flowers + reading
Jul 15, 2020
A Call-To-Action To Promote And Preserve the Vietnamese Wedding Tradition
Written by KimBang Nguyen | Dream Floral Art
As a budding wedding florist in Fairfax, Virginia, I love to execute floral designs for all kinds of weddings. My passion is to translate my clients’ vision for their special day into a beautifully decorated wedding. However, after doing multiple weddings, I realized that mere execution of my clients’ floral vision was not enough. In certain circumstances, I felt a desire to ask my clients to incorporate Vietnamese wedding tradition to make their wedding more meaningful, and to help preserve their cultural heritage. What better way to preserve memories and your past than through wedding pictures to share with generations to come!
This inspiration motivated me to evolve my wedding floral business to not only focus on doing weddings, but to have an intentional focus on Vietnamese weddings because of my Vietnamese heritage.
The pivot of my business began in 2018. After consultations with several Vietnamese brides-to-be, I was surprised at how many brides opted not to incorporate the Vietnamese wedding traditions. Their reasons for not including traditional customs on their wedding day included feeling it was too complicated and there were not enough local resources to help with the necessary preparation. After hearing this story several times, I had a light bulb moment and told myself that I would become the resource needed in my area to help brides navigate and better understand the Vietnamese wedding tradition. To make this happen, I needed to learn what the tradition entailed and I also needed all the necessary wedding props that accompany the customs. I decided to travel to Vietnam, so I quickly arranged a trip in early 2019 to scour the market in Hanoi to buy all the necessary props required to make an authentic Vietnamese wedding. Throughout 2019, my inventory of goods kept growing as I made my children carry back wedding props each time they returned from Vietnam.
What is the Vietnamese wedding tradition and customs?
The Vietnamese wedding tradition is very colorful and full of meaningful symbols. Everything from the Vietnamese wedding dress, the “ao dai”, to the extensive “tea ceremony” are a great representation of beauty and richness within the Vietnamese culture.
The traditional wedding custom in Vietnam today is long and involves several rituals, including a proposal ceremony, an engagement ceremony, and then a wedding ceremony in a span of several celebrations. But today, outside of Vietnam, couples are combining rituals to save time and to keep things simple. In the United States, the proposal ceremony has been pretty much eliminated and the engagement ceremony is now mostly combined on the wedding day.
The wedding day traditionally begins with the groom’s parents leading a procession to the bride’s family home where the groom and his family will ask for the bride’s hand in marriage. The procession includes the groom’s family and friends carrying “gifts” in tin baskets or in “mâm qua”. The gifts are received and accepted as approval of the request for the bride’s hand in marriage. After receiving acceptance, the groom and his family are invited inside to exchange gifts and proceed with the wedding ceremony.
The tea ceremony usually involves setting up an altar for the occasion with all the trimmings of an elaborate decoration, including candle holders, incense burner, tea service, pastry, seasonal flowers and exotic fruits, including a large gold plated sign called Song Hỷ, or “double-joy” bestowed on two people and two families. It is here that the couple pay respect to their parents, grandparents and ancestors, ask for their blessings, and offer gratitude for their gifts of life. It is here that they pledge to each other their unbounded love, patience, and understanding. It is here they promise to be a worthy member of their new family. In many instances, this in-home ceremony takes the place of religious and civil services. The tea ceremony combines the celebration of marriage with honoring the family’s ancestors and relatives. This makes it one of the most compelling and emotional components of a Vietnamese wedding.
One of the most iconic symbols of the Vietnamese wedding is the Vietnamese wedding dress or the ao dai. The ao dai is a traditional dress symbolizing beauty, elegance, and Vietnamese identity. The ao dai is worn by both the bride and groom during the Vietnamese wedding ceremony and/or during the reception as the couple makes their rounds to greet and thank their guests. The ao dai has a fitted top with floor length panels and a pair of accompanying pants. With ao dai, the bride and groom will often wear a circular headdress or crown called a “khan dong”. To bring a touch of modernity to the bride’s attire, I created my own twist to the traditional fabric “khan dong” by using fresh flowers instead. Through social media, I have seen what an inspiration this little change has made to elevate the beauty of this tradition.
Currently, there are over 2.2 million Vietnamese in the United States and we represent the fourth-largest Asian American ethnic group in the nation. South Vietnamese immigration to the United States began after the Vietnam war in 1975. More than half of Vietnamese Americans reside in the states of California and Texas. In Virginia, the number of Vietnamese Americans is close to 60,000.
In the last two years, I have been obsessed with doing styled shoots to showcase the beauty and uniqueness of the Vietnamese wedding tradition. There are so many wedding blogs with beautiful inspiration, but I find what is lacking in the industry is diversity in cultural inspiration. I believe that if more cultural style inspiration is available on social media such as Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook, more brides-to-be will be inspired to embrace cultural pride.
I wake up every day with excitement and a passion for flower design, but with a purposeful passion to help preserve my Vietnamese heritage. I hope to spread my “Let Culture Blossom” campaign to inspire and foster a movement to keep alive the Vietnamese wedding tradition.
Photography: Jessica Lapp Photography
Make-up and hair: Gabby and Martha
Dress designer: Dream Dresses by P.M.N.
Click here to listen to our podcast interview with KimBang Nguyen and learn more about her passion to highlight Vietnamese culture in the floral industry.