“Picking up the Bride”: Vietnamese Wedding Tradition

The informant is a 20 year old, Vietnamese American female. She is a junior at the University of Southern California, but was born in Boston, MA. Both her parents are Vietnamese and were born in Vietnam.

Over lunch, the informant told me about a Vietnamese wedding ceremony called “Picking up the Bride.” The groom and his groomsmen carry baskets filled with pastries, moon cakes, fruit, and teas, all wrapped in red cellophane to the bride’s family’s house. The men line up outside of the house while inside, the same number of women do the same, ready to receive the baskets. The ceremony stems from a Vietnamese folktale of two brothers. The older brother gets married and his younger brother gets upset. The younger brother goes off by himself and cries. He turns into a tall tree. The older brother goes looking for his younger sibling and leans up against the tall tree to rest. He cries too, and becomes the leaves of the tree. Finally the bride comes looking for her husband and brother-in-law. She finds the tree and turns into the seed of the tree’s fruit. Eventually, someone comes along and eats the fruit, spitting out red seeds.

The informant told me that in the ceremony, the items in the baskets are usually fruit from this tree, a small tree, and other ripe things to symbolize loyalty. The “Picking up the Bride” ceremony is meant to welcome the groom into the bride’s family and bless the union of the two people. Usually, after the baskets have been delivered, the bride’s father makes a speech, further welcoming the groom into his family. Traditionally, the groomsmen would go on foot to the bride’s house, so the ceremony had the added element of a journey. This also allowed for everyone to witness it, and turned the procession into a parade almost. It serves as a way to let people know that a wedding was taking place.

I agree with the informant’s interpretation, and while she didn’t specifically mention this, the ripe fruit brought over to the bride’s house in the baskets could also be a symbol of fertility, serving to bless the new couple with a fruitful union.