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Vietnamese Traditional Wedding


Vietnamese traditional wedding strictly follows a procedure that has existed for hundreds of years. It reflects the traditional idea of propriety and conjugal life.

In the past, especially among the upper classes, a marriage was arranged not by the couple themselves but by their families based on each side’s economic and social status. The purpose of marriage was not only the settlement of the couple’s life but also the establishment of an alliance between two families. Even today when young people can freely choose their partners, the first step towards marriage is always obtaining formal permission from the two families. Therefore the organization and preparation of a wedding is an important affair in which every family member must contribute (the family here is the extended family consisting of the nuclear family and all the relatives from the father’s side).

A traditional wedding has six stages: nap thai (also called cham ngo in casual speech. The groom’s family visits the bride’s family to formally request permission for him to marry her. The groom has to present his future wife with betel leaves and betel-nuts, the symbol of the unbreakable bond of marriage, as a proof of his sincerity), van danh (also called an hoi.The couple are formally introduced to each other and to their future spouse’s family. This is also a time for two families especially the parents to get to know each other), nap cat (the groom’s family informs the wedding plan for the bride’s family to decide), thinh ky (the bride’s family announces their final decisions about the wedding), nap te (representative of the bride’s family bring what necessary for the bride in the wedding and some gifts to the bride’s family at the appointed time and date), than nghenh (this is the chief part. Wedding rituals are performed before the ancestral altars of two families.

The couple then officially become husband and wife). In the past, omitting any of these stages was a grievous violation of propriety that scandalized the families involved but nowadays only three most important stages (nap thai, van danh, than nghenh) are kept to save time and money.

Traditional Vietnamese wedding rituals and customs are a mixture of native and Chinese cultures and are strongly influenced by Confucian morality. Their purposes are to ensure the conjugal happiness for the couple and to form close relations between two families. The groom comes to the bride’s house with an elder of his family who has had a happy family life to pay homage to the ancestors of the bride’s family and to pay respect to her parents.

Then the bride is taken before the ancestral altar of her husband’s family where she will be “introduced” to her husband’s ancestors’ spirits as the new family member. After that, the couple will share a cup of rice wine and a small dish of steamed sticky rice as a promise to share happiness as well as hardship. After the ceremony is over, there is usually a wedding party with the presence of members of both families and some family friends to celebrate the union of not only the couple but also the two families.

References:
Phan Ke Binh, “The Customs of Vietnam”, Van Hoc Publisher
Huu Ngoc and Lady Borton, “Wedding Customs”, The Gioi Publisher

1 comment:

Doctorhands said...

I have always found the Ao Dai to be very sensual, yet conservative. It is one of the most beautiful dress types I've encountered. I have some pictures of other ones on my site at http://www.thevietnamtraveler.com