Vietnam wedding & funeral

Vietnam travel guideWhen will the party start?

Owing to the complex superstitions determining auspicious moments for any two people to tie the knot, the date and time on your invitation may look like a printer's error, but, DON'T turn up with a polite (to Western eyes) half-hour added to the time announced, or you may well miss the meal altogether or find yourself celebrating the next wedding booked at the same restaurant! People are always busy in Vietnam and time is short, so the wedding feast may be over and the washing up done within an hour. DON'T expect to party until dawn with close family and friends. No dancing or singing (except often deafening amplified music with a hired crooner). But at least there's always plenty to drink, even if you have to toast with total strangers. Vietnamese weddings are huge and formal affairs, with hundreds of colleagues and obligatory guests imposed by etiquette. DON'T be surprised if you are shown wedding photos at the ceremony, already developed and arranged in albums: these are usually taken well before at a studio specializing in that sort of thing. DON'T attempt to kiss the bride, Western style - unless of course she invites you to!

What about a present?
DO keep it simple: money is by far the easiest gift and is universally well received. One clean, nearly-new banknote of the largest local denomination should suffice, unless you ~re very close the one or both of the newly-weds and you want to give more, and/ or DO buy something useful to help the happy couple set up their new home, as more and more newly-weds in Vietnam are now choosing to live by themselves, instead of with the groom's family as they did in the past. Traditionally, the minimum acceptable money gift is one that covers the cost of the meal at the particular venue where the wedding takes place. When choosing very upscale venues, couples run the risk of having friends or relatives politely declining the invitation or not showing up because they simply can't afford the cost. Most people will identify themselves on the envelopes so the groom and bride will know the extent of their generosity and will have to match it when they themselves will be invited in that particular family.

Attending a funeral
If a friend or colleague invites you to a relative's funeral, it is really polite to show up, even if for a short time. Here's how you should go about it: On the way to the deceased's house (there are no funeral homes here), buy a funeral wreath at one of the specialized shops selling nothing but.  At the friend's place, give the wreath then slowly walk around the wooden coffin, stopping a few seconds to look at the deceased's face. Coffins are sealed but there is a small windowpane placed above the deceased's head. Give proper condolences to your friend and mostly to the family's elders. If you don't know any Vietnamese words, just shake their hands and move on. You will most likely be invited to sit down and eat. It is polite to accept but don't linger at the table. Eat a few morsels then excuse yourself and leave. Apart from funerals, you may be invited to commemorate someone's death anniversary. These anniversaries are celebrated much more scrupulously than birth anniversaries, especially when they involve a mother or father. Some guidebooks actually say that it's polite to refuse. Not true. If you are extended a proper invitation - for instance with an actual date, time and place - then your hosts will be much honored to have a foreigner at their gathering. Again, don't expect elaborate ceremonies, there will be none. Your presence and that of other guests are the most important elements of such celebrations. You will be introduced, asked to toast more than once, asked to eat more than you can probably ingest.

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