completed Xin dâu ceremony, the groom’s family will welcome the bride home. The bride’s family will accompany the groom’s family to the male house. Then, they will continue organizing the next rites.
- In the groom’s home, the first thing that the parents lead the bridegroom to the ancestral altar. Then, they burn incense and report to the ancestors about the important events of their life, becoming husband and wife.
- After the ceremony is finished, the greeting of the groom’s relatives is carried out.
Those are the basic rites performed on a traditional Vietnamese wedding. Nowadays, all activities are simplified to the maximum comfort so that each couple can organize their wedding more easily and quickly. Ensure the meaning of traditional culture, with all necessary rituals, but not too fussy, costly time, cost, and effort.
In the old days, there were no economic conditions as well as modern facilities. According to the old Vietnamese wedding custom, the wedding party would be held at home.
At present, most families turn to wed centers to make sure their children go through the great events of life without worrying too much about the preparation and services.
So, all relatives and friends are invited to restaurants to enjoy the wedding party. Usually, the meals include 5 food dishes, live music, and beers. A small wedding in Vietnam can contain 150 guests while some big wedding parties up to 800 guests.
When joining the wedding party, relatives and friends give gifts to the new couple. In the past, they could present money, gold, pictures, or any tools for use in the family. Nowadays, to avoid buying unnecessary things, they give the money or gold to the bride and bridegroom. This gift can help them have a small property to start their new life.
4. Lễ lại mặt (reunion ceremony)
There is another ceremony which considers the last step of the Vietnamese wedding. That event is called a reunion ceremony (in Vietnamese: lễ lại mặt hay lễ nhị hỷ). Lễ lại mặt means that after the wedding, the newlyweds will return to visit the bride’s family. To welcome the children, the parents-in-law will prepare a friendly meal to invite their son-in-law, and this meal is mainly an intimate dinner of the family.
Usually, this ritual takes 1-3 days after the wedding. However, the specific time is flexible based on the actual situation, work, and geographic location between the two houses to get the best adjustment.
The purpose of the reunion ceremony is to express the son-in-law’s respect and gratitude for the work and nurturing of his wife’s parents. At the same time, understanding the psychology that after coming to the husband’s house, the new bride will have many surprises, causing the mentality of sadness and attachment to her biological parents. So the reunion-family ceremony is a traditional custom, encouraging the spirit of the bridge in married life.
A traditional Vietnamese wedding, basically, has four important steps. However, each area in Vietnam can have different ways to organize a wedding. Learning traditional wedding rituals correctly can help the new couples have perfect weddings following the beautiful culture, creating a cozy ceremony full of necessary activities. All give a memorable anniversary in their life.