Engagement Ceremony | Le Dinh Hon

Traditionally, when the boy wants the girl’s hand in marriage, his family has to come to the girl’s family to ask for her hand. In our case, he received blessing from his parents and then he went to my mother’s house by himself. After three hours of motherly lecturing, my mother gave him her blessing. The following is a description of the traditional engagement ceremony… to the best of what I’ve learned through my family, hehe. By the way, I am half Chinese and half Vietnamese, so what I know will be a mixture of the two cultures. Every family is different, but the basic "steps" are there. Google "le dinh hon" and you’ll see all the variations.

screenshot courtesy of google.com

In the culture of Vietnamese weddings, the engagement event is considered most important. Before the event, each family chooses a representative. Typically, the representative is a married couple and the man of the couple actually does the representating (women apparently just sit there). The representatives control the conversation between both families. They also set the date for the wedding, which is usually advised by a fortune teller based on the couple’s birthdates. Western brides will sometimes surpass the right date out of convenience.

Before the engagement, the groom’s family prepares gifts for the bride’s family. The bride’s family asks for certain things, a dowry, from the groom’s family in order for them to "give up" the daughter. Technically, the bride’s family can ask for all kinds of lavished materials, such as jewelry, cash, or individual cakes for wedding guests. Regardless of material requests, there are some traditional gifts that the bride’s family asks for good luck. These gifts are usually betal leaves, nut fruits, wine, tea, jewelry, and other food. They are usually wrapped in red cellophane since red is the color of love and luck.

The bride’s family holds a formal engagement party for only relatives of both families to meet each other. This typically occurs as a "ceremony" on the day of the wedding. It can also take place well before the wedding, but we chose to go the traditional route have the engagement ceremony (see also tea ceremony) be on the same day as our wedding ceremony.

On the day of the engagement, the following events occur:

  • The groom leaves his family’s home with his groomsmen and family to go to the home of the bride’s family. He brings all of the red gifts with him.
  • When the groom gets to the bride’s home, the bridesmaids barricade the door and ask the groom for money to marry the bride. He usually cannot supply the dollar amount and so the girls humiliate him by putting him through a series of games.
  • Once the groom successfully achieves the tasks set forth by the bridesmaids, he is allow in the house (this is usually at the auspicious time.)
  • The groom-to-be’s representative asks the bride-to-be’s representative for her hand in marriage. The bride’s mom then gives her away. In Asian cultures, the daughters are given away by mothers, not fathers. They are closer to their mothers.
  • The bride’s family will accept the gifts and the couple pray to the bride’s ancestors out of respect for allowing the two to be wed. They do this by lighting incense to the altars kept in Asian homes honoring ancestors.
  • Then, the groom’s mother presents the bride’s mother with earrings. Earrings are more important than the wedding ring. The bride’s mom puts the earrings on the bride; however, it can be a courtesy that the bride’s mom asks the groom’s mom to do one side and both mothers place the earrings on the bride.
  • The groom’s mother then places a necklace on the bride.
  • After the jewelry is placed on the bride, the bride and groom offer tea to the bride’s immediate family, starting with the oldest couple (man first) and so forth.

At this point, they are both to accept their in-laws as family. If the engagement ceremony takes place on the day of the wedding, they continue with the wedding ceremony–more tea!

Other sources of tradition:
Vietnam Budget Tour

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