In Vietnam today, there are two distinct groupings as far as the important rite of marriage is concerned. One group is the more modern, who cling to Western innovations and desire similar weddings.
The following section will concern itself with the second group and its traditional rites of engagement and marriage which are highly regarded and practiced in Vietnam.
In olden days, chastity was strongly emphasized with young people being carefully supervised. As with Confucianism, the physical development of love was not highly regarded. Parents frowned on courtship and falling in love and thought badly of its advocates.
Marriage was considered to be a duty, and was generally arranged in a non-emotional manner by the elders in the family. Sometimes, mere children have been committed to each other for later marriage.
Formerly, couples readily submitted to the parents choosing their mates and still do to a great extent in the countryside. In the cities, they have begun to "fight for their rights." Youngsters have more opportunities to meet each other these days, so often the role of the parents has been cut down to merely advising and counseling.
Choice of Marriage Partners
Certain standards should be maintained in the choice of mate under the traditional system. For instance, social rank, education, moral history, etc. should be similar in background and on as equal a level as possible.
The couple’s horoscope should be in accord and not conflict. Horoscope data has been deliberately misread on occasions in order to be able to tactfully refuse an offer of marriage. Usually a mediator works between the families, and if successful, is often rewarded with a present, such as a pig’s head.
Age at Marriage
Formerly, girls were often wed as early as 13 and boys at 16. Economic reasons often spurred on young marriages. For example, one family may have wished to have their daughter marry so that they would have one less mouth to feed. On the boy’s side, a wife would mean another helping hand in the field, plus the prospect of more children to work on the land.
Daughter-in-laws were considered to be "free domestic help," and many girls were older than their bride-grooms. On occasions, marriages were held for very young couples to bring about alliances between families.
In Vietnam today, the marriage age may range from 18 to 22 for women and 22 to 25 for men. These figures rise to higher age levels in the cities where the Western influence is felt. Child marriages are not common in Vietnam today.
Though many things have changed, the rituals have stayed more or less the same in traditional marriages. A description of each of the important rituals follows.