here comes the bride

Love this photo of two brides posing outside Notre Dame.

The traditional Vietnamese wedding is one of the most important ceremonies in Vietnamese culture. In the past, most marriages were arranged by the parents, and while children were sometimes consulted, it was the parents’ final decision. It was not unusual for the bride and groom to meet for the first time on the day of their engagement. Today, most Vietnamese couples marry for love and while some of the old traditions remain, new customs are also being adopted. Sometimes a wedding will last for days or even a week! It would take several blogs to detail all the rituals involved but here is a little overview:

Preparations first begin by choosing a date and time for the marriage ceremony. This involves a Buddhist monk choosing a “lucky” wedding date and time based on the couple’s birthdates. The birthdates are even sometimes used  by Buddhist monk to determine if the couple is compatible before the engagement. This tradition does not change even if the family is Catholic.

After the engagement, many Vietnamese couples now take photos in Western-style white dresses and formal wear. You can see them almost every day posing outside the Notre Dame Basilica. Sunday is a big day for this so I hopped over yesterday to document for my Saigon Love readers. There must have been over twenty couples taking their photos. Such beautiful hope radiated from each of them, that I couldn’t help but get caught up in the action!

The wedding ceremonies begins with a visit from the groom bearing gifts to the bride’s home. Traditional gifts might include betel and areca-nut, fruit, cakes, a roast pig, fabric, and  jewelry for the bride from her new mother-in-law. Very appropriate that I am wearing one of my favorite pieces of vintage jewelry given to me by my new mother-in-law in the photo below!

Posing with a happy couple on their photo day!

After the bride’s family inspects the gifts, the bride’s mother will present her to the groom. Then the groom will bring her to his home and introduce her to his household in yet another traditional ceremony at his family’s altar to ask for permission from his ancestors.  In the old tradition, this is when the bride is brought to the wedding bed.

For the actual wedding ceremony, brides will wear an elaborate red (sometimes pink!) and gold Áo Dài dress embroidered with imperial symbols that represent happiness and prosperity.  Brides wear a matching headpiece. And this is just one of the dresses she will wear during the wedding. Vietnamese brides can change their dress up to four times during the festivities! Her groom will either wear a vest or a blue Áo Dài.

BFF Tien modeling a traditional wedding dress and headpiece.

At the end of the ceremonies, there is a wedding reception for the two families and friends. Guests bring gifts of money in red envelopes to defray from the wedding expenses and celebrate the good fortune of the happy couple!

The Notre Dame Basilica is a very popular wedding photo backdrop!

Saigon LOVE is in the air!

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