Vietnamese wedding traditions

A Vietnamese folk song says “buy buffalo, get married, build house”. According to Vietnamese people, wedding is one of the three most important things to do in life: career, wedding, house. Vietnamese wedding is a brilliant part of Vietnam’s rich culture. The beautiful wedding tradition has been preserved and passed from generations to generations for thousands of years. The followings are everything you need to know about Vietnamese wedding traditions.

1. Wedding process

Wedding process in the past

In the past, the 6 main ceremonies are required:

Nạp tài: the groom’ family brings a pair of birds to the bride’s house in order to let the bride’s family knows that the groom decides to marry the bride.

  • Vấn danh: the future groom’s family sends a matchmaker (bà mai/bà mối) to the future bride’s home. The matchmaker asks the future bride’s family for the future bride’s name and birthday.
  • Nạp cát: let the future bride’s family knows that the future groom’s family went to a fortune teller. If it is a good fortune, the following ceremonies will be done. If the fortune tellers say they are not a good couple, the future groom’s family asks to stop the next ceremonies.
  • Nạp tệ: the future groom’s family brings presents to the future bride’s family.
  • Thỉnh kỳ: decide the wedding date.
  • Thân nghinh: the future groom’s family brings presents to the future bride’s family and escorts the future bride to the future groom’s home (or his family’s home).

These days, there are 3 ceremonies including proposal (chạm ngõ), engagement (lễ hỏi, đám hỏi) and wedding ceremony (đám cưới) in Vietnamese wedding process.

Proposal ceremony

Purpose

The proposal ceremony (chạm ngõ, dạm ngõ) is to formalize the relationship between 2 families and choose the engagement and wedding dates. There is no need to bring many presents.

Attendants

Future groom’s family: future groom’s parents and future groom (must); matchmaker (if available); future groom’s grandparents, uncles, aunts (optional).

Future bride’s family: future bride’s parents and future bride (must); future bride’s grandparents, uncles, aunts (optional).

Clothes

Attendants should wear formal clothes. It is better to wear Vietnamese traditional Ao dai. However, shirt pants, suits, Ba ba top and bottom are suitable.

Presents

The presents include betel leaves, areca nuts (must); cakes, candies, fruits, wine, tobacco (optional). The numbers of each kind of presents must be even.

What to do?

The future bride’s family should clean their house carefully before the day and wear suitable clothes.

The future groom’s family comes to the future bride’s house.

The future bride’s family should smile and welcome the future groom’s family when the groom’s family arrive at their home.

The future groom’s family provides presents including betel leaves and areca nuts as a symbol of the agreement.

The future bride’s family receives the presents, serve the future groom’s family some tea and cakes (if available).

The future groom’s family asks to start their relationship. The 2 families talk together, ask about family conditions, traditions and customs. So that members of the 2 families know each other better.

2 families pick the engagement and wedding dates and finalize plans.

Engagement ceremony

Engagement ceremony (or Lễ hỏi, Đám hỏi, Dam hoi, Le hoi) is often occurs half a year before the wedding ceremony. However, it can be held one year or one day before the wedding. Dam hoi is similar to wedding ceremony but it is simpler.

Purpose

Engagement ceremony is to announce to everybody that the couple will get married soon. The ceremony tells the rest of the community that the future bride has become the future bride of the future groom. Dam hoi is held at the future bride’s house.

Attendants

Future groom’s family: future groom’s parents and future groom (must).

Future bride’s family: future bride’s parents and future bride (must).

Relatives (grandparents, uncles, brothers, sisters, brothers in law, sisters in law, aunts, nephews, nieces) and friends of the future groom and bride.

Presents

The future groom’s family prepares presents including betel leaves, areca nuts, cakes (husband and wife cake, mung bean cake, green sticky rice, ground sticky rice, square sticky rice), candies, tea, fruits, wine, tobacco, wrapped in red paper. The red color represents love, happiness and luckiness.

The above presents are arranged in round lacquer boxes, covered with red paper or cloths. The boxes are traditionally brought by young unmarried men in Ao dai or shirt pants can take places of the girls and bring the boxes. The boxes are receives by young unmarried women in traditional Ao dai. The number of people who bring the boxes should be odd because odd number represents development according to Vietnamese people. It has been said that people who bring and receive the boxes are “mất duyên”, literally meaning miss fate in love. The future’s groom family should prepare envelopes containing money for the young men and the future’s bride family should prepare envelopes containing money for the young women. So that the unmarried men and women get their fates in love back, meet good lovers and get married soon.

The future groom’s family should prepare a roasted whole pig, Gac sticky rice, money and jewelry such as a pair of gold rings, a circular necklace and earrings

As mentioned, all presents are prepared by the groom’s family. The future groom’s family brings presents to the future bride’s house family and express their gratitude to the future bride’s parents and grandparents who raise the future bride. The presents also help the future groom’s family to show their respect to the bride’s family. The money in an envelope is to share the cost of proposal ceremony. In recent, it does not matter how much the money is there in the envelope.

What to do?

The future groom, his family, relatives, sometimes his friends and unmarried men in suitable clothes arrive at the main gate of the house or the beginning of the path, the alley leading to the future bride. They must wait until the specific time that was chosen before and is known as the lucky time of that good day.

The future groom and other people walk to the main door of the future bride’s house in one line. The bride’s family and unmarried women receive the boxes of presents from the unmarried men.

The groom and his family are invited to enter the house. 2 families sit around a table with refreshments, usually rectangular shaped.

Members of each family are introduced by each family’s representative who is usually old and experienced on traditional wedding process.

The representative of the groom’s family explains the reason why they are there and ask for the future bride as the future groom’s wife. The future groom’s family unwraps the boxes, shows the presents to the future bride’s family that will approve the presents.

In some families, the future bride does not appear until the future groom is accepted to take her from her room to the living room where 2 families sit.

The future bride pours tea to invite the future groom’s family. Then the groom pours tea to invite the future bride’s family.

Some of the presents are placed on the ancestral altar. The future groom and bride burn incense sticks to let their ancestors know that they are engaged.

The future groom or groom’s future mother helps the future bride to wear the jewelry.

The future bride’s family returns some of the presents to the future groom’s family.

Everybody enjoy the banquet hosted by the future bride’s family.

Wedding ceremony

Participants, presents on wedding ceremonies are similar to the ones on engagement ceremonies.

Gather a few days before the wedding date

Wedding is seen as family reunions. Family members gather at the bride and groom ‘s house a few days before the wedding date. They help to clean and decorate the houses, prepare foods and necessary thing for the wedding.

One day before the wedding date

The groom’s family brings betel leaves and nuts to officially ask permission to receive the bride on the next day. The bride’s family receives the present and agree with the other side.

On this day, family, neighbors, friends, partners, colleges of the bride are invited to a reception which can take place at her house, a restaurant, or a wedding center. The number of guests invited to the reception is larger than that in the engagement day.

At night, the bride’s mother comb her hair while teaching her how to be a good wife and daughter in law. Sometimes, the bride and her mother cry.

A ceremoney called “chịu lạy” occurs at the night before the wedding date on both families. The groom or the bride at his/her house says thank to parents and other family members for raising and teaching him/her. The family members gift him/her jewelry or red envelopes containing money.

On the wedding date

At the bride’s house

The representative of the groom’s family leads his family and close friends to the bride’s house.

Similar to the process on the engagement ceremony, the groom’s side must wait until the lucky time. The groomsmen hand the lacquered boxes of presents to bridesmaids. The presents are unwrapped and placed on the ancestral altar.

Parents and families of two sides sit around a table. The representative of the groom’s family expresses the purpose and ask the permission to receive the bride again. The representative of bride’s family let the bride get married with the groom. The future groom’s family unwraps the boxes, shows the presents to the future bride’s family that will approve the presents. Some of the presents are placed on the ancestral altar.

In some families, the future bride does not appear until the future groom is accepted to take her from her room to the living room where 2 families sit.

The groom bows the bride’s parents and grandparents and gifts the bride a bouquet of flowers.

The bride and groom stand in front of the altar, burn incense sticks, bow the ancestors, announce their ancestors that they have become husband and wife.

The bride and groom bow their parents, thank the parents for raising them well. The bride and groom bow each other.

Speeches and formal tea occur. Parents give the couple advice about marriage.

Candle ceremony follows to confirm the couple and two family are in relationships.

Half of the presents are returned to the groom’s side. Some or all of the jewelry are given back to the couple by the bride’s side. The groom or his mother helps the bride to wear the ring, necklaces and earrings. The couple help each other to put on the wedding rings.

At the groom’s house

The groom’s family brings the bride to the groom or his parents’ home. It is called “rước dâu” which means “receiving bride”. The bride’s family also goes to the groom’s house. It is called “đưa dâu” which means “sending off bride”. They can go by boats, cars, even bicycles, horse carriages, motorbikes, etc.

The two family sits around a table. The bride and groom also burn incense sticks, bow ancestors, parents and the elders in families, offer them tea, listen to their advice. A candle ceremony also occurs.

The groom and the bride go to their wedding room which is decorated beautifully.

Reception

If only families, some close friends attend the ceremony, more people are invited to the reception. Everybody including the two families, groom and bride’s friends, colleagues, partners, neighbors, even parents’ friends, colleagues, and partners and others are invited to a reception. The reception may take place at the groom’s house, restaurant or a wedding center. The number of the guests are up to a few thousands. There are from 5 to 12 course meals served.

These days, before serving guests the feasts, the groom and bride cut a wedding cake and pour champagne. After cutting the cake, the couple eat a piece of cake together. From that moment, they share difficulties and sweetness in their life together. The single or multi tiered wedding cake is usually placed on a high wedding cake stand so that the couple do not need to bend down when cutting the cake. Wine glasses are used to built a champagne tower which represent the stability. When the couple pour champagne into the top glass of the tower, the liquid flows down from glass to glass, dry ice in glasses make fog, creating an attractive, effervescent waterfall.

2. Dressing

Bride

Traditionally the bride wears Ao dai long dress and Ao menh phu (Áo mệnh phụ) which is a long dress worn by Vietnamese royal families. She also wears Vietnamese wedding hat (Khăn đóng, Khan dong) on her head. The dresses and hat are usually beaded and embroidered with royal symbols such as dragon, phoenix, flower. She does not wear jewelry until the jewelry pieces are brought to her house by the groom’s side.

In recent, the bride wear both Ao dai and gown (Western wedding dress). She may change many Ao dai dresses and gowns. Favorite colors include red, yellow, white and pink.

Groom

The groom traditionally wears Áo gấm (Ao gam) which is Ao dai for men. He also wears Vietnamese wedding hat. In recent, he also wears tuxedos, suits, ties or bows. The couple usually wear modern Western wedding clothes at reception.

Family, bridesmaids, groomsmaids

The 2 families wear traditional Ao dai on the process of wedding ceremony. Sometimes they wear formal morden clothes.

Guests

Some guests choose traditional Ao dai, the others choose party dresses. Colorful and white clothes are recommended. Black, grey, brown colors are not good in opinion of some Vietnamese people.

3. Symbols at Vietnamese wedding

Vietnamese wedding’s symbols appear on a pair of pilows of the couple, decoration items such as wall stickers, album covers, clothes used to covered the lacquered boxes (mâm tráp), invitation cards, etc.

A pair of dragon and phoenix

Dragon and phoenix are two of Four Holy Beasts (Tứ Linh). Dragon symbolizes the husband while phoenix symbolizes the wife. A pair of dragon and phoenix represents a happy couple. Dragon and phoenix can be found on wedding backdrops, lacquered boxes of fruits, pillows of couples, wall stickers, wedding money boxes, etc.

A pair of love birds

A pair of love birds is the symbol of love not only in Vietnam but also in many countries in the world. A pair of love birds is a meaningful symbol in Vietnamese wedding traditions. It marks the day when the bride and the groom are to be one and undivided. This symbol traditionally is embroidered on the pilow covers of the couples.

Besides, pairs of two dragons, carps, two peacocks are also symbols of love and happy marriage in Vietnam.

Betel leaves and areca nuts

Betel leaves and areca nuts symbolize for the faith. Their origin was based off a sad Vietnamese love story folkflore.

There were twin brothers of the Cao family who love each other so much. The older brother got married with a beautiful girl who was the daughter of Master Luu – the twins’ teacher. They had a happy marriage. The younger brother was sad because the older brother cared for the younger brother less. One day, the wife thought the younger brother was her husband and hug the younger brother when the older brother arrived at home. Since then, the relationship between the brothers was about to get worse.

The younger brother left the house, went deep into the forest, sit next to a stream to take a rest. He cried so much, died of the cold and turned into a rock. The older brother regretted the relationship, he went to the forest to find his younger brother. He leaned against the rock, cried, moaned and died of the cold. He turned into a high tree. The wife also went to the forest to find her beloved husband. Finally, she died and turned into a vine twisting tightly around the tree.

Hung King went by the place there were the rock, tree and vine. He ordered to mix the vine leaves and the flesh of the nuts plugged from the tree. The mixture tasted a little spicy and made people addictive. The extract from the mixture turned red when it was poured on the rock. They call the tree cau (areca tree) in English, call the vine trầu (betel), call the rock đá vôi (limestone)

Vietnamese people started to chew betel leaves, areca nuts and minced limestone to make the lips red, teeth black and shiny, and mouth smelling. Betel chewing  is a Vietnamese custom. These days, there are not many Vietnamese people chew betel leaves and areca nuts.

Betel leaves and areca nuts have become a symbol of marriage in Vietnam for thousands of years. It could not be missed at Vietnamese traditional weddings.

Song hy character

Song hy or Song hỷ character consists of 2 hy (hỷ) characters. Hỷ means happiness and refers to the happiness on wedding. Song means two, Song hỷ means happiness multipled.

4. Decoration

Wedding decoration could not be missed in Vietnam. Groom’s house, the bride’s house and the place where the receptions take place should be decorated beautifully.

Groom and bride ‘s houses

Main gate

Gate is decorated with lots of flowers and leaves. In the countryside, they decorate it with green nipa palm leaves wooven into flowers, hearts, birds, dragons, phoenixes, curtains. Bunches of green areca nuts are also used to make the gate nice-looking. Nowadays, wedding gates from artificial flowers and leaves are rented at reasonable prices. Gates with fresh flowers are choices of rich families and many famous artists.

The gate signs are usually in bright colors and have rectangular, double heart or oval shapes. On engagement ceremony, the gate sign at the future bride’s house features “Lễ đính hôn” (Engagement ceremony). On wedding ceremony, the gate sign at the bride’s house features “Lễ vu quy”, which literally means “go to husband/groom’s house ceremony”, refers to the Wedding ceremony but . The gate sign at the groom’s house features “Lễ tân hôn”, literally meaning “new marriage ceremony”, refers to the bride’s reception on Wedding ceremony. Sometimes, there are names of the couple on the signs.

Ancestral altar

Traditionally, Vietnamese people arrange one burner, a pair of tall floor standing altar candle holders, one or two plates of fruits, one or two vases of flowers, cups and plates on ancestral altars on wedding day and engagement day. The wall behind the altar is a red fabric backdrop with embroidery Song hỷ character, sometimes embroidery dragon and phoenix. Fruits and leaves can be arranged into shapes of dragon and phoenix. None of them are too big or too small in comparison to the others. If there are 2 vases of flowers, they should be arranged symmetrically on the altar.

In the recent, they design lots of beautiful backdrops with flowers, hearts, Song hỷ character, dragons and phoenixes. The modern backdrop can be white, yellow, red or pink.

Wall

In the recent a few dozens of years, walls are usually decorated with papers, plastic, styrofoam stickers. The stickers include the name of the ceremony such as “Lễ thành hôn”, “Lễ vu quy” or “Lễ đính hôn”, names of the couple, the date in both solar and lunar calendars, flowers, hearts, “Song hỷ” character, a sticker set of a bride, a groom, families, who are usually in traditional Ao Dai, on the way from the bride’s house to the groom’s house, “Trăm năm hạnh phúc” text stickers. Trăm năm hạnh phúc literally means happy for 100 years is a popular wish to a couple on their wedding day in Vietnam.

Wedding reception

Traditionally, round tables for 10 guests are covered with red cloths. The money box usually in a shape of one or two hearts is arranged on the reception table with cloth cover. Guests put the envelopes of money to the money box. Or they can hand the couple jewelry and presents.

In the past, most Vietnamese families organize wedding receptions in the gardens or yards of their houses. They decorate the area with banana stalks, water nipa palm leaves and stalks, young bunches of coconut, flowers, etc.

In recent, they hire roof marquees to protect the guests from the rain and the sun. The area is decorated splendidly with colorful fabrics, flowers and lights. Rich families prefer fresh flowers to artificial ones. In crowded cities, houses are small so that they only hold the ceremonies at home and organize the receptions at restaurants and wedding reception halls. The decorations at these places are similar to Western wedding decorations.

5. Flower

As mentioned above, fresh flowers are gifted to brides by grooms, used to decorated houses, wedding receptions, main gates, arranged on ancestral altars. Flowers could not be missed on Vietnamese engagement and wedding ceremonies. Artificial flowers can be used to decorate but should not be arranged on altars.

The most popular flowers include gladiolus, daisies, roses, tuberoses, lotuses and orchids. These flowers represent good luck, forever love, happiness and richness.

Lily, hibiscus, confederate rose, marigold should not be used for Vietnamese wedding. In Vietnamese, lily is called “ly” which literally means parting. In Vietnamese people’s opinion, hibiscus represents dishonestness and unfairness. There are some love stories with unhappy ending about confederate rose. Marigold represents for longevity, it is used to gift the elders or decorate houses at Tet festival. It is also used in funerals in Vietnam. The above flowers are bad luck and signifies broken relationship.

6. Fruit

Fruits are not only foods but also presents and offerings at Vietnamese weddings. Sometimes, fruits are served as desserts at wedding receptions. Fruits with sharp thorns, fruits with strong smell, fruits growing on the ground should not be used as presents or arranged on altars. Apple, pineapple, orange, pomelo are popular fruits used to arrange on ancestral altars. In some regions, they do not buy bananas and oranges for weddings. Fruit boxes could not be missed in the list of presents to the bride’s family. I will write more about this box on the next section.

7. Lacquered box (“Mâm tráp”)

As mentioned above, lacquered boxes play an important part in Vietnamese wedding traditions. Lacquered boxes are usually in round shape which represents the fulfilling love. They are usually in red color, sometimes golden or pink color, crafted and painted with floral, dragon and phoenix, Song hỷ character.

Presents in the boxes are decorated with heart or Song hỷ character stickers, ribbon bows, fresh flowers such as gerbera daisies, plumeria flowers

The number of boxes depends on regional culture and family traditions.

South Vietnam

The following is the list of 6 lacquered boxes in South Vietnam:

  1. Must box of areca nuts and betel leaves: Bunches of areca nuts are arranged in the center of the box, betel leaves are put around the nuts. The number of areca nuts is usually 105 which is a lucky number for the couple. One areca nuts goes with two betel leaves. The areca nut can be decorated with a tiny heart or Song hỷ character sticker Areca nuts and betel leaves are the symbol of love and faithfulness in Vietnam.
  2. Must box of tea (boxes of tea, a teapot and two teacups), wine bottles and candles: Tea and wine are poured and offered on both engagement and wedding ceremonies. Candles are usually big and with carving dragon and phoenix patterns. This box show respect of the couple to parents, grandparents, the elderly in families and ancestors.
  3. Must box of Husband and wife cakes (Bánh phu thê, Phu the cake, Xu xue cake): Phu the cake is made from mung beans, pandan leaves, coconut meat, tapioca starch. The chewy green crust made from tapioca starch and shredded coconut meat and buttery filling of mung beans are wrapped in pandan leaf inner wraps and square coconut leaf outer wraps. Green square cakes are also decorated with stickers. Xu xue cakes represent the Sky and the Earth, the coupling of yin and yang, husband and wife in Vietnam.
  4. Must box of Steamed sticky rice: The rice should be in red color and made from the flesh of Gac (Momordica cochinchinensis) fruit and sticky rice. Red color brings good luck to the couple. The box can also contain yellow Mung bean sticky rice. Sticky rice is the symbol of prosperity. A box full of Steamed sticky rice is to wish the husband and wife are always fulfilling and warm, have enough foods to eat and enough clothes to wear, The sticky rice is heart and Song hỷ character shaped.
  5. Must box of fruits: The box usually contains 5 kinds of fruits which symbolize 5 basic elements: metal, water, wood, fire and earth. 5 fruits also symbolize 5 wishes to the couple phú, quý, thọ, khang, ninh which mean richness, precious, longevity, strong health, stability. However, they can arrange more than 5 kinds of fruits in fruit boxes. In North Vietnam, lacquered boxes usually contain oranges, apples, peaches, persimmons, grapes/pears. In South Vietnam, they usually arrange mangos, custard apples, dragon fruits, apples, grapes, papayas in lacquered boxes. The fruits should not be too heavy so that the bridesmaids and groomsmaids can bring them easily. Rich families usually buy fruits in dragon and phoenix shapes to arrange on altars and present the bride’s side. Phoenix and phoenix “mâm tráp” are made from pineapples, areca nuts, chili peppers and other fruits.
  6. Box of roasted pork: The pork should not be too big, it is better to roast a 2 – 3 kg suckling pork. The roasted pork has a crispy, red and shiny skin. It is usually decorated with colorful flowers.

Some families only prepare 4 boxes, without roasted pork, Husband and wife cakes.

North Vietnam

In North Vietnam, the number of lacquered boxes should be odd and the number of presents should be even. For example, there are 100 areca nuts and 100 betel leaves. The number of boxes can be 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15. In North Vietnam, presents consists of the following boxes:

  1. Box of areca nuts and betel leaves.
  2. Box of tea.
  3. Box of wine bottles and tobacco.
  4. Box of cakes and candies.
  5. Box of beer and soft drinks.
  6. Box of Steamed sticky rice.
  7. Box of fruits.
  8. Box of fruits in dragon and phoenix shape.
  9. Box of roasted pork.
  10. box of Husband and wife cakes.
  11. Box of green sticky rice cakes (Com cake, Bánh cốm): Com cake is made from green sticky rice so that it is tender, sticky and fragrant. They are packaged in green and red paper boxes. This cake is popular in North Vietnam.
  12. Box of mung bean cake.
  13. Box of Square sticky rice and Round sticky rice (Bánh chưng bánh dày).
  14. Box of lotus seed candies.
  15. Box of grilled girdle cakes.

8. Invitation card

Parents or groom and bride come to guests’ houses to invite guests to the engagement ceremonies, wedding ceremonies and wedding receptions. Since paper printing appeared in Vietnam, they have printed wedding invitation cards, bring them the guests’ houses and invite the guests to the ceremonies and receptions. If guests live far from the houses of the families, they can send the the cards to the guests.

Information on invitation cards include wedding  announcements, names of parents, couples, the addresses of the houses, restaurants and wedding reception halls, wedding date, time to start, sometimes images of roses, hearts, birds. On invitation card covers, names of guests are written or printed. Vietnamese people usually write “Gia đình bạn Mỹ Hân”, literally meaning My friend My Han’s family; “Cô Tư” which literally means Ant Tu instead of full names of guests.

In the past, paper used to print invitation cards is thinner and have lower quality in comparison to the cards in recent. Nowadays, wedding invitation cards are designed beautifully like in developing countries.

9. Feast

In the past, Vietnamese people usually farm pork and chicken a few months before the wedding day. Family members, some neighbors and friends come to the groom and bride’s families, help to kill and cook the dishes before the wedding day and on the wedding day. Although there are lots of things to do, they are very happy, talk and laugh continuously while working. Children jump, laugh, talk, scream and play around. The kitchen sounds and laughter sounds are everywhere in the villages or neighborhoods where the weddings take place. This is one of a beautiful part of Vietnamese culture. The wedding is a chance to improve family, friend and neighbor relationships.

North Vietnam

Traditionally, a wedding feast must have 10 courses served in 4 bowls and 6 plates because number 10 is considered lucky number and complete happiness of the couple in Vietnam. 6 plates consist of boiled whole chicken with shiny golden skin, roasted or boiled pork slices arranged in a fan shape, Vietnamese pork roll (giò lụa), Cinnamon pork pate (Chả quế), red Gac steamed sticky rice, mixed salad. 4 bowls consist of Mọc meatball soup, Bamboo shoot soup, Bird and lotus seed soup, Soup with shredded dried squid, strips of kohlrabi, carrot, Vietnamese pork roll. All dishes are served at the same time. 6 people are served the foods in 4 bowls and 6 plates. There are also 1 bottle of rice wine and 6 “chén hạt mít” or jack fruit cups. These cups are as small as a jackfruit seed and are used to drink wine in North Vietnam.

Poor families usually make simpler feasts with less courses. The number of meal courses should be even. The must foods are boiled chicken with lime leaf and Gac steamed sticky rice which represents the love of husband and wife.

In recent, there may be up to 12 courses served to guests a conceptions in North Vietnam. The following is a sample wedding reception menu:

  1. Starter: Chicken and sweet corn soup (or asparagus soup, pumpkin mushroom and cream soup);
  2. Shrimp dishes: Fried peeled shrimp with Salted duck egg yolk (or Steamed shrimp in coconut);
  3. Fish dishes: Snakehead flesh with sauce (or Grilled sturdeon, Steamed fish with soy sauce);
  4. Braised dishes: Braised beef with black pepper (or Saute diced beef – Bò lúc lắc, Braised pork leg);
  5. Chicken and bird dishes: Boiled chicken with lime leaf ( or Deep-fried chicken, Braised bird with coconut water, Roasted bird);
  6. Salad: Mango salad (or Jellyfish salad, Mixed fruit salad);
  7. Stir-fried dishes: Stir-fried morning glory (or Stir-fried Kohlrabi);
  8. Soups: Mọc meatball and dried bamboo shoot soup (or Swim bladder soup, Mọc meatball and shrimp soup);
  9. Starch dishes: Steamed sticky rice coated with mung bean (or Gac steamed sticky rice);
  10. Desserts: Flan cake (or fruits, sweet soup).

In some families, beers are served instead of wines.

South Vietnam

In South Vietnam, Fermented fish, Grilled snakehead, Bitter melon soup, Sweet and sour soup are not served to guests because they represent bad luck. The wedding feast starts with starters, then “món khô” literally meaning dried foods, salad, main dishes, starch dishes and finally desserts. The feast has from 5 to 10 courses. The following is a list of some dishes served at wedding receptions in South Vietnam.

Starters

  • Soups such as Bird’s nest soup, Seafood soup, Mushroom and chicken soup.
  • Congee such as Chicken congee, Seafood congee.
  • Fried dishes such as Fried squid, Fried pork and shrimp roll, Stuffed escargot with pork.

“Món khô”

“Món khô” literally meaning dried foods consists of 4 snacks:

  • Fried roll.
  • Fermented pork roll.
  • Pork old cuts including Vietnamese pork roll, Head cheese, Vietnamese jambon.
  • Grilled beef in wild betel.

Salad

  • Lotus stem salad with pig ear or shrimp and pork belly, Mango and dried shrimp salad, Mango and dried snakeskin gourami salad, Pepper elder and egg salad.

Main dishes

  • Roasted dishes: chicken, Roasted pork and Wooven rice sheets.
  • Fried/grilled/steamed dishes from fishes, Steamed shrimp in coconut.
  • Stir-fried dishes: Stir-fried beef and cowslip creeper, Stir-fried deer.
  • Hot pots: Seafood hot pot, Siamese mud carp and sesbania sesban hot pot, Mudskipper hot pot, Duck and Fermented tofu hot pot.
  • Starch dishes: Yeung Chow fried rice, Chicken steamed sticky rice, Gac sticky rice.

Desserts

  • Mixed fruits, ice cream, Agar agar jelly, Flan cake, Ching bo leung.

10. Drinking at Vietnamese wedding receptions

Some families serve rice wine, some serve beers to guests, the others serve both. Women and children drink water or soft drinks. Vietnamese men usually drink so much at weeding receptions. They cheer, drink, sing and talk loudly.

Nowadays, they tend to drink beer in cities while people in countrysides prefer wine. The hosts hire dancers, live bands and stages for the weddings. Guests can perform live music or karaoke on stage. These are not Vietnamese wedding traditions but live music has become more and more popular in Vietnam.

11. How to choose engagement and wedding dates?

Vietnamese people believe that holding engagement and wedding ceremonies on good dates of the lunar calendar. bring luckiness, happiness, richness to couples. Most Vietnamese families get help and advice from fortune tellers who are experts at choosing the best engagement wedding dates. A Vietnamese girl should not get married in her Kim Lau year. Fortune tellers need to know birthdays of both groom and bride in order to pick a good day for their wedding.

12. Beautiful Vietnamese wedding blessings

I have chosen short wedding blessings so that you can give the couple the blessings in Vietnamese:

Chúc mừng hạnh phúc: Happy wedding.

Chúc hai bạn trăm năm hạnh phúc: I wish you happy for 100 years.

Chúc hai bạn hạnh phúc trường tồn: I wish you forever happiness.

Chúc hai bạn nắm tay nhau đi hết cuộc đời: I wish you hold in your arms and be together until the end of this life.

Chúc hai bạn bên nhau trọn đời: I wish you be together throughout your life.

Chúc hai bạn răng long đầu bạc: I wish you be together until “your teeth are loose and your hair turns white” which means you are old.

Chúc hai bạn bách niên giai lão: I wish you happy until you are 100 years old.

Chúc hai bạn sớm sinh quý tử: I wish you bore precious kids.

Chúc hai bạn con đàn cháu đống: I wish you have lots of children.

13. Are you planning to marry a Vietnamese lover?

Best wedding centers in Vietnam

The list includes the most luxurious wedding centers in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi

  • Riverside Palace, 360D Ben Van Don Street, Ward 1, District 4, Ho Chi Minh City. Website: https://riversidepalace.vn
  • White Palace, 194 Hoang Van Thu Street, Ward 1, Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City. Website: https://whitepalace.com.vn
  • Diamond Place, 15A Ho Van Hue Street, Ward 9, Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City. Website: https://diamondplace.vn
  • Gem Center, 8 Nguyen Binh Khiem Street, Da Kao Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Website: http://gemcenter.com.vn
  • Melia Hanoi Hotel, 44B Ly Thuong Kiet Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.
  • Lotte Hotel Hanoi, 54 Lieu Giai Street, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi.
  • Hanoi Daewoo Hotel, 360 Kim Ma, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi.
  • InterContinental Hanoi Landmark 72, Keangnam Hanoi Landmark Tower, Block E6, Cau Giay New Residental Area, Nam Tu Liem District, Hanoi.
  • Grand Plaza, 117 Tran Duy Hung Street, Cau Giay District, Hanoi.
  • Diamond Bay Resort & Spa, Nguyen Tat Thanh Boulevard, Phuoc Ha Hamlet, Phuoc Dong Commune, Nha Trang City, Khanh Hoa Province. Website: https://www.diamondbayresort.vn
  • Isena, 2 Nguyen Thien Thuat Street, Loc Tho Ward,  Nha Trang City, Khanh Hoa Province. Website: http://isenahotel.com
  • Champa Island Nha Trang Resort & Spa, 304 2/4 Vinh Phuoc Commune, Nha Trang City, Khanh Hoa Province. Website: http://champaislandresort.vn
  • JW Marriott Phu Quoc Resort, Khem Beach, Phu Quoc Island District, Kien Giang Province. Website: https://www.jwmarriottphuquocresort.com/vn/wedding

Where to buy or hire clothes for wedding?

  • Bella Bridal, 147 – 149 Ho Van Hue Street, Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Luciola Bridal, 57A Tu Xuong Street, Ward 7, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Joli Poli, 278 Vo Thi Sau Street, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Vivian, 106 Street 3/2, Ward 12, District 10, Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Tan Binh Wedding Market has lots of shops selling wedding clothings and accessories at reasonable price.
  • Calla Bridal, 1st and 2nd floors, 29 Mai Hac De Street, Ha Ba Trung District, Hanoi.
  • Quyen Nguyen Bridal, 84 Mai Hac De Street, Ha Ba Trung District, Hanoi.
  • Juliette Bridal: 104 – 106 – 108 Pho Hue Street, Ha Ba Trung District, Hanoi.
  • L’amant Studio, 94 Mai Hac De Street, Ha Ba Trung District, Hanoi.

14. Are you going to attend a Vietnamese wedding?

A Vietnamese family can invite you to attend the wedding ceremony usually takes place at the host’s house, or the reception which can take place at the house or wedding center. They can invite you to both wedding ceremony and reception. In Vietnam, neighbors, partners, colleagues, friends are only invited to wedding (or engagement) receptions. Family members and close friends are usually invited to wedding (or engagement) ceremonies.

What to gift the couple?

How much you should give as a wedding gift?

One of the most frequent question is how much you should give as a wedding gift. In Vietnam’s countrysides, wedding money is from 200,000 VND. Family members usually gift the couple more money, from 500,000 to several million VND. In cities, they usually gift the couple at least 500,000 VND. If you take your girlfriend to the reception, you should multiple the money.

The price of a wedding banquet is from 250,000 to several million VND for each person attending. The average cost is 500,000 VND/person in Vietnam. You should learn about the wedding center and prices to decide how much to spend on a wedding gift. If the cost of the banquet is less than 500,000 VND, you can give 500,000 VND as a gift. If the cost is more than 500,000 VND, you can spend 1,000,000 VND. Only rich people and artists set expensive banquets. Attendants usually spend several hundred USD on gifts. It is better to get advice from a Vietnamese friend.

Money

You should choose new money papers and put them into the envelope of the invitation card. If you do not have the envelope for some reasons (you lost it, they can not come to you and invite you by phone or email), find a envelope yourself. When you are at the engagement or wedding ceremony or reception, put the envelope into the money wedding box. If you can not find the box, give it to the groom or bride politely while giving them a beautiful blessing.

Gifts

In case you do not want to give them money, you can buy a nice gift. Certainly, you should have the gift wrapped beautifully.

  • Paintings about love:
    • Gold or embroidery paintings about love: a pair of dragon and phoenix, a pair of peacocks, a pair of swans, a pair of birds, a pair of carps.
    • Prosperity paintings: nine fishes painting, Yew plum pine crane bird painting.
  • Perfume.
  • Luxury teapot set.
  • Statues about love.
  • Bride and groom statue.
  • Jewelry for the bride.
  • Travel voucher.

In my opinion, money is better than a gift. In fact, two families must pay for many things on weddings. Giving them money as a gift is a good way to share the wedding cost with them. Envelope of money is the symbol of prosperity and richness. It is considered a beautiful blessing at Vietnamse weddings.

What to do if you could not arrange to attend?

Talk or call to say sorry, send your gift or money so that they receive the gift or money on the same day. In Vietnam, an absent invitee usually has another attendant to bring his gift the groom and bride or put the money envelope into the money wedding box on the wedding day.

What to wear?

As mentioned above, attendants wear Ao Dai or formal clothes on engagement or wedding days. These days, they even wear party outfits to wedding receptions. I would like to recommend you to:

  • wear Ao Dai, shirt pants, blouse pants, no singlet tops, no short shorts, no short skirts, no short dress, no bare midrifs or cleavage if you attend ceremonies at houses. This show respect to the hosts and their ancestors.
  • wear party outfits, no street style outfits at receptions. I am an open person so that I think all kinds of outfits suit wedding receptions.

Some Vietnamese people believe that black, grey, brown colors bring bad lucks to brides and grooms. So that it is better to choose outfits in white, pink, red, green, yellow, orange, purple and other bright colors.

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