Vietnamese customs of weddings, funerals, holidays and rituals all are attached to village community. Marriages not only reflecte the lovers’s desire but also had to meet the interests of the family lines, the village; thus, the choice for future bride or bridegroom was done very carefully
This is often called "the crossing of the girl’s housegate." It is a time when the boy’s family brings the girl’s family gifts which must include a bunch of betel leaves and areca nuts. Tea, cakes, and candies may also be included. The day and hour must be exactly right by the horoscopic calendar.
The procedure is usually quite formal with everyone dressed in his best clothing. Led by a distinguished elder member of the boy’s family, the family walks to the girl’s home. Boys dressed in black with red sashes around their waists carry the gifts on round red trays balanced on their heads. The bridegroom and the intermediary or matchmaker are also present. The matchmaker will discuss the gifts that the bridegroom will later present to the bride’s family. The date for the formal proposal of marriage is set at this time.
The wedding gifts that the bride’s family request will be given to relatives and friends of the girl’s family. The gifts are often sets of tea, candies, areca nuts, betel leaves, etc. These gifts are in addition to the ones brought to the home on this day. If the girl’s parents have a wide circle of friends, then a large number of gifts are required.
In addition to these, the bridegroom’s family must provide the bride with a trousseau of jewels such as engagement ring, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and perhaps even a certain amount of money.
Formal Proposal of Marriage
The horoscope must be consulted for the right time and hour, and once again the entourage of family and friends descend on the bride’s home in much the same manner in the "gift presenting ceremony." At the home of the bride-to-be, they are graciously received with tea, areca nuts, betel leaves, and perhaps liquor being served. The gifts brought by the bridegroom-to-be are placed on the ancestral altar. Joss sticks and lights are lit and incense is burned. The girl’s father, the future bride and groom ceremonially bow before the altar. After this, the bride may withdraw to another room and her future husband may take over the entertainment of the guests, acting as a member of the bride’s family.
After a long period of conversation, the head of the girl’s family removes the gifts from the altar, thanks everyone, and divides the edible gifts into two parts, one smaller than the other. The smaller part is given back to the groom’s family indicating that they have been far too generous and that the bride’s family is not greedy. This also indicates good luck and a close alliance between the two families. Later, the other edible gifts are distributed to friends of the bride’s family.
In the past, the waiting time from this date until the actual marriage was sometimes as long as two or three years. All the while, the bridegroom-to-be was supposed to keep up his relationship with his fiancee’s family with generous gifts on many special days. Today, this waiting period has been drastically reduced. The man was not allowed to see the girl very often and then they were closely supervised. Should they by chance meet in public, the bride-to-be would cover her face discreetly with her hat. Instead of being dismayed, this made the future groom proud, as it indicated to all that his future wife was chaste. This old custom has changed considerably in Vietnam today. There are, however, those in the rural areas who still maintain these practices.