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By Jolene Jang ~ Guest Blogger

I had mentioned in earlier blogs that we will have three main wedding events. The first of these is the Vietnamese Ceremony. It starts with picking the appropriate date. A lot of factors go into this decision. The weather, budget, venue and vendors may be at the top of your list. If you are of traditional Asian descent, Chinese astrological reading trumps all. Based on my fiancé’s and my birthdates and time of birth, my future mother-in-law’s Chinese astrologer friend determined that March 20th is the optimal date for us to ensure the best possible outcome of our marriage. Unfortunately, this date falls on a Friday morning which is an inconvenient time for many; however, it’s a small price to pay for marital bliss.

A Vietnamese wedding is very different from a western wedding. To see Vinh’s cousin’s wedding in California, click on the video below:

Sorry there’s no dubbed or subtitled version at the moment so bear with the Vietnamese. We will also videotape ours to share with you.

Here is the sequence of events for the Vietnamese ceremony:

  • Everyone wakes up really early and get into their attire. Here is a picture of Vinh and me in our traditional Vietnamese gowns.

  • 7 am - groom’s relatives and close friends gather at groom’s family home which has been decorated with a special arbor before the entrance of the house and Chinese good-fortune charms.

  • 8 am – groom’s crew caravan to bride’s family home to deliver the offerings for the bride and pay respects to the bride’s ancestors. There is a formal introduction of family members (In the old days, marriages were arranged. Sometimes, the bride and groom had never even met. The families may be total strangers) The bride’s parents formally agree to the union, wish the couple good fortune and share words of wisdom. They do the tea ceremony and then everyone drinks and eat. My mother, who isn’t Vietnamese, is a bit perplexed and nervous about her responsibilities, like what kind of tea to serve, what kind of snacks or hors d’ouevres?

    By the way, this is where Vinh’s family trades a roast pig for the bride. My father thinks this is a fair exchange; he’s really into that crispy skin and fatty meat that melts in your mouth. Other gifts are jewelry, tea, wine, fruits & pastries (i.e, sticky rice)

  • 9 am - groom’s family takes bride with them to their home. Bride’s family follows. It is critical that all return to the home before the magical 10:30 time. More introductions are made of other family/friends awaiting their return. Respects are paid to the groom’s ancestors. Groom’s parents give permission to be called mother & father, share advice and words of wisdom about married life. Everyone enjoys tea & pastries.
  • 1 pm - family and friends gather at O’Asian Restaurant to celebrate this momentous event with more eating and drinking.

I know what you are thinking. The proper attire for this event should be stretchy pants with all of the eating and drinking. And when they came up with this ceremonious tradition, they probably weren’t considering the environmental impact… all those cars driving back and forth. Can’t we just have everyone at the same place and do the introduction once? Well, there is a reason behind this slanted compulsion for repetition and driving. My mother-in-law said back in the day, girls don’t move out of the house until they are married; actually this is still true in Vietnam at present time. This ceremony signifies the transition of the bride into the groom’s family so you have to have the back and forth traveling. Also in Vietnam this event may draw a huge turnout, sometimes the whole neighborhood. Only a selected few have the privilege to travel with the respective wedding party. Otherwise just the introduction may run the entire day.

My mother-in-law reflected on her wedding day. It was exciting like a wedding celebration should be, yet there was a level of anxiety of leaving a familiar and safe place she always felt comfortable and free. Plus, she knew that after the celebration is over, the tough work begins because in joining the groom side you also take on the chores of the entire family (my father-in-law has 11 siblings); not fun when you are lowest on the totem pole.

The one tradition I’m glad to have is receiving the red envelopes. Usually, newlyweds are just starting out after marriage. Part of the ritual is buying a house and filling it with stuff. Well Vinh and I are ahead of the game. We’ve stocked up on more things than we should so I don’t think there’s anything on store registries that we would need or want. So getting red envelopes with money gives us more flexibility as to where we can apply the funds… like covering the wedding expenses or putting it towards the honeymoon.

Question of the day: When you are attending a wedding, what do you prefer to give money, registry item or a gift of your choice? On the other side, what would you like to receive as the bride and groom?