As a foreigner working and living in Vietnam, I get invited to a lot of weddings. Vietnamese weddings are huge, and people invite just about everyone they know. However, I recently got invited to an engagement ceremony. This was unusual to me, since back home typically a friend will call and say “I got engaged!”, but in Vietnam the call to say “I’m getting engaged!”. It’s a planned ceremony, and much more intimate than weddings. My friend, Trinh, is actually a tour guide here at Vespa Adventures in Hoi An, Central Vietnam. I asked her about her love story, and it’s incredibly cute. Here’s Trinh’s story in her own words…
Our traditional engagement on the 4th, October, 2015
Our story: I met Roland on one of my tours with Vespa not too long before our engagement. I was supposed to drive another guest, but I couldn’t get the bike started so the driver- who was supposed to drive Roland suggested to swap so we did. So I was his guide, his driver and now he is going to be my guide, my driver for the rest of our lives.
(Roland pictured second to the right with Trinh working her magic on tour!)
We have been dating for awhile and one day, we were talking on the phone and he ended up asking if I would love to engage him. I was surprised and yes- I said. And our “adventure” to organize the engagement started. Roland is Swiss and as I know that in the West, when a man proposes to a woman and if she said yes, that means they are engaged… but in Viet Nam, the man’s family is supposed to come and ask the woman’s family to engage her. So I explained to Roland, and we started to plan our engagement. I first told my parents about this and I could see how happy they were when they heard it. My dad went to the fortune teller the next day right the way to ask for a good day, good time- that what we Vietnamese always do when we have any special occasion such as: engagement, wedding, funerals, building a new house or getting a new motorbike, new car…The idea of doing this is to make sure everything goes well, good luck and nothing bad would happen. And the date is given by the Lunar Calendar but not Solar Calendar. So dad gave us the date and time and luckily it was on Sunday so Roland didn’t have to ask for a day off. Date and time were chosen, so we continued to get all the ‘’traditional presents’’ ordered.
Engagement is supposed to happen at the woman’s house. And the man’s family need to bring some ‘’traditional presents’’ to offer to the woman’s family to engage her. People normally bring 5, 7 or 9. We decided to do 5 as a lot of people do. They were: 1-Betel leaves, areca nut. 2- Fruits. 3- Nem, cha. 4- Tea, rice wine. And the 5th is the money and jewelry. Because the woman’s family will pay for the party after the ceremony the man’s family will give some money to share the party with her family. And jewelry normally are earrings. The woman wear the earrings so people can tell that she is taken, not available anymore. And we also bought rings. In Viet Nam, men can also wear engagement rings. So we went to the shop to order them and make sure we are doing it right.
(Roland’s colleagues represented as his family to come to my house. We chose the day quite quick and his family couldn’t make it here to join us. But for sure, we will have them with us at our wedding). Apart from “his family”, we arranged 5 boys to help to bring the 5 traditional presents to my house and of course I have already had my 5 beautiful girlfriends in traditional Ao Dai to receive the presents. (Some people believe if you help someone to give and receive presents on engagement or wedding, you lose the luck of your love. So to avoid it, I gave them some lucky money in red envelopes and they were happy to receive them). I was in my room, very nervous I have to say. Excited but nervous and a bit worried.
People came to my house and my dad called me out. I opened the door and Roland held my hand to come to the middle of the house for the ceremony. We first burnt the candles on and started to give rings and earrings. After that, Roland expressed his feelings by telling people about his mom’s letter for us before our engagement. She went to Hoi An 5-6 years ago and never has thought her son will be getting married a girl from here and it is happening. She was really happy for us and sent us her love as well as saying that she was really looking forward to see us next year in Switzerland. I knew that he nearly cried so I held his hand tight and helped him to translate to everyone. And the ceremony ended perfectly.
We started to go out to have some photos with family, friends while people were preparing the foods and drinks. We had so much food. My family and neighbor woke up in the early morning and even a few days before to prepare all the food. We went to every table to cheer and we didn’t forget to say thank you to everyone who came and shared with us this special day.
That’s it. We had some difficulties at first because different people have different experiences and different way to celebrate an occasion here, so we didn’t know who should we listen to. But we made it. I am glad Roland respects and understands the culture quite well so he didn’t mind following some traditional rules. (He went to the alley to my house at 9 but he couldn’t come to my house because the fortune teller asked him to be here at 9.10. So “wait Mr.Roland-10 more minutes!’’) We glad we had our family and best friends with us and to me, it was an unforgettable day. I enjoyed it so much. Seeing the happy face of my mom, my dad, my family and my friends as the first time I see it was unbelievable. I am lucky to have met someone like Roland in my life and we would love to share with you our experience of our engagement ceremony and hope you enjoyed it.
Thank you for reading.
P/S: Vespa brought us together. Maybe Vespa will find you love???
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