Wedding traditions all over the world can vary depending on culture, religion or tradition. In fact, in Asia, ceremonies vary from region to region. So, if you’re an expat in Saigon, and you have friends who are getting married –and you’re attending a Vietnamese wedding, it is best to prepare yourself for the momentous event as it may be entirely different from your home country.

What should be expected at a Vietnamese wedding ceremony?

A typical wedding in Vietnam consists of two parts:

Engagement Ceremony (Đám hỏi)

After a wedding date is set, the family of the groom will visit the house of the bride and present her with betrothal gifts. These usually come in round lacquered boxes and contain specific items including cakes, fruits, wines, nuts and betel leaves, tea, and other delicacies. Gifts are covered with red cloth and carried by young, unmarried boys and girls. Traditionally, future brides would embroider a pair of lovebirds, and give them to their fiancé during the ceremony. The birds symbolize fidelity and love and the gift is like the engagement ring. Family members are expected to wear an Áo dài or formal western clothing.

Wedding Ceremony (Đám cưới)

On the wedding day, the bride’s house will be visited by the groom’s family and relatives, again bringing presents wrapped in red. Depending on the family, the gifts often include a set of golden – sometimes decorated with diamonds – necklaces, earrings, bracelets, rings – or lucky properties. These presents are carried by happily married couples dressed in Áo dài, to symbolise hope and well wishes for the bride and groom. This is followed by a toast from both sides of the family to signify the acceptance of the groom’s family to the bride’s house. The groom’s family will then introduce themselves and ask permission for their son to marry his bride, and also pray before their ancestors’ altars for a blessed marriage.

The ceremony ends with both parents taking turns to share their experience and give blessing to the young couple, along with the exchange of rings and gifts from family. Next is a party at the groom’s house, or in many cases now, restaurants or wedding halls. Expect to see a plethora of food, drinks, and karaoke!

What is the difference between traditional and modern weddings in Vietnam?

In the old days, marriage was arranged by parents or family members and the purpose was to create alliances between families in the community. A typical wedding party was organised in the family houses of the bride and groom. Family members and relatives were in charge of the preparation and as a witness to the grand event. During the wedding, there are several ceremonial parts; asking permission to receive the bride, receiving the bride at her house, and bringing the bride to the groom's house. As for the clothing, Áo dài used to be more common as compared to formal western clothing.

These traditions are no longer strictly practiced nowadays. A lot of Vietnamese would incorporate a more western style wedding without all the ceremonial aspects mentioned earlier. The family members are no longer obliged to do the preparation as some hired wedding cooks, decor specialists, singers and musicians for the wedding. The family-style organisation still exists in many provinces in Vietnam, but in HCMC, most couples organise their wedding parties in wedding halls or hotels.

Many hotels also offer wedding packages. High-end hotels in HCMC such as Park Hyatt Saigon, Intercontinental Asiana Saigon, the Majestic, Equatorial Hotel Saigon, and Caravelle have big, luxurious halls catered for wedding celebrations. For the clothing, wedding gowns and Tuxedos are now more commonly seen.

For information on marriage in Vietnam go to How to Get Married in Vietnam