The planning of a Vietnamese wedding starts with the determination of a “suitable” date for the marriage ceremony by a Buddhist monk or a well respected fortune teller.. Following the instructions of these spiritual identities will guarantee the couple a prosperous and happy marriage. The more traditional Vietnamese will also incorporate an Engagement Tea Ceremony where the groom’s family would visit the bride’s family with gifts as dowry to ask for their daughter’s hand in marriage, but most modern Vietnamese couples will skip this Engagement Tea Ceremony altogether.
TIPS FOR THE COUPLE
Altar Location - For photographic reasons, choose an altar location where a big window is facing the altar instead of to the sides, this will allow light to hit both families evenly. Make sure the tea ceremony area gets as much natural light as possible.
Preparation - Do not wait until the morning of the wedding to start setting up the altar and the general tea ceremony area. Make sure to remove as much unnecessary furniture as possible to give room for your guests. Your photographer would rather photograph family and friends hanging out instead of rushing to set up so do everything well in advance!
Details - Have your photographer and videographer get detail photos and videos after the ceremony and have them focus more on bridal preparation and interactions among bridesmaids and family members.
Representative - Designate one person on either side as your representative, this person is responsible for leading the ceremony. Give them an order of event in advance so that they know what to expect.
Posture - Stand up straight during the ceremony and do not chew gum.
Don’t Rush - The mothers always rush when they put on jewelry for the bride, remind her to take her time and do it with a smile. If a piece of jewelry is too complicated to put on, have someone else put it on then ask mother to pretend putting it on for the photo and video team.
Smile Often - Remind everyone to smile often. When concentrated on a task, we forget to smile, so when you’re helping someone getting dressed or putting on jewelry, do it with a smile!
Strike a Pose - Remind your family members and guests to pose for a photo after they have received their tea and given their gifts.
Photos Before Feasting - Make sure to get family, wedding party, and couple portraits before releasing everyone for the reception. Once people sit down to eat, their clothes will wrinkle and their motivation for photos will be at the minimal.
Traditionally, on the morning of the wedding day, the bride will get ready at her parent’s house and the groom will get ready at his house. As dowry or a representation of wealth and luck, the groom’s family is to prepare gifts including but not limited to the following: a whole roast pig, fruits, cakes, and jewelry for the bride.
THE ARRIVAL (10-15 minutes)
The groom, his family, and close friends will then make their way to the bride’s house. There, the groom’s representative, usually the parents or another elderly family member, will knock on the bride’s parent’s door and ask for permission to come in and receive the bride. Once the bride’s family has agreed, the bridesmaids will line up outside of the house to await the groomsmen to line up in front of them and to receive the gifts. Once gifts are exchanged, the bridesmaids will take the gifts into the house followed by the groom’s parents, the groom, close family members, and then the groomsmen. Since the tea ceremony is usually held in the living room, space is always limited, for this reason, the bridesmaids and groomsmen will for the most part stay in the back to give room for the immediate family members.
THE FORMALITIES (10 minutes)
The ceremony will start with the bride’s representative giving words of welcome followed by the introduction of immediate family members. The groom’s representative will state their intentions and respond with words of appreciation and introduction of the groom’s side of the family.
THE TRADITION (10 minutes)
The fathers or representatives from both sides will each light a candle and bow to the altar as a sign of respect. The bride’s father will announce the entrance of the bride, at which time the bride’s mother will walk to where the bride has been waiting and walk her out to meet the groom and his family. The representative of the bride’s side will announce that the couple will light incense and bow to the altar to pay respect and ask for blessings from the ancestors. Sometimes, the couple will turn to the parents and bow, then bow towards each other. The couple will then exchange their wedding rings, however, in some instances, the couple sometimes opt to exchange rings at another church ceremony or at a separate American style ceremony.
THE TEA CEREMONY (20-30 minutes depending on the size of the families)
Typically, the best man holds the tea tray while the maid of honor pours the tea into two small tea cups. The couple then picks up the tea cups and offer tea to the family members starting with the eldest members such as the grandparents and the parents from both sides. After accepting and consuming the tea, the family members have their chance to present gifts and give words of encouragement, wisdom, and congratulations to the couple.
THE FAMILY PORTRAITS (10-20 minutes depending on size of the families)
Lining up in front of the altar or a decorative wall for photos is an absolute must in a Vietnamese wedding. You’d want to do this prior to releasing the family members to the reception. If space is limited, the outdoor is a great place for family group photos as well.
THE SHORT BREATHER (5-10 minutes)
The wedding party will quickly take a bathroom or water break to prepare for their photo session.
THE WEDDING PARTY PORTRAITS (10 minutes)
Not everyday do Vietnamese women dress up in the traditional Vietnamese Ao Dai, thus this is the perfect opportunity for photos.
GROOM AND BRIDE PORTRAITS (20 minutes)
This is pretty much the only opportunity the photographer will have to capture the groom and bride’s portraits, so remember to fit this segment into your day.
The tea ceremony ends with a feast, giving the groom’s side and the bride’s side the opportunity to socialize and get to know one another.