Family Wedding and Civil Wedding


Remember the three pillars of Vietnamese society? When it comes to weddings, of course it’s a family affair. The Vietnamese regard the civil marriage as an ‘authorization’ from the government to get married’..
Remember the three pillars of Vietnamese society? When it comes to weddings, of course it’s a family affair. The Vietnamese regard the civil marriage as an ‘authorization’ from the government to get married’. So strong is their belief in the ‘family wedding’ as opposed to the civil one that the government actually had to pass a decree forbidding the holding of the family wedding ceremony before getting ‘the papers’. But be advised, those papers are the wedding. Once you’ve signed, you’re as married as it gets. But if your partner is Vietnamese, the fun has just begun. After the civil wedding will come the ‘engagement’ ceremony where elders of the groom’s family will meet elders from the bride’s family in order to exchange gifts and secure the authorization from both families to have their son/ daughter married. – But they’re married already! Maybe before the law, but not yet according to the traditions of a Confucian-based society. A ‘good day’ will then be chosen for the ceremony. It will be based on the lunar calendar and your respective astrological signs. It could be a few days after the engagement or up to a few months or even a year. Have we talked about patience yet? The final ceremony will involve both families and a few hundred friends and colleagues. Once a banquet has been held for all these people then, yes, you are husband and wife. The engagement and wedding ceremonies are highly colorful and full of interesting rituals. It is not the purpose of this book to delve into the complexities of these Vietnamese customs. Your future wife will guide you along this merry road. However, here are a few basic survival tips…as if one would need more advice once one has chosen to get married! Don’t think your foreigner status will exempt you from the government’s regulations on marriage and family law. The Vietnamese are proud of their achievements in this sector and they will resent any condescending attitudes or remarks.

A ‘good day’ will then be chosen for the ceremony

Don’t try to go faster than the civil servants handling your case… yes, it can sometimes be a bit tricky if you or your spouse don’t have all the necessary papers. But do you really want someone to put the brakes on and give you a real taste of stalled bureaucracy? Most clerks will be polite and even helpful if you treat them with respect. A lifetime commitment is certainly worth a few weeks of patience. Do remember that every culture has its customs which most of the time can look quite bemusing to an outsider. This is not the time to look down on and ridicule your partner’s beliefs and traditions. Just relax and enjoy the ride. You will find most people to be extremely helpful in guiding you through the rituals and explaining their meaning and importance. Do believe your future wife when she presents you with delays or additional difficulties. Again, most people will really do their best to welcome you into their family, but problems do happen. Let the Vietnamese solve the Vietnamese problems. Do be aware that Vietnamese women who go out with foreigners tend to be treated very badly by other Vietnamese. There is a natural tendency to believe that any – and especially any good-looking – Vietnamese girl who dates or marries a foreigner is a prostitute or bar girl. As sad as it may sometimes be, it is usually better to let the Vietnamese handle this between themselves. Intervening might make you feel better but it will quite surely make it worse for your partner.

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