Weddings are popular cultural events in the Vietnamese calendar. In this country, so unique and systematic are the occasions making them be far apart from Chinese and Japanese tea wedding. A Vietnamese wedding is not only a euphoric day but also a day for both the two families to exhibit their social status.
Down the line, Vietnamese have had different dynasties, which greatly defined the type of wedding wears. During the Nguyen Dynasty, women wore elaborate Ao dai gown. These types of wears were discovered by the royal Nguyen Dynasty court ladies to replace the popular Ao Menh Phu. Ao dai attire is still widely used in most of the Vietnamese wedding. Royal attires come in red or pink colours with khan dong headdress for the bride. Red is the most popular since, according to Vietnamese, it signifies luck.
Ao dai clothes come with royal embroideries, beads and silk of various patterns. Usually, the bride's wear is more sophisticated, detailed and extravagant than that of the bridegroom. However, that doesn’t undermine the role of the bridegrooms wear—to achieve apex simplicity with elements of coolness.
The male’s equivalent to the bride’s garment is called Ao Gam. All traditional kinds of tea wedding ceremony demands that the bridegroom must wear this. However, there are sometimes when the bridegroom may decide to do with a black, maroon or blue suit and still fit into the occasion.
Planning of the Vietnamese tea ceremony starts with determining the most suitable date. Usually, the two lovebirds will engage the services of a fortune-teller or Buddhist monk who will assign the date based on spiritual identities. It is a belief for a happy marriage life.
Upon determining the correct date, the two families (bride’s and groom's) will plan for a day when the dowry is paid. Usually, the groom's family is to visit the bride's family and shower them with gifts. This phase is no longer applicable in most modern weddings. Finally, the two families can decide on the best altar where the exchange of vows takes place.
Once the introduction is done, both the two families will notify their closest relatives and friends about the on-going setup. Among Vietnamese, this is a crucial moment to merry, eat up to the fill and meet the long-time friends.
One day or prior to the wedding day, the bride’s family will keep the house kept with sundry of festive flowers. This is another green flag to signify the neighbours of the incoming ceremony. This is followed by cooking arrangements since the occasion is riddled with lots of traditional food and bountiful of tea. Usually, the mother of the bride is the one to lead the kitchen department.
The bride will have a special and personalized kind of dressing. Make-ups is encouraged to achieve dire beautification. On the other hand, the bridegroom must also dress up in his homestead. Once he is ready, they can all meet up as a family (and, of course with close friends) to travel to the bride’s house. Affluent cars and any other sort of automobile are encouraged since it brings out the aspect of trust on whether the bridegroom can properly take care of the bride.
Once everything is ready, the groom’s family, together with the invited guests and relatives will find their ways to the bride’s house. A chosen spokesperson, mostly an elder from the groom’s side will knock on the door and ask for permission to get inside and bring out the bride.
Once the bride’s family “agrees”, the groom’s family and friends will line outside the house and wait for the bride to get out. Accompanied by her parents, relatives and invited guests, they will also line in front of their counterparts to receive gifts. Wedding gifts include jewellery, roast pigs, cakes and bunches of fruits.
The two families can then proceed to sit opposite each other in a closed living room. It is a norm for the groomsmen to stay at the back. This is primarily for making ways for immediate family members who are the speakers of the day.
With the bride’s men and groomsmen sat quietly from opposite ends of the living room, the bride's representative will stand up. He or she will then welcome the entire guest, and proceed to introduce the close relatives from the bride's side.
Just after finishing the welcoming and introduction session, the groomsmen representative will stand up. First, is the appreciation for the warm welcome from the bride's family. This is then followed by a formal introduction of the groom’s relatives. Then, the representative will state their concerns.
This process takes an average of 10 minutes. Here, the fathers from both sides will light candles - red or white - and bow to the altar. This is a sign of respect and prayer for prosperity. The bride’s father will then notify the guest about the coming of the bride who will then walk in accompanied by her mother.
This is followed by the lighting of the candle by both brides and bridegrooms family and bowing down to ask for a blessing. The couple will then bow down to both the two families before exchanging wedding rings. However, you can choose to exchange your wedding in a local altar or do the garden kind of wedding once you are done with the traditions.
The peak of Vietnamese wedding session lies with the tea ceremony. This phase lasts for about 20 to 30 minutes on average. However, when dealing with extended families that are large in numbers, it may go for even an hour.
Here, two key personalities - the maid of honour and the best man plays a major role. Once everything is in order, the best man will hold a tea tray full with small cups particularly designed for the occasion. The maid of honour will then pour the tea into each cup until they are 3/4 way full.
Once all the cups are filled, the couple will then pick up the cup and hand them to both family members for a sip. According to traditional values and norms of the Vietnamese ceremony, the elderly are to be served first based on the age factor.
Upon serving all guests, members from both families can proceed to give their gifts. It is during this time that some other personalities on the occasions are given a platform to offer their words of congratulations and best wishes to the two newlyweds. In this phase, only the additional gifts are offered. These include betel and areca, boxes or bottle of tea or alcohol, sticky rice and some fruits.
Though this is not necessary for some occasions, oftentimes most families preferred a good lunch to wrap up the partying. For some families, lunch comes prior to the wedding day—most preferably the engagement day when the couples and their families come to know each other. In another instance, the bride's family can decide to book a good restaurant for their guests.
Going the traditional way, lunch includes food brought in trays by the groomsmen and the one prepared in the bride’s house. Just after the tea ceremony, guests are notified of the lunch session after which the maid of honour and some other maids will walk in with trays to serve all guests. It all starts with the bride's side followed by the groom’s.
Lunch sessions usually go for even two hours. This is also a special time for the guests to interact and get to know each other well. It is also the time for the newly-wed to formally greet most of the guests.
Photo sessions and lunch usually go hand in hand. In what they call “family portrait” all attendees must take at least one photo before leaving the vicinity. It starts with the bride's family lining up with their daughter in the middle. Then, the groomsmen lining up in front of the altar with their son in the middle. After this, the two families can then join each other for a collective photo. Last, the guest and other close relatives can join the line.
In Vietnamese weddings, photo session matters. Individual attendees can call both the bride and groom for a photo session. Therefore, when planning for a wedding, families take into consideration the space factor. They can even have photo sessions in the outdoors. However, the bride and groom cannot leave the venue without a "satisfying" photo session.
Vietnamese preserve Ao dai dresses for the wedding. Therefore, family portraits matter a lot. So important is the occasion that the master of ceremony will give guests and newlywed water or shower break of about 10-15 minutes. This is why it comes just after the beginning of feast session. so that when the newly-wed goes for the break, the guests can be kept busy feasting and socializing.
Vietnamese tea wedding ceremony is iconic. It is the time to throw away baskets of sophistication brought by the influence of western culture and bring into reality the remnants of ancestral norms and values. The tea is a unifying factor more so when sipped from cups held in one tray. It is a herbal drink that paves way for the mental, physical, social and economic wellbeing of the newlywed.