Come as you are: The booze and fun flows easily at a Vietnamese wedding. — VNS Photo Hồng Minh
by Peter Cowan
Weddings are joyous occasions worldwide, and each culture has its own way of celebrating love, usually with a good old-fashioned party.
Viet Nam is no exception but take it from me, Vietnamese wedding parties aren’t for the faint of heart.
Whether it’s pumping music, speeches you won’t understand or copious amounts of drinking, the experience can be overwhelming, for even the most seasoned party animal.
Have no fear though, because Viet Nam News is here to help you gird your loins, steel your nerves and prepare for a rip-roaring good time.
Attending a wedding in the west means a 12-hour day in your finest three-piece suit or fanciest dress, so in a word, it’s uncomfortable.
Luckily in Viet Nam, there’s no need to squeeze into your tightest corset or dress shoes.
While you should dress up to a degree, a nice pair of jeans and a shirt for men and a simple dress for women is perfectly acceptable at most weddings. Lots of Vietnamese guests will show up in polo shirts and trainers, so you don’t have to worry about being underdressed.
Of course, no one will complain if you do want to dust off that tuxedo, or throw on your finest ao dai (traditional Vietnamese long dress).
Choosing the right wedding gift can be a nightmare in the west.
You don’t want to get the happy couple something they already have, something another guest is buying or even worse, something they don’t want. While gift registries have made this somewhat less challenging, not every couple uses one.
In Viet Nam though, you don’t need to order knives from Amazon, trek down to the town centre for bedding or worry about getting the exact same food processor as uncle Kevin has.
That’s because in Viet Nam, most guests give the bride and groom cash as a wedding present, dropped into a box at the entrance to the party.
While this might seem a bit crass on the surface to westerners, it makes a lot of sense. For one, it’s very convenient for guests, all you need is an envelope and some money and your gift is ready. Secondly, it helps the bride and groom pay for all the food and drink their guests will consume and I’ve even known some couples who came out of their wedding in the black!
Be warned though, there’s a good chance that someone, whether it be the couple themselves or their families, will take note of how much you give, so don’t be stingy.
Do not, under any circumstances, eat a large breakfast before going to a Vietnamese wedding.
You simply don’t need it, as you’re about to be stuffed to the brim with mountains of some incredible homemade food.
The food served will vary depending on what part of the country you’re in, but no expense or effort will have been spared on the meal, whether it’s spring rolls, BBQ pork, delicious local vegetables, seafood, or hotpot, there’s bound to be something you’ll enjoy.
Of course, as this is Viet Nam there could be a few strange things to a western palate on the menu, so find out what exactly has been set in front of you, or you could end up accidentally slurping down on turtle soup!
The key ingredient to all great wedding parties is that tried and tested social lubricant: alcohol.
How else are you going to make it through an entire evening with Susie from accounting or the bride’s weird cousin who only wants to talk about his model train collection?
At Vietnamese weddings, rice wine is the order of the day, and it’s a large order. I’ve seen gallons of the stuff consumed over the course of a night, so be sure to pace yourself, especially if you’re one of the few westerners at the wedding, as every Tom, Dick and Harry (or their Vietnamese equivalent) will want to do a shot with you.
Be sure to brush up on your language skills before arriving too, as a few well-placed shouts of chuc sức khỏe (to your health) or mot, hai, ba, dzo! (one, two, three, go!) will go down a treat with your drinking buddies.
Unlike their equivalents in the west, Vietnamese weddings are mercifully short.
Instead of the festivities dragging on for hours, most guests get up and leave once they’ve had their fill of food and drink. If you really want, you can come and go in an hour, but there will be a few hardcore party animals staying into the wee hours to drink with.
Stay in Viet Nam long enough and interact with enough of the locals and you will be invited to a wedding before long, and that’s an invitation you should accept.
Vietnamese people are outrageously hospitable and friendly, especially at weddings. So dust off your finest polo shirt, grab your finest envelope and get ready for a fantastic night. — VNS