Steeped in age-old customs and deeply rooted in familial ties, Vietnamese wedding traditions are a sight to be seen. From the momentous engagement ceremony to the carefully selected wedding date, each step in the journey toward matrimony is celebrated. In this article, we explore all kinds of Vietnamese wedding traditions. Along the way, you’ll learn about the tea and candle ceremony, wedding fashion, and what to expect at the reception. Plus, we’ll answer your questions about what to wear to a Vietnamese wedding and tell you which gift to give.
In Vietnam, the wedding traditions start long before the happy couple says “I do.” There are two pre-wedding traditions worth mentioning: the proposal ceremony and the selection of the wedding date.
Back when marriages were arranged, the engagement ceremony (Dam Hoi) was an important first step in the wedding process. More than a simple party, it was a chance for the bride’s family to meet the groom’s family. It was also when the groom officially asked for the bride’s hand in marriage.
Although marriages are no longer arranged, some couples still gather their families three to six months before the wedding to announce their impending nuptials. This makes sense, considering that marriage in Vietnam isn’t just a bond between the couple, but rather a union of their two families.
During Dam Hoi, members of the man’s family present gifts such as fruits and roasted pigs to the woman’s family for inspection. In addition to assessing the offering, the woman’s family may require the groom to perform push-ups or jumping jacks to demonstrate his strength.
Once the bride’s family is satisfied, the groom and his family are welcomed into the bride’s home. A welcome speech and prayer come next, followed by a tea and candle ceremony honoring elders and ancestors. Finally, the man’s family gives the future bride gifts such as jewelry and red envelopes filled with cash.
After the formalities, the families go back to the groom’s house. There, the two families engage in a second tea ceremony and lunch.
The Vietnamese don’t leave much up to chance, and that includes selecting their wedding day. Instead of basing their decision on seasons or guest availability, a common Vietnamese wedding tradition involves asking monks and fortune tellers for guidance. Things like birthdays, the Chinese zodiac signs of the couple, and their element all factor into selecting an auspicious wedding date.
The traditional Vietnamese wedding ceremony (Le Cuoi) looks a lot like the engagement ceremony. Le Cuoi begins the morning of the wedding day with the groom’s family and friends forming a procession line. They make their way to the bride’s house carrying trays of gifts like fruit, candy, moon cakes, rice cakes, and Cognac.
As with the engagement ceremony, the groom’s family must ask the bride’s family for permission to enter their home. Members of the two families (except for the bride) greet each other and exchange gifts. Next, a family member of the bride gives a welcome speech. Only then does the bride enter the ceremony space.
Once everyone is assembled, it’s time for altar prayers. The parents of the groom pray first, then the parents of the bride, and finally the couple. Because Vietnamese culture is a mix of many other cultures and religions, the prayers aren’t directed toward a higher power. Rather, the Vietnamese pray, light candles, and give small offerings to their ancestors.
At this point in the proceedings, the couple exchanges wedding rings and other jewelry. Family members will also give monetary gifts to the couple.
The tea service (Vu Quy) comes next. During this ceremony, the couple presents tea to their parents and grandparents. Drinking tea signifies acceptance of the couple’s nuptials. At the conclusion of the wedding ceremony, the couple lights a dragon and phoenix candle. This ritual symbolizes the newly-formed bond between the two families.
In most cases, both the bride and the groom wear Ao Dai, the traditional Vietnamese wedding dress. Ao dai is a long-sleeved tunic featuring ankle-length panels on the front and back of the garment. The tunic is worn over loose-fitting trousers. Brides wear red Ao Dai, while grooms wear blue.
Usually, couples get their Ao Dai custom-made. It’s common to select a design with meaningful symbols. For example, one partner may choose to incorporate their partner’s zodiac animal into the pattern of their outfit. Besides the main outfit, men and women also wear Khan Van, a headpiece resembling an open-topped turban.
Although Ao Dai is the most common wedding outfit, some brides opt to wear Ao Dai Cuoi, a souped-up version of the traditional garment that features a long train or cape. The bride may pair the Ao Dai Cuoi with Khan Dong, a circular Vietnamese headdress resembling a halo.
Although the Vietnamese wedding ceremony looks unique from a foreigner’s perspective, the wedding reception is surprisingly similar to a Western party. In fact, you’ll see familiar elements like the grand entrance, the bride and groom’s first dance, heartfelt toasts, and the cake-cutting ceremony.
Still, despite the many similarities, there are a few unique customs to look out for.
Forget the toaster and the tea towels, Vietnamese couples don’t register for gifts. Rather, guests are expected to give the newlyweds a monetary gift. Vietnamese couples usually pay for the wedding themselves, so the gift is meant to alleviate the financial burden of the celebration. Acquaintances and coworkers usually give around 600,000 VND (about $25), while close relatives and friends give somewhere between 600,000 VND and 1 million VND ($40).
Gifts, clothing, and reception all factor into the cost of getting married in Vietnam. Because these amounts vary so much from couple to couple, it’s impossible to say how much a Vietnamese wedding costs. Still, one thing is clear. A marriage application costs about 1 million VND (about $43 USD).
Traditional Vietnamese wedding foods include Xoi Gac (sticky rice made with red melon), Ga Luoc (boiled chicken), Nem (crunchy spring rolls), Gio Cha (sliced sausage), and Thit Kho Tau (caramelized pork and eggs in a light sauce). Aside from tasting delicious, each of these foods has a special meaning.
Traditionally, Vietnamese brides received all kinds of jewelry, including a wedding ring, from the groom’s family as a wedding gift. Although wedding rings are common, engagement rings haven’t caught on. Some couples, especially bi-national ones, may exchange engagement rings, but it’s not the norm.
As a guest at a Vietnamese wedding, you should avoid wearing red or blue, as these colors are reserved for the bride and groom. Guests should also steer clear of black, purple floral prints, and white floral prints. All three symbolize death and sadness. In general, bold colors are welcomed, as they show your enthusiasm for the couple’s nuptials.
Here at The Groom Club, we love learning about wedding traditions from other cultures. Not only do they inspire us to think about nuptials in a whole new way, but they also remind us that no matter what a wedding looks like, it’s always a celebration of love, family, and fun.
Be sure to check out all of the wedding resources that The Groom Club has to offer. Or If you’d like to learn more about other culturally-driven wedding traditions from Spain, India, or Nigeria–read all about them and more. Check out all of our latest articles for more tips and advice. Cheers!