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Nguyen in Vietnam

Nguyen in Vietnam shares Huong, Hanh and Hieu’s first visit to Vietnam. Though our family’s visit was to attend our cousin’s wedding, we arrived about a week beforehand to see the sights. Hanh got to try ice cream, we visited extended family, and probably most notable Huong talks about her disappointment of not having gone to the beach, which I think any young child can relate too. This is what happens when you think you’re going to the beach:

This is what actually happened at Phan Rang, the sand dunes. Despite our frustration, the day was quote fun and probably the most unique and memorable part of our trip.

As mentioned, we had come for our cousins’ wedding. This is Hieu before she began walking down the aisle and the waterworks began.

While Huong was young, she noticed that there were some aspects of the wedding that differed from what she had seen of weddings on American television.

1. Dam Hoi (Engagement)

Traditionally, this is done months before a wedding, but our mom says that oftentimes Vietnamese families now do this one or two days or even the morning before the Dam Cuoi (wedding).

Whenever it’s chosen to take place, if it’s still chosen to be done, the groom’s family makes a trip to the bride’s home with gifts to ask permission to receive the bride. The procession is led by the groom and his parents and groomsmen carrying (an odd number) of red trays covered with a red cloth. Each tray represents the wealth the groom’s side of the family will bring. Odd numbers and red are both symbols of good luck in Vietnamese culture.

Meanwhile, the bride’s family and bridesmaids (matching the number of groomsmen) stand in front of their ancestral altar, ready to receive the gifts. Usually there is incense to honor the ancestors, sometimes tea to drink, and then an exchange of words from the fathers on both sides. These could be words of praise, thanks, advice, or well wishes to the future couple.

A reception can follow, or in some cases a Catholic ceremony begins soon after that afternoon.

2. Dam Cuoi (Wedding)

In Vietnam, our cousin decided to have the wedding the next morning at one a cathedral. This format was the same as the typical American wedding with a procession of flower girl(s) and bridesmaids, followed by a full mass, and exchange of vows. Guests would leave and return later in the evening for the wedding reception, which had an even larger guest list.

One thing to note was that my cousin decided to have 10 flower girls which is atypical, but her way of being extra. How did Hieu feel about it? You remember her expression, right?

The reception that evening followed the same format as a typical American reception. An emcee welcomed the new bride and groom, there were parent dances, cake cutting, toasts, and plenty of wine! One of the most important aspects that differs from American weddings is that the bride and groom make rounds at each table to thank their guests. At this time, guests often present the bride and groom with red envelope gifts.

After the wedding, the rest of the family spent more time with one another. We went to Da Lat to see a waterfall. Unfortunately we cannot recall which one. Fortunately, there are many and you can view as many as you’d like.

This was Huong and Hanh inside a museum. While we preferred not to be in a museum, and well-conditioned building was welcomed, we still learned about the Vua (or Emperors) of Vietnam. Vietnam had various emperors and had many ornate attires such as elaborately embroidered tunics and hand painted porcelain tea sets.

BTW the twinning is by choice :)


Growing Up Nguyễn is a story of four siblings holding onto our identity while fulfilling our parents’ dreams: the blessings and challenges of being Nguyễn in America.

You can listen to Chapter 6 of Growing Up Nguyễn Anchor, Spotify, Apple, Google, and other podcasting platforms.

For the Chapter 6: Nguyễn in Vietnam transcript, click here. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram: @growing.up.nguyen @huong.kong @karinflair @heezy_nygen @its_benguinooo

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