We have all been to a wedding at some time in our life. Across the world, the celebration of a union between two people is celebrated in churches, venues, and gardens, and is always a special moment in a person’s life, making a commitment to the one they love. And whilst Vietnam does have the same essential structure to a wedding, there is nothing quite like being part of a wedding in the countryside.
Family is important
Unlike in many countries, a Vietnamese wedding can often be broken up into sections and may run over weeks and months. The legal aspects of a wedding must be done in a government office in the hometown of one of the partners.
When it is a wedding between a foreigner and a Vietnamese person in Vietnam, the paperwork is, of course, done in the hometown of the Vietnamese person. However, when both people are Vietnamese, one must get a single certificate from their hometown and take it to the hometown of the other partner where the marriage paperwork is signed. This can take weeks and months to complete and is sometimes done well before, or after, the actual wedding.
Vietnamese are also big on tradition. This is another separate part of the wedding that is sometimes done on the day or sometimes on the day before the party. Essentially, it is the job of the groom to go to the home of the bride and deliver gifts of fruit and gold in order to seal the union of the couple. But, in this, there are a range of traditions depending on where you are from and your religion. The traditions can vary somewhat but they have one theme: family is important.
Recently, I had the privilege of joining a countryside wedding of my foreign friend in a small village some 20km south of Can Tho City in the Mekong Delta region. At 6:30 am, we took a bus from Can Tho with the groom, a Canadian, and traveled along back roads, over small bridges, and along roads barely big enough for a small car, let alone a bus.
On this day, we were to take part in the family celebration and wedding party at the same time. At 7:30 am, we arrived at a home on a back road in the village of Dong Phu. Even at such an early time on a Sunday, the music was at full volume, the sun was beaming across the street, and there was mayhem with the excitement of the bride getting married at home.
After a short ceremony of giving gifts at the front of the house, on the street with motorbikes rushing by, we entered the home that was full of well-dressed women and children running around between the tables that were set up for the wedding party.
In the back corner of the courtyard was a room set up to welcome the groom’s party. They entered and took a seat at the table, facing the bride’s family.
Feast in the morning
|Local food is served at a wedding party in the suburbs of Can Tho City, Vietnam. Photo: Ray Kuschert / Tuoi Tre News|
Following the traditional ceremony, we all sat down for a meal. At the unimaginable time of 8:30 am, a full range of meat and seafood was presented to the table. I could see boxes and boxes of beer placed beside tables and very quickly the floor began filling with empty bottles as the local men celebrated with as much beer as they could handle before 9:00 am. The music blasting out at full volume.
As the alcohol began taking effect, a man came to our table to ask us to drink with him. Thankfully, the four or five foreigners were, like me, unable to consume alcohol so we politely rejected the offer. However, there was an opportunity to celebrate with beers before breakfast had I chosen to join the local men.
The table of foreigners from Spain, Australia, USA, and Canada looked on in amazement and awe at the activities. People constantly came up and asked us to take photos with them. Children wanted to play with us, and there was this general sense of organized chaos as the 150 or more people ate and drank, sang and talked.
For the mother of the groom, who had only been in Vietnam a few days, it was her first time to Asia. The heat, chaos, and traditions were overwhelming but her astonishment and appreciation at seeing a moment in time could be seen. Not everyone visiting Vietnam gets to experience the traditional countryside wedding.
|A photo shows a table set up for a wedding party in the suburbs of Can Tho City, Vietnam. Photo: Ray Kuschert / Tuoi Tre News|
In the cities, a wedding at a venue hall is rather planned. It goes for less than two hours and it has a number of trained people to get guests in and out with a minimum of fuss. Indeed, it has become such a tradition that the presentation of the hotpot signals the end is near and people down the soup then head straight for the front door.
In the rural areas, a wedding just seems to have no rules. It can start at 7:00 am or 1:00 pm, it can go for two hours or all day, it can have speeches or not, but it always has beer and always has a group of men that make the most of the situation by coming together, no matter the time of the day.
You may have experienced a wedding in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi or another major city, but it is the traditional countryside wedding that will enlighten your sense of what it really means to be Vietnamese. Once you strip away the process, you get a feeling of what the connection of family, friends, and the local village means to people living in the countryside.
If you are ever invited to a countryside wedding, make sure you take up the opportunity with open arms. It will often be a two- or three-day trip but you will experience something that you will never see anywhere else in the world. You will learn so much about people and culture, and you will find a connection and love that make living in Vietnam a special privilege. Feel the timeless charm of Vietnam by experiencing a countryside wedding here.