12 Vietnamese Wedding Traditions and Rituals

One of my favorite things to do, especially around my wedding anniversary, is to look through photos of my wedding dress, ceremony, and reception.

I love to check out the videos of my first dance with my husband and the photos of our friends dressed up as bridesmaids and groomsmen.

I’ve always wanted to visit Vietnam and learn about that fascinating culture. When it comes to weddings, what are a few of the most fun and exciting Vietnamese wedding traditions out there?

I’ve done a fair amount of research and found 12 of the most popular Vietnamese wedding traditions and rituals.

Check out the list below to learn the fun traditions found at an average Vietnamese wedding.

12 Vietnamese Wedding Traditions and Rituals

Below, I have put together a list of 12 fun and exciting Vietnamese wedding traditions, including:

  • The engagement ceremony
  • Picking a suitable wedding date
  • Engagement photographs
  • The wedding tea and candle ceremony
  • Traditional Vietnamese wedding attire
  • The wedding processional
  • Vietnamese wedding ceremony
  • Vietnamese wedding reception
  • Classic colors and meaningful decorations
  • Honoring one’s elders
  • The traditional foods and drinks at the reception
  • Lion dancers at the reception

1. The Engagement Ceremony

An engagement ceremony in Vietnamese culture includes the groom’s parents leading a procession or line to the bride’s childhood home to visit her family and ask for the bride to marry the groom. The groom’s family brings an even number of gifts, which come in red tin containers with a red cloth covering them.

Once the bride’s family approves of the engagement, they invite the groom’s parents and relatives inside to exchange gifts. The groom has to offer these presents before seeing his bride.

2. Picking a Favorable Wedding Date

Choosing a wedding date that works well is one of the first things an engaged Vietnamese couple and their families complete. For Vietnamese families, picking the correct wedding date is especially important, as it needs to have meaning and relate to success.

The bride and groom’s parents take them to the local temple to find the perfect time and date for the wedding. Many factors are considered, such as:

3. Engagement Photographs

Most engaged couples take engagement photographs in their wedding attire when following Vietnamese tradition. The surprise of seeing each other in their wedding attire does not occur on the wedding day.

Instead of having a first look or seeing the bride coming down the aisle for the first time in her dress, Vietnamese couples see each other in their wedding outfits during their engagement photo session. In Vietnamese culture, the groom often goes dress shopping with the bride when she picks out her wedding dress.

4. The Wedding Tea and Candle Ceremony

A traditional Vietnamese wedding ceremony involves a tea ceremony and a candle ritual. During the tea ceremony, the bride and groom present tea to their parents and grandparents. The elders then accept the tea, which is their way of showing their acceptance of the marriage. Then, the family members provide advice for a long and happy marriage.

Now, incense is offered to the bride’s ancestors to introduce the groom to the family. The candle lighting ritual is next. The bride and groom light a dragon and phoenix candle to commemorate the bonding of their union. The dragon represents life and growth, while the phoenix represents good luck, love, happiness, and social position.

5. Traditional Vietnamese Wedding Attire

One of the most traditional and eye-catching aspects of the Vietnamese wedding is the wedding dress or outfit called Ao Dai. Both the bride and groom wear the Ao Dai during the Vietnamese wedding ceremony and often at the reception. They make the rounds during the reception greeting guests in the Ao Dai outfits.

The wedding outfit has a top that goes down to the floor and a pair of pants in an identical color. Furthermore, the outfit includes a circular hat called a Khan Dong. The wedding outfit with the hat has bright colors like bright red, gold, and blue.

6. The Wedding Processional

The wedding day begins with a processional line. The groom’s family and friends make a procession that starts at the groom’s home. Then, the entire line of people walks down to the bride’s house.

However, when that becomes impractical, the groom’s family and friends form the processional line a few blocks away from the bride’s home. The parents of the groom or an older couple of the family stand at the front of the line.

The groom stands at the end of the line with a flower bouquet. The rest of the guests bring gifts in the form of fruits, rice, and treats.

7. Vietnamese Wedding Ceremony

It’s also important to note that Vietnamese-American couples and others living in Western society tend to take on a more typical wedding ceremony after the tea and candle ceremony.

After the tea and candle ceremony, the bride wears a white dress, and the groom puts on a tuxedo to often have a ceremony in a Catholic church. Sometimes, the Western-style wedding ceremony takes place at a different venue.

8. Vietnamese Wedding Reception

The Vietnamese wedding reception often follows a similar format to a reception in Western culture. The reception involves:

  • A first dance
  • Parent dances
  • Toasts
  • Cutting of the cake
  • Dancing

However, the wedding may include a few more fun things, like games and extra desserts. Another difference is the welcome photos, where brides and grooms take photographs with each guest in the entryway. The bride and groom also visit each table to greet their guests and welcome them to their ceremony.

9. Traditional Colors and Meaningful Decorations

The Vietnamese wedding includes traditional colors and meaningful decorations, such as a traditional altar with gold and red colors to signify happiness and love. Further, the altar has incense, candles, and double-happiness symbols.

Sometimes, Vietnamese couples also decorate a customized background for their welcome photos. That often includes floral designs and other patterns that create a memorable and impressive display.

10. Honoring One’s Elders

Another crucial part of a traditional Vietnamese wedding is honoring the ancestors and elders on both sides. Brides and grooms honor the elders multiple times in meaningful ways throughout the wedding day.

For example, the bride and groom serve hot tea to the parents, grandparents, and even aunts and uncles. The serving of tea exemplifies respect for the elders. The couple also bows twice to their parents during the wedding ceremony.

11. The Traditional Foods and Drinks at the Reception

The typical Vietnamese wedding has plenty of food to serve throughout the night and Cognac to drink during the reception. A bottle of Cognac usually sits at each table. Younger guests may even play drinking games.

Further, the typical wedding reception includes at least eight courses served family-style. You can expect the dinner to have sticky rice, boiled chicken, braised meat, and crunchy spring rolls. The bride and groom visit each table to thank the guests for coming.

12. Lion Dancers at the Reception

Lastly, many traditional Vietnamese wedding receptions have lion dancers. That involves a dancer wearing a giant lion costume similar to the dragon costumes you see during the Chinese New Year.

The lion dancer performance blesses the newly married couple, so they have a long and joyful marriage.

Vietnamese Wedding FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Below, you will learn the answers to a few of the most common questions about Vietnamese wedding traditions.

Who pays for a traditional Vietnamese wedding?

The immediate family members of the bride and groom, which often includes the parents, give monetary gifts for the wedding. The money is sometimes enough to pay for the entire Vietnamese wedding.

How much money should you gift at a Vietnamese wedding?

Usually, Vietnamese couples do not have a gift registry. Instead, they expect their wedding guests to give checks or cash to help pay for the wedding or provide financial assistance for the couple to start their life together.

To cover the costs of the wedding ceremony and reception, those invited should give about $100 per guest.

How long is a traditional Vietnamese wedding?

A traditional Vietnamese wedding can last anywhere from five to seven days. However, more modern couples have their ceremonies last anywhere from one to three days.

Why are Vietnamese wedding dresses red?

In Vietnamese culture, red symbolizes luck, love, happiness, and celebration. For this reason, the Vietnamese bride wears a red wedding dress at her morning tea ceremony.

What does a groom’s family pay for?

According to Vietnamese culture, the groom’s family pays for most of the wedding expenses. The groom’s family presents the couple with a monetary gift during the engagement ceremony.

The bride’s family visits the elders on their side to invite them to the wedding and send paper invitations. Then, those older family members from the bride’s side give red envelopes with generous monetary gifts at the wedding.