Special features of some ethnic minority wedding ceremonies in Northern Vietnam
Vietnam has 54 ethnic groups, mainly living in mountainous areas and having their own unique wedding ceremonies. Let’s look at some wedding preparations by a few ethnic minority groups in the northeastern and northwestern regions of Vietnam.
Nearly 30 ethnic minority groups have long settled in the mountainous areas along the banks of the Red River. The climate in this region is often harsh and unforgiving, but all of them are at liberty to follow their own ancient customs and traditions. Young couples are free to find love and happiness without being forced to marry and committed to living together.
The custom of “dragging a wife” is practiced widely and involves a ceremonial procession to showcase and glorify beauty, particularly the colorful traditional ethnic minority costumes. For example, on the way to her husband’s house, a Red Dao bride will hide her face behind a large red brocade cloth, while the musicians escorting her beat drums and play a reed oboe known as the "ken".
Hmong people only get married to those they love and it is common for a Hmong girl to leave her home to follow her lover. The unique custom of “wife-abduction” is still practiced today in many Hmong communities. When a young man comes to abduct a girl, she must still be seen to “resist” him in order to prove her value, even though she consents to the match.
On a bright moonlit night, a Hmong man will lean a ladder against his lover’s window and play her a romantic tune on a khen (bamboo mouth organ), a primitive reed instrument made from forest leaves. When the girl opens her window, he will climb up the ladder, seize her and run off into the forest with her.
After spending three days together, the couple will return home and ask their parents’ permission to get married. Members of the Hmong ethnic minority are not allowed to marry people who bear the same family name, as this is considered being relatives.
Young men of the Thai ethnic minority have to stay at their prospective bride's house for three months before the wedding can take place. During this time he is only permitted to sleep in the male guest room.
Following this three-month test period, if the girl’s family is pleased with the young man, he is allowed to live at the girl’s house for three years until the official wedding ceremony. After that, the man has to remain at his wife’s house for anything from one to 10 years more before he can take her home to live at his family house.
Young Ha Nhi people often cover themselves with blankets when they are singing love songs and getting to know each other. Ha Nhi rules for unmarried girls are extremely strict, and intimate contact between young men and women is not permitted. Nonetheless, young people are free to marry the person of their choice.
Ha Nhi people hold two wedding ceremonies. The first celebrates the announcement of the marriage to parents and relatives, after which the bride begins to call herself by her husband’s last name. After the couple have had a family and saved up enough money, the husband is required to organize a second wedding ceremony.
A Giay bride must hang up a mosquito net and sleep outside her husband’s house for three nights in order for her to become acquainted with the Kitchen God and the Earth God of her husband’s house.
Several ethnic minorities, including the Thai, Dao and Muong, also practice a strange custom known as the “sleep- visit,” which permits a young man to “pry open the door” and pay a “sleep- visit” to a girl of marriageable age in whaich he is interested. If he arrives at the girl’s house and finds that the light is still on, this means she has no other visitor and is free to receive him.
The young man is only permitted to lie down next to the girl and talk to her; they are not allowed to touch each other. After a period of time, the girl can decide whether to let him “actually sleep” with her or not. But before this happens the couple must ask their parents to check the harmony of their ages.
Ethnic minority wedding ceremonies in the north eastern and north western regions of Vietnam which are of profound traditional cultural value need to be preserved and developed.
Source: Vietnam Cultural Window/VOVOnline