The Pinoy’s Guide to Breezing Through A Vietnamese Wedding

Not a lot of people know this, but Vietnam has been home to many Filipinos in the past decade or so. Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi, and other cities and provinces have a large (and growing!) number of Pinoys working not only in the field of ESL but also in engineering and other professions. Living in Hanoi has taught me a lot about this country’s beautiful culture and tradition. But even after being here for almost ten years, I still find myself confused when caught in situations where I’m not sure how to properly react. Take attending a Vietnamese wedding for example.

A traditional wedding here takes at least four days, way longer than what we’re used to. And that’s not the only thing that could catch you off guard! Attending a close friend’s wedding allowed me to fully immerse in the entire festivity. As a foreign guest scared of committing an offensive faux pas, I made sure I was well briefed on what was expected of me. Here are a few notes a Filipino guest might find useful.

  • Dress code was dressy casual (read: practically non-existent), but considering the countless photo ops, I would still recommend coming dressed to the nine.
  • Except for about 30 minutes of the cake slicing, wine-tasting, and very short speeches from the parents, all done while people were already digging into their lunch, there was no program. This is eat-and-run heaven. Just make sure you line up for a photo with the couple before leaving.
Vietnamese wedding
  • In parties like this, Vietnamese dishes are served in stages, like a course meal. Be warned, however, that rice is often brought in last or not at all. If, like any self-respecting Pinoy, you really need rice, you may request one of the waiters to serve it earlier. 
Vietnamese wedding
  • In a Vietnamese wedding, the couple traditionally expect gifts in cash, instead of in kind, which I found to be very convenient. I was told and was, at first, anxious, that they have unwritten but quite specific rules regarding how much the red envelope should contain, depending on the depth of one’s relationship to the bride or groom. But, in reality, like in any other country, it’s the thought that counts and the couple would appreciate anything given from the heart.
  • Vietnam-made vodka is very strong. Learn to “sip”, instead of “gulp” every time someone proposes a toast, which will happen in a Vietnamese wedding far more often than you expect.
The author and her husband with the newly weds, Linh and Hung.
Contessa Abapo

More about Contessa Abapo

Contessa, who hails from Cebu City, Philippines, now lives in Hanoi, Vietnam where she helps ESL students prepare for the IELTS exam. In her downtime, she engages in fierce political debates, nitpicks on grammar mistakes of her Facebook friends, and cries over silly rom-com grand gestures. She's totally bereft of any ounce of culinary skill which is unfortunate as her life-long ambition is to drown herself in pastry. IELTS teacher. Passionate Argumentator. Well-meaning Grammar Nazi. Rom-Com Fanatic. Unapologetic Sweet Tooth.

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