These days, numerous western-born or Vietnamese-born brides and grooms keep family traditions and values when celebrating their weddings. Whether they marry a Vietnamese or non-Vietnamese, they often fuse western-style themes with Vietnamese rituals and traditions. This combination of east-meets-west serves to accommodate multicultural guests while catering to elderly Vietnamese family members who appreciate certain customs as forms of respect.
As a professional wedding and events photographer for popnshotmedia.com, I have witnessed many combinations of east-meets-west themed weddings, with a variety of Vietnamese brides and grooms, and also many other Asian individuals who marry individuals from different cultures and backgrounds.
In a traditional Vietnamese wedding, it is common for the groom and his family to bring a series of red-wrapped gifts that are called “mâm quả” to the bride’s family before the tea ceremony. These range from a new box of tea, baked goods, wine, a roasted pig, exotic fruit, and optionally betel and areca (subject to seasonality and availability). Upon acceptance of the gifts, a formal introduction of the bride and groom takes place, with the asking of permission to marry the bride from the designated representatives and parents of the family. Following the exchanges of words and acceptance of gifts, the bride generally accepts and dons passed-down gold jewellery from her mother and new mother-in-law. Additional gifts are also presented and laid close to the family’s altar. The bride’s parents then burn incense and ask their ancestors to bless the marriage.
At the bride’s residence, tea is formally served to the living grandparents, and parents of the bride. Words of advice are given to the new couple to wish them their success in their marriage. Depending on the family customs, and the time constraints of the wedding, the tea ceremony can also be repeated at the groom’s family’s residence before he takes away his newly wedded bride. Guests attending the groom’s tea ceremony are his parents and grandparents, extended relatives and representatives, and the groomsmen. A similar burning of incense and prayers, conducted by the groom’s father, requests the ancestors’ blessings. This procedure officially welcomes the bride into the groom’s family.
After these tea ceremonies, the couple begins more western-style activities. Photography sessions at the park are conducted before or after the western ceremony when the bride is walked down the aisle by her father and presented to the groom as he awaits her with his groomsmen in their formal attire. The western ceremony can take place at the reception if there is a designated ceremony hall, a church, alternate indoor venue, or if it is an outdoor wedding there may be a ceremonial setup with a pleasant arch and seats.
Following the newer trends of fashion, the bride’s white wedding dress might resemble an áo dài, as opposed to a typical western wedding dress. Vows and promises are exchanged, which often result in a few tears. The western ceremony is open to relatives and non-family guests.
Priests, or a designated individual, read scriptures and common verses for the couple as guests look on. Afterwards, the couple kisses and then the reception continues with food, family, friends and a whole lot of fusion fun. Speeches are made by groomsmen, bridesmaids and dear close friends and family. Some are entertaining, while others are heartfelt, appealing to all guests. Entertainment usually involves a bilingual MC and DJ playing music that caters both sides of the family and friends.
As for food, the typical nine or 10-course meal includes lobster, chicken and pork. Couples can also opt, depending on the number of guests, for three-to-five course meals. One of the customary traditions is to have the bride and groom approach every table for a toast to the individual guests. They then thank the guests for their honourary presence and the lucky red pocket money given to them at the reception’s entrance.
The remainder of the night is captured by their professional photographers and completes the story of an east-meets-wedding joining two loving individuals.
Ricky Manh Nguyen
This post is also available in: Tiếng Việt