Thursday, October 29, 2015

The BIG Wedding -- Hue's Traditions

While one of our reasons for returning to Vietnam was to attend our dear friend Vinh's wedding (Vinh is the TDTU Labor Relations Lecturer with whom we worked so closely when teaching last visit), we expected to be able to attend the parties that are hosted first by the bride's parents, then by the groom's parents and then often by the couple (see a pattern here -- make every one happy!).  In fact, Vinh and her family as well as the groom's family all invited us plus Helena and Joe (they are at TDTU teaching two Labor Relations classes this semester) to attend ALL the ceremonies -- both traditional and modern.

Vinh's family is from Hue.  Hue is often called the heart and soul of Vietnam as it is the location where most of the emperors lived (in amazing splendor).  Hue seems to take special pride in maintaining ancient traditions (many are Vietnamese Buddhist) and in preserving the ancient history, pagodas, temples, etc. of Vietnam.  Hue is where the Forbidden City/Imperial Palaces are located.  Much of this history was destroyed in the American War with fierce block-by-block fighting and USA bombing, but is slowly being re-built.  The Perfume River, the large traditional town market and other historical sites make Hue a real favorite not just for foreign tourists, but equally for Vietnamese on vacation.

We all arrived a couple of days early so we got to watch as Vinh's home was decorated, extended family arrived and special food was prepared.  The day before the wedding we eat a special meal with Vinh's family and Thinh (the spouse!) consisting of traditional foods that were also offered at the family ancestral shrine located on the top floor of the house (most Vietnamese houses strive to have several floors -- first floor for family gatherings and eating as well as oldest generation bedrooms, second floor with smaller living space and "parent's" bedroom, top floor for youngest generation and family ancestral shrine).  Bit-by-bit house was decorated in red with lots of beautiful floral birds, drapes, slogans. The families had a special joint lunch to finalize all the wedding plans -- more great food and fun.  The families had already met as part of the traditional engagement events -- even extended family, so the tone was way more fun than planning.

The day of the wedding we gathered with Thinh's family at the hotel lobby at 7:00am - in the morning - where all the groom's attendants (dressed in traditional men's ao dai) were assigned different traditional/symbolic offerings to carry (via car caravan) to Vinh's family house.  At this point Hollis got recruited (in his suit and tie!!) to carry one of the items as part of the procession.  Lots of photos were taken and we all loaded up into the caravan.

When we arrived at Vinh's street, every one climbed out (not easy for an old lady in an ao dai!) and Hollis and Thinh's oldest relative went to Vinh's house asking permission for us all to enter.  With permission, the entire procession entered the house and made our way up to the top floor to gather near the ancestral shrine -- Vinh's family on one side, Thinh's on the other side.  The father of each family made formal introductions of all family and both parents exchanged symbolic gifts.  At this point Vinh made her entrance wearing an incredibly beautiful red ao dai with an embroidered peacock.  Most elder family members (mostly grandmothers -- also wearing gorgeous ao dais), parents and Vinh and Thinh conducted a simple ceremony (of commitment).  Then the gift giving began in front of the shrine -- gold is traditional in Hue, so both Vinh and Thinh received rings, bracelets, etc.  At that point Vinh moved to the side of Thinh's family.  Wow!  For someone who does not do weddings, this was quite the experience -- we really do feel honored to have the families include us!

Afterwards everyone headed back downstairs  for tea and a light snack.  And lots of photos!  The entire day was photographed and videotaped to the max!

Finally we all headed to a large banquet hall where all the family, friends, co-workers (Vinh's father works at a bank in Hue, Vinh's mother is a renowned doctor of herbal and traditional medicine who also teaches) in Hue and beyond gathered for entertainment (professional and family -- seems like a lot of the men in this family SING WELL), food, drinking and more FUN.  It was one hell-of-a-party.
By 2:30pm we headed back to our hotel to collapse.

Next we travel by train to Thinh's home town to celebrate with his family as host.  So stay tuned!


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