Getting Married to a Vietnamese Citizen in Vietnam: A Comprehensive Guide

Married to a Vietnamese Citizen

Planning to tie the knot with a Vietnamese citizen in Vietnam? This comprehensive post covers everything you need to know about the legal requirements, paperwork, and process for getting married in Vietnam. From obtaining the necessary documents to navigating cultural customs, we've got you covered. Start your journey towards a beautiful wedding ceremony in Vietnam today.

In Vietnam, cultural norms and Vietnamese law dictate that for a foreigner to live with a Vietnamese citizen, they must be married.

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The following information reflects the cultural and historical norms of Vietnamese relationships and its etiquette. Depending on many factors including a person’s age, whether the parents have passed away, kids have grown and moved on as well as a person’s occupation your mileage may vary!

Marriage, Dating And Weddings In Vietnam

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Marriage History In Vietnam
Marriage in Vietnam is regarded as being a permanent situation and traditionally the brides are expected to be virgins when they get married. Traditionally couples are been expected to marry people within their village and class with marriage to familial cousins or within the extended families being frowned upon within the culture. Married couples have traditionally been expected to live with the husband’s parents until they could afford a place of their own. In Vietnam in the old days, it's fascinating that the bride was usually several years older than the groom. This reasoning was because it was thought that an older woman was stronger and would be more able to perform farming chores. Interestingly, it was believed an ugly woman, who could work, was often considered a better catch than a beautiful one who couldn’t work.

In the past men have traditionally married between 20 and 30 years of age, and women between 18 and 25 years. In Vietnam when Vietnamese marry, the woman doesn’t change her family names. So, within a family typically you will see different last names but the children will carry the father’s last name. Monogamy is expected to be observed during marriage—at least among the wives anyway.

The family of the groom has to approve of the marriage and will organize the wedding for him. After the wedding party is completed, the bride will go live with her husband’s family. The Vietnamese people, who also called Viet people or Kinh people, attach much importance to fidelity and the virtues of the bride.

Traditionally, Vietnamese marriages were arranged with the help of matrimonial agents (mai-dongs), who brought the two families together and arranged the amount of the wedding dowry (bride price). The woman did not pay any marriage dowry, and it was the groom who paid for the wedding presents, brought to the now common family his fortune of rice fields and cattle, and often even had to pay money to the wife’s family. In return, his compensation was comparatively small with gifts like a tobacco jar, for example, or a box for betel nuts, or a cigarette case.

The usual wedding ceremony was quite simple: In a traditional ceremony, the future husband and wife came together, expressing their mutual commitment and shared their company by chewing betel nuts. This custom symbolizes the beginning of their journey as a married couple. Though Confucian tradition allows the husband to take lesser wives (theoretically to be chosen for him by the first wife), economic realities (and relatively innocuous modern laws) now force him to be content with one at a time. O’Harrow (1995) reports also that to give a woman a piece of fine jewelry in Vietnamese tradition is to help confirm her independence as a human being, and for a mother to hand over a piece of her jewelry to her daughter is a universally understood gesture, for which the subtext is “may this protect you from misery.” But nowadays, divorce is increasingly easy to obtain.

Factors to be seriously considered when choosing a marital partner in Vietnam are the social status of the families and the astrological-mystical affinities of the marriage partners. The uniformity of the mixture of various religious concepts in Vietnam, except among tribal people, tends to give a uniformity to marriage arrangements, ceremonies, feasts, dowry, etc. Because the individual is less important than the family, it is expected that the family will have a major voice in the selection of wives and husbands of their children. This is often done through a “go-between” (male or female) to save “face” in case it is deemed best to break off bargaining.

Another major factor in the choosing of marriage partners is consulting of horoscopes. This is often done by a Buddhist monk who practices the art. Pamela LaBorde, MD of Ethnomed wrote: “Marriage in Vietnam in the 1950s and earlier was very different than today and in the U.S. Previously marriage was influenced by Buddhist theology and Confucian philosophy. Vietnamese believed that fate in marriage, as well as wealth and position, were preordained, though choice could play some role in activating a positive or negative fate. Traditionally, children lived with their parents until marriage, and then the couple moved to the husband’s father’s household. The extended family arranged marriage, but individuals were usually consulted on the choice of their mate. The typical engagement lasted six months, with little contact between the bride and groom prior to the marriage. Traditionally the marriage was at one of the couples’ homes. Women kept their maiden names legally but used their husband’s name formally. [Source: Pamela LaBorde, MD, Ethnomed]

Confucianism promotes marriage over celibacy, and defined women’s happiness in terms of her ability of having many children. Women are generally expected to be married at a relatively young age and to have children frequently thereafter. Out-of-wedlock children are not generally approved; their birth is severely censored: in a family-centered society as Vietnam is, the place of such children is quite difficult.

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Polygamy and Marriage Reform
Polygamy is illegal but some men have a second, unofficial wife. In the past polygynous marriages were common and aristocratic men kept concubines but monogamy is now the norm. Polygyny was widespread in both northern and central Vietnam, as was the taking of concubines. Besides the so-called wife of the first rank, a household sometimes included a second and third wife and their children. The consent of the first wife was required before this arrangement could be made, but, more often than not, additional wives either were established by the husband in separate households or were permitted to continue living as they had before marriage, in their own homes or with parents.

Major family reform was initiated under a new law enacted in 1959 and put into effect in 1960. The law’s intent was to protect the rights of women and children by prohibiting polygyny forced marriage, concubinage, and abuse. It was designed to equalize the rights and obligations of women and men within the family and to enable women to enjoy equal status with men in social and work-related activities. In conjunction with the law, a mass campaign was launched to discourage, as wasteful, the dowries and lavish wedding feasts of an earlier era. Young people were advised not to marry before the age of twenty for males and eighteen for females and to have no more than two children per household.

In March 2002, Associated Press: “Vietnam’s government has forbidden some marriage customs by local ethnic groups, including wife robbery and the wedding of close relatives, state-controlled media said. The government directive says authorities will respect some marriage traditions of ethnic groups, but “backward” customs will be strictly prohibited or discouraged, the Thanh Nien newspaper reported. Banned customs include wife robbery, in which women are forced to wed, and marriages of men and women of the same bloodline within three generations. The directive also forbids the practice of forcing widows or widowers to marry a family member of their dead spouse, and the practice of demanding large gifts for marriages.. Members of ethnic minorities held protests in Vietnam’s Central Highlands a years past over government restrictions on religion, and the coercive policies of local officials. [Source: Associated Press, March 30, 2002]

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Dating Vietnamese Girls
In the U.S., most young Vietnamese date in the same way as other American youth, with two main exceptions: premarital sex and cohabitation before marriage are uncommon. In Vietnam girls are often carefully chaperoned. It is important for women to be virgins on their wedding night. By contrast many men have had sex with prostitutes before marriage.

Vietnamese dating customs have historically been centered around class and tradition. In Vietnam, dating is considered an adolescent issue. Traditionally, Vietnamese males and females are not allowed to date. Women of Vietnam are ordinarily non-assertive and are raised to be quiet and dainty. They simply grew up in their family until age 18 to 20. Youths who have affections for one another may carry their relationship in secrecy, but eventually, and dutifully, yield to their parents’ wills. Dating is believed to undermine traditions, encouraging sons and daughters to defy their parents’ wishes and thus bringing shame to their family. Public displays of affection by couples, including holding hands, touching, kissing, are still considered impolite and must be done privately.

When going out to dinner, movies, and other social events, the man usually pays all the expenses, in addition to buying gifts and flowers. His date does not. By accepting his gifts and flowers, she is officially accepting his love. But however deep her love, she is expected to remain a virgin until they are married. Females in Vietnam are more withdrawn and shy and usually do not make the first move in starting a relationship. If a young man finds someone he likes, he must formally introduce himself to her family and seek their approval before he can date her. This usually requires him to meet with her parents and family members in their house several times. After several regular visits, when he has gotten to know her family, he may finally ask her parents for permission to date her. Back in 2009, many of these traditions of dating etiquette were still practiced but expectations vary from family to family due to changes in the country. Expressing proper etiquette when trying to date in Vietnam is necessary to avoid offending the family of the person you are courting.

Making a positive first impression on a Vietnamese woman is important, and expressing a lasting interest in her is necessary because Vietnamese women do not ordinarily date without the goal of marriage. Let your intentions be known by asking her for the chance to meet her parents. Gaining their permission to date their daughter is a traditional and respectful way of getting a Vietnamese girl to date you. Take your time, and bring gifts of wine or flowers to the girl’s family to further gain their acceptance, as it is customary for a man to participate in activities with the parents multiple times before asking the woman out on an official date. Dating a Vietnamese man requires patience, virtue and class. Initiating a date as a woman is often frowned upon in Vietnamese culture, and therefore the proper etiquette would be to wait for the man to approach you. Coming on to a man is a sign of an “easy” woman in this Asian tradition and speaking loudly is also looked down upon.

Vietnamese Courting Customs
Making the first date is an important step in Vietnamese courting tradition, and proper etiquette denotes that the man is supposed to initiate and plan the date. Taking a Vietnamese woman to a movie on a first date is traditionally unacceptable and is a cultural sign of an immoral woman. A traditional first date of a walk in a park or cup of coffee is a low-key and respectful way of initiating a relationship in Vietnam. Keep the first date at a platonic level, because the first date in Vietnamese culture is often a date accompanied by mutual friends. Avoid initiating physical contact whether you are a man or a woman, because Vietnamese culture looks down on premarital affection and public displays of affection. Playing hard-to-get is a tradition of Vietnamese women, and it is expected they do not show immediate interest in the man they are dating, to assure that his feelings are moral.

Courting a Vietnamese girl is much like courting her entire family, according to an age-old tacit rule, and it is important to date discreetly for several weeks or even months before coming public with your intentions to marry. Asking permission in addition to presenting a gift to her parents is necessary to continue the relationship in Asian culture. Avoiding the girl’s parents is considered a great act of disrespect and can result in losing a relationship. Arranged marriage is rarely practiced in modern Vietnam as of 2009, but it is still a tradition in some families. Waiting too long to express your intentions, as a man, can result in missing out in this type of situation. Vietnamese women are expected to remain silent when it comes to arranging a marriage between her suitor and herself, whether it is a prearranged marriage or a result of a mutual courtship.

Courting is far more indirect in Vietnamese culture than in most Western societies. Vietnamese relationships pass in several stages, usually lasting for a long period of time. An engagement, for example, often lasts for several years and as far as marriage is concerned, it is viewed as a lifetime commitment. Often the starting point of a relationship is a friendly date. The couple will go out together in public places as friends only and will be accompanied by other friends. During this stage of courting there will be no public displays of affection, the man has to be discreet and friendly or he will be accused of being too arrogant. It is too early for kissing or holding hands at this point. That is the second stage of Vietnamese courtship and now couples may go out together without the company of their friends. Again, the keyword here is “discreetly”.

Vietnamese women cannot afford to be fast, they are expected to be pakipot (hard to get) because it is seen as an appropriate behavior when they are courted. A Vietnamese girl never shows her admirer that she is also in love with him immediately. Playing hard to get is one way by which the Asian can measure the sincerity of the man interested in her. It also lets her show the man that he has to work hard to win her love. Some courtships may last for years before the woman accepts her admirer’s love and they become magkasintahan, a term for boyfriend-girlfriend.

After some time the couple may decide to come out in the open about their romance. At this time they will inform their family and friends about their relationship. Every man who wants to be taken seriously by a Asian is obliged to visit her family and introduce himself formally to her parents. It is rather inappropriate to court a Vietnamese girl and formalize the relationship without informing the girl’s parents. There is a tacit rule here that says: “When courting the Asian you are not courting just her, you are courting the entire family”. Following this rule will help you earn her respect by entrusting her family with high regard. There are certain traditions that have to be observed when visiting an Asian’s family. For example, if the man wants to be acceptable to the girl’s family, he has to give small gifts (pasalubong) every time he drops by her family’s house. If you have any questions regarding which traditions you should observe, you may discuss them with the older siblings.

Vietnamese Engagement and Family Ties
After being a couple with your Asian friend for quite some time and decide to get married, the first thing you should do is pamanhikan (ask the girl’s parents for her hand). When courting a Vietnamese woman you will find that she is shy and reserved even when holding great feelings for you. This is a part of her culture and even for a Western man there is no way around that. You should treat your Asian with respect, lead the courtship with your heart and you may find a lifetime partner that will enrich your life as you have never imagined.

A romantic relationship with a Asian has a better chance of success if you understand her culture. Asian women live in a culture focused on the community, with the family as the core social unit. Here faithfulness to the family is a tradition. In Vietnam, it is important to meet a woman’s family because the family is so important to her. If a man wants to be taken seriously by a woman, he has to visit the latter’s family and introduce himself formally to the parents of the girl. It is rather inappropriate to court a woman and formalize the relationship without informing the parents of the girl.

Vietnamese children are committed to their parents who usually went through a lot to raise them. Their desire is to make their parents’ life easier. If you are capable and refuse to help support her family who may need help, she may not say anything, but she will neither respect you nor understand. Sometimes the family is more important than you. There is an Asian saying, that is accepted in Vietnam, “You can get another wife or husband but not another mother or father”. This family loyalty is also apparent in the fact that Vietnamese families keep elderly (such as grandparents) instead of sending them to any institution or facility.

Vietnamese, and Asians in general, are communal, interdependent people, not dependent, like in western cultures. They are so by choice and because of their cultural needs. When you marry one you marry the family at least the mother and the father, the siblings too usually. That is trite, indeed, but true. If you can’t deal with that let it be known from the start of your relationship with your Asian friend. If she is a “true Asian”, the relationship may not develop. If it does she may not be happy in it, but you will never know.

Love, Romance, Sex and Marriage
Sexuality in Vietnam is distinguished by a double standard that expects women to remain virgins until marriage while men are allowed to enjoy sexual freedom. Young women who lose their virginity before marriage, whether through rape or in a relationship, diminish their chances for a “good” marriage, while young men can “sow wild oats” with abandon and be even admired for being so “manly” (don’t kill the messenger !).

In Vietnam virginity is sacred. The culture and the family lets the girl know it is her responsibility to keep her virginity as soon as they are old enough to understand what virginity is. Vietnamese men are reluctant to marry a non-virgin even if they are the one who took the virginity! Vietnamese woman may not even be forgiven if she is raped. Yes, this is extremely unfair but that is the way it is and the Asian girls know it. As far as courting is concerned, Asians are expected to be pakipot (playing hard to get) because it is seen as an appropriate behavior in a courtship dance. It is also one way by which the Asian woman will be able to measure the sincerity of her admirer.

In order to legalize sexual relations or to avoid the stigma of becoming “old maids” young Vietnamese women feel pressured into early marriages. Unlike women, young men, on the other hand, are allowed to express their sexuality freely, and are sometimes initiated by fathers who take their sons to brothels for sexual intercourse with women. Traditionally, in Asian families the husband is expected to be the main breadwinner, chiefly responsible for the financial sustenance of the family, and the wife is “queen of the home”. Vietnamese ladies equate domestic responsibility with being a good wife. They put their family first and they are more willing to sacrifice their career than their family.”

Premarital Sex, Living Together and Dating in Vietnam Modern Times
According to Encyclopedia of Sexuality: The information one can gather about the beliefs and practices of young people regarding premarital relations and the role of sexuality are quite contradictory and are evidence that sex research is still underdeveloped in Vietnam. For example, the Departments of Psychology and Sociology of Hanoi University conducted research in 1992 on the sexual relations of university and high school students in Hanoi (Hoang Ba Thinh 1992). About 72.4 percent of female students in their fourth year of university had sexual relations, with only 17.6 percent having had one (usually their first) partner, whereas the others had between two and four partners. Yet, after graduating, only 8.2 percent of respondents had married one of these partners. Among those female students who had boyfriends, it was quite common for them to live together in the dormitories. An early 1990s’ survey by CARE (Cooperative for American Relief Everywhere) found that just over half of Vietnamese men had had two or more sexual partners in the previous two weeks (Franklin 1993). [Source: Encyclopedia of Sexuality,]

In a recent survey, only 34 percent of students in Ho Chi Minh City responded that they found premarital sex “acceptable.” Although not considered high by international standards, the statistic was shocking to most Vietnamese. A socially more acceptable figure was that only 10.3 percent of men and 1.4 percent of women had had sexual intercourse before their marriage, and 57.5 percent said they did not plan to have sex before marriage, whereas only 14.7 percent replied that they did plan to have sex before marriage (Chittick 1997).

O’Harrow (1995) reports that premarital intercourse is quite common in Vietnamese villages, but also that there is still an obligation on the man’s part to marry the girl he has deflowered, and she reminds him of this fact in the strongest possible terms. Young couples in Hanoi, even married couples, face great difficulty in finding a place for private encounters. The evening stroller through the city’s lakeside public parks must step carefully to avoid interrupting lovers.

For young people the cohabitant of unmarried couples has been no longer rare in the country where premarital sex used to be a taboo. They often rent cramped houses or deteriorated flats near universities and factories in Hanoi to live. Foreigners meeting older Vietnamese women might find the same attitude as the younger Vietnamese depending on where and under what situation the relationship started.

General Concepts of Sexuality and Love in Vietnam
According to the Encyclopedia of Sexuality: Grammar makes clear how important marriage is in Vietnamese society. Proschan (1998) provides this example: “When Vietnamese ask one another about their marital status they do not ask ’Are you married?’ but ’Have you married yet?’ A proper response is not a yes-or-no answer but the answer ’Already’ or ’Not yet’.” Although the minimum legal age at marriage is 18 years for women, postponing marriage until age 22 is strongly recommended. Up to and through the French Colonial period, Vietnamese women were not regarded as nubile until about their 16th or 17th year. However, according to the Ly-Ky (“The Book of Rites”), girls might marry after 14 years and men at 16. Any marriages prior to those ages were not accepted. [Source: Encyclopedia of Sexuality,]

According to Proschan (1998), if men feared that marriage might complicate their lives, they tried to find a girl who did not see in them as the focus of her desires and demands. In fact, many Vietnamese men believed that women were perfectly satisfied with something like a companionate marriage, which involved sufficient ardor to produce offspring, but was not complicated by passionate desire. A hundred years earlier, Jacobus X. (1898) confirmed this rather unromantic view of marriage: Marriage is for the Annamite a question of business and the procreation of descendants, rather than of sentimental love. On her side, the woman has not generally a very great affection for her husband, but concentrates all her love on her children.

Proschan (1998) writes that before colonial and revolutionary legal reforms made monogamy the only acceptable form of marriage, polygamy (specifically, polygyny) had been equally legitimate. When polygyny lost its legal sanction, it nevertheless continued outside the law, and women in polygynous relationships lost the protections and rights that the older legal codes had afforded their predecessors – i.e., those of second wives or concubines. Indications are that extramarital heterosexual relations were frequent enough among married men that most people – male or female – assumed that they were the norm. There were numerous available partners – female or male – for men whose wives “fail[ed] to provide proper attention and stimulation” (Khuat Thu Hong 1998), as one researcher characterized the common rationale.

Dating Tips for Foreigners Dating Vietnamese Women
As a Westerner you probably don’t know the basic cultural differences between yourself and Vietnamese women. Girls from traditional countries in general, and Vietnam in particular are raised in a conservative environment. Their family system possesses different values from the West altogether. Additionally, if you’re looking to make friends with a Vietnamese girl with no prior experience of dating in Vietnam, then you might face some difficulties. So, you want to avoid the misunderstanding as much as possible.
Here is a brief guide to dating a Vietnamese girl.

First Date
Before embarking on a romantic relationship, it's common to exchange numbers and engage in conversations for a period of time. Reaching the stage where you successfully secure a date can be challenging. If you have already entered the dating phase, congratulations! You have made significant progress in your journey.

When it comes to planning a first date, choosing a low-key venue like a coffee shop can have its advantages. This approach offers several benefits, such as keeping the date relatively short and creating a more relaxed atmosphere for someone who may be naturally shy or nervous. By opting for this setting, you can help ensure both parties feel comfortable and enjoy their time together.

It's worth noting that many Vietnamese girls prefer not to drink alcohol. Therefore, when planning a date, consider inviting her for a coffee instead and engaging in conversation about her interests. If the opportunity arises for future outings, aim to choose a venue that suits her preferences even better.

It is generally not recommended to ask a girl to go to dinner on the first date. If the girl herself suggests it, it may be wise to reconsider her intentions. Additionally, you might consider the idea of arranging a taxi for her after the date. It's important to consider that many women in Vietnam may not have high earning potential. As a thoughtful gesture, offering to pay for a taxi after your date can be a considerate option.

The Language Barrier
When dating Vietnamese girls who have limited English skills, the language barrier may initially pose a challenge if you primarily speak English. However, there are solutions available to help you overcome this hurdle. Utilizing apps like Google Translate can be beneficial in overcoming the language barrier during your first date and even beyond. These apps can assist in translating conversations and ensuring effective communication between both parties.

Building A Long Term Relationship
Once you've had a successful first date, it may be a good idea to consider pursuing a long-term relationship with the girl. You can do this by inviting her on a second date and choosing a more suitable venue that aligns with your shared interests and preferences. This can help create an enjoyable and memorable experience for both of you as you continue to get to know each other better. It is advisable to personally choose the second location and avoid selecting a venue that is overly expensive. Ultimately, it is important for the girl to be interested in you rather than being focused on the location of the date.

In Vietnam, it's important to keep in mind that it is a patriarchal society, where the expectation is for the man to take on a leadership role in a relationship. Demonstrating vulnerability or weakness directly may lead to a loss of respect from your partner. It's important to be aware that many girls may not feel comfortable with public displays of affection. Take the time to understand the cultural norms and traditions of the society you're in, as well as what behaviors might be considered inappropriate or disliked by them.

Learn The Family Customs
If you have established a relationship with a Vietnamese girl, and you are invited to a family gathering, it is typically an indication that your relationship is going well. This gesture demonstrates that the girl values your connection and wants to introduce you to her family, which is often an important step in Vietnamese culture. During a family meal, it is customary for the eldest family member to begin eating before everyone else follows suit. This tradition is observed to show respect and honor towards the oldest member of the family. It is recommended that you also adhere to this tradition as a way to maintain cultural and familial norms.

In addition to the specific tradition of not shaking hands with older women in the family (don’t ignore them though if they try to shake hands), there are various other family customs that you will need to familiarize yourself with. It is important to understand and respect these traditions, they play a significant role in maintaining familial harmony and showing proper etiquette. In certain cultural contexts, it is generally acceptable to shake hands when greeting men. However, when meeting a family, it is often appreciated if you show respect by bowing as a sign of courtesy and deference. After enjoying a lovely family dinner, it's common to find yourself faced with inquiries about your marital status and plans for children. While these questions may initially make you feel uneasy, there are ways to address them. One approach is to kindly explain that it's still early in the relationship and that you're not quite ready or prepared for such decisions yet.

Learn The Warning Signs To Be Safe
It is generally advised to avoid discussing financial matters early on in a relationship. Bringing up the topic of money could potentially lead to uncomfortable situations where she might inquire about your salary or even ask for financial assistance. In such cases, it is important to exercise caution. It's also imperative to be mindful of other warning signs that may indicate potential issues within the relationship, and prioritize your safety and well-being.

Traditional Vietnamese Weddings
The procedure of the ancient wedding ceremony was very complicated. Current wedding ceremony procedures are simpler, consisting primary of the marriage registration, pre-ceremony events, the wedding and the wedding party. Even though most Vietnamese are Buddhist to varying degrees they often don Western-style wedding clothes for their marriage ceremony, which itself is not religious. Local Communist officials often wish the couple congratulations after the ceremony is over. The groom’s family has traditionally paid for the bride’s wedding clothes and the wedding reception. The wedding is usually held on a day deemed auspicious for the couple by a fortune teller.

The wedding ceremony can take place in either the home of the bride or the groom or of relatives. It consists mainly of pledges by the couple. Often the go-between acts as the officiating personality. Sometimes, scripture reading by a monk is included. During the ceremony elder married relatives may pour holy water over the hands of the couple, signifying that part of the virtue of Buddha is granted them. [Source: The Religions of South Vietnam in Faith and Fact, US Navy, Bureau of Naval Personnel, Chaplains Division ,1967]

For Vietnamese there are two main ceremonies: 1) the Le an hoi (betrothal ceremony) and 2) the Le cuoi (wedding ceremony). The Le an hoi is held some time before the wedding: the groom and his family visit the bride and her family with round lacquered boxes known as betrothal presents composed of gifts of areca nuts and betel leaves, tea, cakes, fruits, wines and other delicacies covered with red cloth and carried by unmarried girls or boys. Both families agree to pick a good day for the wedding. [Source: Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism]

The wedding day often begins with the mother of the groom delivering a piece of chalk, representing a bright future, to the bride at her house. The groom and his entourage show up at the bride’s house with gifts such as jewelry, furniture, money, and lacquered leather trunks with bedding inside. The head of the entourage gives the bride’s family a red envelope and makes a formal speech upon presenting the gifts. The bride’s family welcomes them. The gifts, plus some more from the bride’s family, are placed before the family altar. The couple kneels before the altar while candles are lit. They also kneel before parents and grandparents who give them red envelopes filled with cash.

The wedding feast often takes place several hours after the ceremony, or even the next day. It is proper to give gifts to the young couple, but they should not be given in odd numbers, To do so would be, according to popular belief, to bring “bad luck” on the marriage. It is thus better to present two less expensive gifts rather than one expensive gift. Gifts for brides and grooms are usually given in pairs, including blankets. A single item indicates the marriage is not expected to last long. Two less expensive items are more desired than one nicer one.

Weddings are sometimes lavish affairs lasting several days with lunches and dinners hosted for work colleagues, friends and relatives. October through December are popular months for weddings, and expensive convention halls such as the glitzy Hanoi Tower in the capital city are often fully booked.

Vietnamese Wedding Ceremony
At the Le cuoi (wedding ceremony) guests are invited to come to join a party and celebrate the couple’s happiness. The couple pray before the altar asking their ancestors for permission for their marriage, then to express their gratitude to both the groom’s and bride’s parents for raising and protecting them. Guests share their joy at a party later.

On the wedding day, after a formal farewell to the bride’s parents, the groom’s entourage escorts the bride to the groom’s house, where the wedding ceremony is often held. As the bride enter the home she steps over a small stove with burning coals to purify herself and get rid of evil spirits. After some tea, the bride is introduced to the ancestors of the groom and the groom says some prayers while a Buddhist monk or some other person invokes heaven and calls on the two god of marriage to bless the couple.

The couple are bound together with a thread of cotton that extends from the altar to the shoulders of the kneeling bride and groom. Afterwards, tea, rice wine and sweet cakes are placed in traditional red lacquer boxes and shared by the families of the groom and bride. Then rice and chicken are taken to the room where the bride and groom will enjoy their first meal together as husband and wife.

The couple’s wedding night is often spent at the house of the groom’s parents. This can be a problem with poorer families who live in government housing which every Vietnamese is guaranteed. The housing consists of a room for a family of four that is 11 by 15 feet. Those that can afford it have a lavish wedding party at a restaurant. During the feast the friends of the groom try to get the groom so drunk that he will not have sex with wife that night.

Marriage For a Foreigner in Vietnam
In many places, getting married is as easy as making the decision, showing up at a government office, saying a few words, and signing a few papers. Vietnam is NOT one of those places.

For a foreigner, getting permission to marry in Vietnam is a slightly complicated exercise requiring certified government documentation both in Vietnam and in your home country, medical certificates and, of course, fees. Two non-Vietnamese citizens may marry in Vietnam ONLY if at least one has either a permanent or temporary residency permit in Vietnam.

In addition:
The woman must be at least 18 and the man 20 or older
Both must be:
– Unmarried under Vietnamese law
– Capable of making independent decisions
They must NOT share any blood relatives within the last three generations

The following people are not allowed to get married:
Adoptive parents and adopted children, stepfather and daughter-in-law, stepmother and son-in-law, stepfather and his wife’s daughter, stepmother and her husband’s son
Same-sex couples (In June 2013 the Ministry of Justice proposed a draft law that removes the restriction in Article 10.5 making marriage between two individuals of the same sex illegal; replacing it with a proposal that recognizes civil partnerships, and possibly marriage, between same-sex couples.)

Same-sex marriage is permitted in Vietnam, though they do not yet provide legal protections for spouses. It is recommended to check with a Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate in your home country for more details.

Necessary Documents for Marriage Registration of Foreigners In Vietnam
A non-Vietnamese citizen (foreigner) seeking to get married to a Vietnamese national, may submit in person or by mail his/her file of required documents for marriage registration to the Embassy of Vietnam for the authentication/legalization of the papers before taking them to Vietnam for subsequent procedures.

Note: Two copies in Vietnamese of all marriage application documents are needed. They must then be submitted by one or both applicants to the Department of Justice in the area of residence. An application via a third party is not accepted.

Documents to be authenticated at the Embassy. A regular dossier includes:
1. Application for Marriage Registration in Vietnam: your photo, provide your information, sign your name. Leave blank the column of the other applicant in Vietnam. See an example of a marriage application form (PDF, in Vietnamese and English)
2. Affidavit of Single Status
3. Certificate of No-marriage Records issued by the State (or County) Vital Statistics Office within the last six months certifying that no marriage license or marriage record of the applicant has been found from his/her mature age of marriage (age of 18 for female or 20 for male) or since his/her divorce up to now or since his/her spouse’ death up to now.
4. Certificate of Good Mental Health: issued by an authorized medical organization confirming that the applicant has no mental illnesses, or has a mental problem but not to the extent of losing consciousness of his/her own actions.
5. Biographic Information Sheet
6. Photocopy of the photo and signature pages of the Passport (certified that it is true and exact copy from the original)
7. Certified copy of personal identity – Vietnamese citizens
8. Certified copy of household registration certificates or resident registration – Vietnamese citizens
9. Temporary/Permanent resident card – foreigners residing in Vietnam
10. Marriage application fee
11. Power of Attorney

If the foreign applicant cannot be present in Vietnam for the application procedure, they may fill out a Power of Attorney allowing their fiancé to act on their behalf. It must be authenticated by the Vietnamese Embassy/Consulate after it has been certified by a notary public and the state/provincial-level Secretary of State.

The above are the basic documents required by the Department of Justice. Additional documents are required if the foreigner is either divorced or widowed. The list may differ slightly depending on the country of citizenship of the foreigner, so please check the Vietnamese Embassy/Consulate site of the Embassy in your country.

NOTE: (a) The above-mentioned documents (No 1,2,4,5,6) must be certified by a Notary Public (the document No.3 is regularly issued by the Registrar or Court Clerk) and the signatures of the Notary Public or Registrator Court Clerk must be subsequently certified by the State Department (or its Office of Authentication) of the State where the applicant lives before they are sent to the Embassy for legalization. The Embassy can certify only the signatures of the State-level Secretary of State.

Within 15 days of receiving the completed document package, the Department of Justice must:

  • Interview the candidates and record the interview on paper with the interviewer’s comments and signature.
  • List the marriage for seven consecutive working days at the DoJ headquarters.
  • Send a written request to the People’s Committee of Communes in the Vietnamese applicant’s place of residence.
  • The People’s Committee of Communes is responsible to list the marriage for seven working days.
  • If there are complaints or accusations of violating marriage law within this period, the People’s Committee writes a report to the Department of Justice.
  • Issue a decision within 25 working days of receiving the complete set of documents and fee.

Once the marriage certificate is signed by the head of the Provincial People’s Committee, the DoJ will arrange a civil marriage ceremony within five working days.

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