The Wedding Celebration (Marriage in Vietnam part 3)

Horoscopes are specially important for the wedding and numerous checks are made, for no one would want to start a marriage off on the wrong foot. Usually the day before the wedding, the boy’s family has a banquet. Among the poor, it may be a tea party or nothing at all.

On the wedding day, the family of the bridegroom go with the groom at a specially chosen hour to the bride’s home. They all walk together in a procession which is normally led by an old man in dark robes carrying an incense burner. The groom’s parents and older relatives follow the elderly man. Next in line is the bridegroom dressed in new clothes and surrounded by his numerous attendants. They are followed by the brothers and sisters and close friends. Women carry betel leaves and areca nuts and offer them to the wedding party en route.

The procession on foot is common in rural areas, especially among the poorer people. It is a status symbol to be able to have other means of transportation in the procession and a great deal of money is often spent by those wishing to make a good impression on others. It is not unusual in large cities to see such processions made up of fancy cars bedecked with garlands of flowers.
When they reach the bride’s home, they are welcomed and invited in by the girl’s parents. The parents never come out beyond the gate of the home, as they do not wish to appear as initiating the move of offering their daughter’s hand in marriage.
After sipping tea, the head of the boy’s family makes a solemn formal request to take the bride away to their home where she will be a daughter-in-law to the family. Solemnly, the father or head of the girl’s family agrees.
Then the girl’s father or head of the family performs a rite in front of the family altar, requesting acceptance of the marriage by his ancestors. The bride and groom follow suit.
A banquet is often held at this point, but near the end, the groom’s family traditionally acts as though they are very anxious to take the bride to their home.
The groom’s entourage then begins the trip home in procession, with the bride and her attendants, friends and relatives joining in.
Little children sometimes set up road blocks and ask tolls of the wedding party. These are readily paid, as they consider it bad luck to refuse.
Upon arrival at the groom’s house, the party is met by the loud noise of firecrackers. The guests are invited inside with the bride and groom and another ceremony which honors the genie of marriage soon commences.
The genie of marriage is often called the Rose Silk Thread God and is believed to be responsible for the couple getting married. A special altar is set up and lighted with candles, and incense and joss sticks are burned in honor of the genie. An older member of the groom’s family leads the ceremony. He and the bridal couple bow many times before the altar, and a red sheet of paper on which a plea for aid and protection is written to the genie of marriage. This is read aloud. Three cups are filled with a clear white alcoholic beverage by the elder man leading the ceremony. The old man bows three times and gives one cup to the groom who sips a little of the liquid and passes it to his bride who also sips a little. The groom takes some ginger and rubs it in salt, eats a little of it and then shares it with his bride. This symbolizes that no matter what happens, their love will remain true. The sheet of red paper is then burned and the three people bow once again paying their final respects to the genie.
At this point, the couple is considered married and a party is usually held with a lot of speech making, gift giving and merrymaking.
Just as in the West, the groom’s attendants try to keep him busy as long as they can and play jokes on him. In olden days, the bride and groom spent their first night of marriage in separate rooms with their attendants.
The couple usually live with the husband’s parents, at least until children are born. It is expected that the bride will wait on her husband’s family, almost as a servant. This is no the custom with the educated and well-to-do class of people in Vietnam. They are somewhat Westernized in their approach.

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