Traditional Vietnamese wedding

Traditional Vietnamese wedding

The traditional Vietnamese wedding is one of the most important ceremonies in Vietnamese culture, with influence from Confucian and Buddhist ideologies.

Traditional Wedding Clothes since the Nguyen Dynasty

While traditional clothes of Vietnam have always been very diverse depending on the era and occasion, after the Nguyen Dynasty women began to wear elaborate Áo dài for their weddings. These dresses were modeled after the Áo mệnh phụ (royal Áo dài) of Nguyen Dynasty court ladies. The style of the Nguyen Dynasty has remained popular and is still used in current-day Vietnamese wedding attire. The difference between the Áo mệnh phụ and the typical Áo dài is the elaborateness of its design. The former is usually embroidered with imperial symbols such as the phoenix) and includes an extravagant outer cloak. This gown is preferably in red or pink, and the the bride usually wears a Khăn đống headdress. The groom wears a simpler male equivalent of the dress, often in the color blue.

Previous to the Nguyen Dynasty, it is likely that women simply wore fancy, elaborate versions of Áo tứ thân.


An engagement ceremony takes place usually half a year or so before the wedding. In the past, most marriages were arranged by the parents or extended family, and while children were sometimes consulted, it was nearly always the parents' final decision. It was not surprising to find that a bride and groom had only just met on the day of their engagement or marriage. However, in the last few decades, Vietnamese women and men marry based on love rather than arranged marriages.

The Wedding

Preparations for the traditional Vietnamese wedding first begins by choosing a date and time for the marriage ceremony. This is decided by a Buddhist monk, Spiritual leader, or fortune teller due to the spiritual nature of the occasion.

The day of the wedding consists of an extensive array of ceremonies: the first is the ceremony to ask permission to receive the bride (abandoned in modern Vietnam), the second is the procession to receive the bride at her house, the third is to the procession of bringing the bride to the groom's house. Both Vietnamese and oversea-Vietnamese who desire to have a hybrid traditional Vietnamese and Western-style wedding will oftentimes incorporate the last two ceremonies with the Western-style wedding.

At the end of the ceremonies, there is a wedding reception for the two families and guests.

Asking Permission to "Receive" the Bride

On the morning of the wedding day, the groom's mother (along with a few other close relatives) would make a trip to the bride's home, carrying a gift of betel. The mother would officially ask permission to "receive" the bride and then notify the family of the time groom's procession would arrive at the bride's house. It was at this time that the bride's family would confirm the wedding and further proceedings would take place.

In actuality, this now obsolete ceremony was used in the past to confirm -- last minute -- that the marriage would still take place. Due to oftentimes forced arranged marriages, some brides fled from home. Thus, this ceremony was more so used to confirm that the wedding would proceed.

In modern Vietnam, there is no longer the "asking of permission" ceremony. Instead, like Western traditions, the prospect of marriage is determined by the couple.

Receiving Bride at Her House

On the day of the wedding, there is first a procession and gifting by the groom's family for the bride and her family. The procession of the groom’s family is led in specific order. Usually, the first person will be a man chosen as the representative of the groom's house (this person should have a good manner of speaking and have high status in society), followed by the groom's father, the groom, then the rest of his immediate family and close friends. Huge traditional umbrellas are carried and accompany the front of the procession.

Interestingly, in the past, the groom's mother might not take part in the procession as a sign that she would not be a threat to the future bride; she would even "hide" for a short period upon the bride's welcoming to the groom's home. However, this practice has long been abandoned. The number of people participating in the groom's procession varies but is usually restricted to a smaller number (20 or so) to make it easier on the bride's family, which must receive all the guests.

In the procession, the groom, his family and friends bear elaborately decorated lacquer boxes, covered in red cloth. Inside these boxes are gifts representing the wealth that the groom's family will bring to the bride's family. Gifts include betel, wine, tea, fruit, cakes, a roast pig, fabric or clothing for the bride, and an abundance of jewelry for the bride (the amount of jewelry depending on the personal wealth of the groom's family). Usually, the number of gift boxes varies between 6 or 8, but never 7 or 9 since it is seen as bad luck.

Upon arriving at the bride's home, the procession lights fireworks to alert the bride's family, who then lights its own round of firecrackers to welcome the groom's procession. Members of the procession are introduced to the bride's family, and the bride's family introduces its members to the procession. The groom presents his gifts to the bride's family, and he is given permission to greet the bride, who is finally brought out.

The ceremony of permission from the bride's deceased ancestors begins in front of the bride's ancestor altar. The bride and groom kneel in front of the altar and burn incense sticks, asking permission from the bride's ancestors to bless their marriage and their future family. Afterward, the couple turn and bow to their parents, giving thanks for raising and protecting them. The bride and groom then bow to each other.

A formal tea, candle ceremony and speeches follow. While tea has always been an essential part of Vietnamese life, Vietnamese tea culture is not as complex or ritually rigid as its counterparts in China, Japan or Korea. Nevertheless, a traditional wedding is about the only time in a Vietnamese person's life that a formal tea ceremony is essential.

The bride and groom, in front of all their guests, will serve tea (or wine) to their parents. Each parent will then give advice about marriage and family to the couple. A candle ceremony will follow, symbolizing the joining of the bride and groom and the joining of the two families. The groom's gift boxes filled with jewelry will be opened by the groom’s mother, who will then put each piece on the bride for good fortune.

Due to Western influence in the concept of wedding rings, modern weddings still include the giving of jewelry to the bride but followed by the exchange of wedding bands between the bride and groom. However, Catholic Vietnamese families reserve the exchange of wedding bands for the separate church ceremony.

Finally, the groom officially asks to bring the bride to his home, and she follows the groom's procession to his house.

Bringing Bride to Groom's House

As the procession arrives back at the groom's house, the groom's family members that did not partake in the procession but remained at home will light firecrackers in celebration. The newlyweds will be brought groom's ancestor altar, where another ancestor ceremony takes place and the bride is introduced to the groom's relatives. Finally, the bride is brought to the couple's room and introduced to their marriage bed.

The Reception for Bride and Groom's Family and Friends

Following the ceremony at the groom's house, all of the bride and groom's family and friends are invited to a reception that traditionally takes place at the groom's house.

Nowadays, however, the reception occurs immediately after the procession ceremony to the bride's house, and takes place at any desired location---such as either couple's house, a restaurant or a hotel banquet hall. It is not until after the reception that the bride is brought to the groom's house.

The number of guests in attendance at these modern-day receptions is especially large, usually in the hundreds. Elaborate 7 to 10 course meals are served, oftentimes starting with cold platters then followed by hot dishes such as seasoned lobster, seafood hot pot, and other Chinese banquet dishes.

Guests are expected to bring gifts, and it is traditionally in the form of money in an envelop. At one point during the reception, the bride and groom will go from table-to-table to thank guests for their blessings and collect the envelops. Occasionally, the family and guests' monetary gifts will cover more than the cost of the wedding and reception.

In modern weddings, brides usually change into three different gowns during the reception. Her dresses are usually composed of the Western white wedding gown, a second Western dress, and a third traditional Áo dài.

Modern Infusions in Religion and Culture

While most Vietnamese are Mahayana Buddhists, a significant number are Catholic. However, this does not change the traditional Vietnamese wedding. Vietnamese Catholics still incorporate all parts of the wedding ceremonies and reception. The only difference may lie in the ancestor worship at each newlywed's house. Some Catholics are comfortable with ancestor worship due to Vietnamese culture's deep history in reverence toward ancestors. Other Catholics who are not comfortable, however, may opt to omit the ancestor worship entirely or replace it with worshiping to Jesus or praying to the Virgin Mary.

Most current-day Vietnamese weddings -- both in Vietnam and overseas -- incorporate Western and Vietnamese traditions. One such infusion is the bride wearing both a Western wedding dress and an Áo dài during the wedding and reception.

Perhaps the most significant Western and Vietnamese infusion is the proceedings of the traditional three ceremonies. With the omitting of the first traditional ceremony ("asking permission to receive the bride"), the last two traditional ceremonies ("receiving bride at her house" and "bringing bride to groom's house") tend to no longer take place on the day of the wedding but instead are used in place of a Western engagement ceremony. Thus, the actual wedding day may only include a Buddhist/Church ceremony, and large reception.


Traditional and modern symbols of marriage are often featured during Vietnamese marriage ceremonies as decorations on the wedding umbrellas, lacquer gift boxes (or the red cloth that covers them), or even the decorations in the homes of both the bride and groom. They usually include lanterns, doves, initials of the couple, among other things. However, one symbol that is indispensable are the words "song hỷ." This phrase also appears as the character 囍, which is reflective of Vietnam's influence by Chinese characters as well as the vernacular Nom script before the 20th century. While literacy in these scripts during feudalistic times was restricted mostly to scholars, officials and other members of the elite, characters such as these have always played an aesthetic role in important occasions such as weddings.

ee also

*Culture of Vietnam
*History of Vietnam

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