A wedding is an once-in-a-lifetime occasion... Well hopefully, but then again you do not know what will happen in this modern time. It is a memorable moment and everyone, especially the bride, wants everything to go as smoothly and perfectly as possible.
Before a wedding can take place, a proposal has to be made ahead of time. Just like the wedding, an engagement is important and in some places even more so. This is a little heads up to all the guys so make it thoughtful (it does not have to be extravagant). In some regions of Vietnam, like in the rural areas, it holds very true that the engagement is considered more important than the wedding. However, for people living in the city is depends on the family due to Western influence.
Vietnamese engagements tend to be very traditional with a lot of customs that tag along. You will notice that the engagement process will have some similarities in the next article when the groom and his family come to retrieve the bride after the wedding ceremony takes place. The engagement in Vietnam is different than in Western countries. It does not end after the guy proposes to the girl but continues until both families agree and officially celebrate the couple.
The process continues. Although, the guy does not have to ask the girl's family for approval before he pops the question to her, both families still have to get together to plan the engagement party when she agrees. There are families out there where is recommended the groom ask the family first.
This just shows that you respect the family and want their approval. As a result, the girl's family will like you and think more of you. Also, your future fiancée will think it is a little cute and sweet that you went to all the trouble of going through her family.
Even though she has accepted your proposal, it is not official yet. Next, both families have to pick a date for the engagement party. Usually in the past, the date is based on the couple's birth dates and its hours (for Feng Shui purpose) but today it is mostly dependent on whenever is convenient. Once the date has been set, each side of the family will pick a representative for the engagement ceremony.
The representative can be anyone that knows the family or a person in the family. When it comes to choosing a representative, that person needs to know the family, have good public speaking skills and a good reputation. This step should not bring you any difficulty.
A few days or week prior to the engagement, the fiancé's family has to get all the gifts for the fiancée's family ready. These gifts consist of jewelry, husband-and-wife cakes, betel leaves, areca nuts, wine, fruit, cake, tea, and a huge roasted pork (the whole animal). All of the gifts will be wrapped in red paper on a plate/tray. During this time, the fiancé will make sure the rings are size correctly.
On the fiancée's side, all she and her family have to do is get ready for the ceremony such as making sure the house is clean, decorating the place to make it look pretty (usually the decoration will be all in the color red, which stands for good luck/fortune), and the ancestors' altar all set up with fruits, tea, and incense sticks. In our culture, the woman tends to have less responsibility in the wedding process compared to the West.
Before hand, the fiancée will have gotten all her traditional clothes called Ao Dai, which are always custom made (the fiancé will do the same). Both of the fiancé and fiancée's outfits usually will be red or pink (this applies to the fiancée more).