My fiancée and I decided to have a traditional Vietnamese engagement ceremony so that our parents could get a chance to meet. We wanted to host a ceremony that faithfully captures the essence of Vietnamese traditions, and infuse it with elements of Christianity. The thing is: neither of us are very traditional, so preparing for this event meant doing lots of research! Hopefully this will help couples plan their event in the future.
It begins with the groom and his family making their way over to the bride’s house. Men from the groom’s side each carry a tray, called mâm quả. Traditionally, there are an even number of trays, a roasted pig, and a tea set.
The groom’s parents knock on the door, and a representative from the bride’s family greets them, and tells the groom’s family to wait while the bride gets ready.
My little brother led off the line-up with the tea set. The rest of the gifts are in trays, 16-inches in diameter. Gifts can include:
- Betel and Areca – trầu cau, symbolic of marriage in Vietnamese culture
- Fruit – this is usually the heaviest!
- Sticky Rice
The bridesmaids line up outside of the house and accept the gifts from the groom’s family.
The bridesmaids bring the gift inside so that the groom’s family (in my case, my mother) presents them to the bride’s family.
The next part is the family introductions: a representative from each family introduces the members of their respective families. Once introductions are done, the bride is brought in to meet her new in-laws.
Since our two families are Christian, we invited our pastor to share a few encouraging words.
Next, my mother presented the bride-to-be with jewelry. Traditionally, the bride is given a pair of earrings and an engagement ring. In our case, we commissioned some pieces to be made in Vietnam – specifically the three gold necklaces.
We concluded the ceremonial portion by serving tea to our parents.
Afterwards, guests were invited to stay for a small meal. We had family members helping out non-stop in the kitchen!
At the end of the ceremony, the bride’s takes half of the gifts (that’s why you bring two of everything!) and gives it back to the groom’s family.
To finish up, here’s a close-up of my fiancee’s outfit: a modern take on the traditional áo dài.
… and a happy-couple picture!