A Vietnamese wedding is truly a family affair. Weddings represent the joining of two families, not just the union of two people. So parents and elders take centre stage in the planning and day of celebrations. It’s also a day where Vietnamese wedding traditions need to be followed to make the union official.
Five Vietnamese wedding traditions to know
Although a Vietnamese wedding would traditionally happen over a number of days, many families today opt for a much more condensed version and celebrate everything in a single day. That single day is always an emotional one, full of meaning as couples pay respect to their ancestors, elders, parents, aunts, and uncles.
Growing up in a Vietnamese household with three older sisters, a lot of older cousins, and outspoken aunts and uncles, I am well versed in these wedding traditions. When news breaks that someone is getting married, it is go-time.
Here are five Vietnamese wedding traditions you should know.
Procession and mâm qua
On the morning of the wedding day, it is tradition for the groom’s parents and other family members to travel to the bride’s family home, and officially ask the bride’s parents for their daughter’s hand in marriage. It is important for the groom’s family to also come bearing gifts in beautiful red mâm qua trays, adorned in luxurious red and gold cloths.
The mâm qua trays are presented to the bride’s family via a procession. The groom’s family line up and each hold a mâm qua tray filled with symbolic gifts. These gifts can include tropical fruits, teas and herbs, alcohol, and more.
Joining of families
One Vietnamese wedding tradition my cousins and I used to giggle through is the introduction of the families. Close family members of both wedding parties would line up across from one another and introduce themselves, starting with one side of the family and then the other. The head of each household introduces the family name and their relationship to the parents of the bride and the groom.
A tradition my cousins and I used to sit through awkwardly, we now understand it to be an important and crucial part of the joining of the families. It is a symbol of respect and coming together as one.
Lighting candles to our ancestors
The lighting of the candles is another key Vietnamese wedding tradition to note. Two grand candles, one with a dragon and one with a phoenix, are displayed at the altar. The couple will participate in a prayer at the altar, and ask ancestors to protect and bless the union of their families. The candles are then lit to symbolize the coming together of two families.
The tea ceremony is the most emotional part of the wedding. It is a chance for the couple to honour their parents, aunts, and uncles. They thank them for all the sacrifices they made, and for raising them to become adults ready for marriage.
Starting with the eldest uncle and aunt to the youngest, the couple will serve tea as a symbol of respect. In return the elders gift the couple with words of wisdom and either jewelry or money (sometimes both!).
The dress (áo dài)
It is a Vietnamese wedding tradition for the bride and the groom to wear Vietnam’s national dress, an áo dài. For weddings, the couple typically wears luxurious versions of these dresses with intricate embroidery and symbolic bold colours, such as red, gold, blue, and green. They will also often wear a traditional head dress called a khan dong, a symbolic wrapping of cloth rings that adds a touch of grandeur and elegance.
Family is at the centre of every traditional Vietnamese wedding. A time to honour our ancestors and pay respect to our elders. Although the traditions I’ve outlined may sound solemn and serious, Vietnamese weddings are also a ton of crazy fun and an all-around good time.
Friends are not often invited to the Vietnamese portion of a wedding ceremony. But if you ever attend one, see if you can identify these Vietnamese wedding traditions!
Check out more Asian wedding traditions on Cold Tea Collective.
Featured image photo credit: Hong Son from Pexels
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