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A Peek into a Red Dao Wedding of Sapa, Vietnam

 Vietnam is an unpredictable country in many ways. The best part is that 99% of the time, these unpredictable surprises are positive ones.

Mystical and surprising Sapa

Last September, our enthusiastic tour leader – Krzystof – represented MakeYourAsia & led Mr. Daniel’s group to Northern Vietnam region for 6 days. We went to the historical Ha Noi, kayaked through the iconic Ha Long Bay, and explored the evergreen nature of the otherworldly Sapa. And it was at the mystically gorgeous Sapa that we had such a memorable experience. In Sapa, we have a lovely local guide – Pham – a member of the Red Dao ethnic minority. As we were trekking back from Sapa to Pham’s in Ta Phin, we found out that there would be a wedding in the village, and we were honorably invited to join. All thanks to Pham! To make this fascinating day even more eventful, Pham even arranged the Red Dao’s traditional ceremonial costumes for the ladies of our group. As we were attending an important ceremony, we had to prepare ourselves and show up as great wedding guests after a full day of trekking. Upon arrival at the guest house, we got to experience the Red Dao medicinal baths made up of wooden pumpkins & special local herbs, which were certainly rewarding and soothing to our bodies. On top of that, Pham and her husband also curated a small feast of local specialties for us to fuel our energy and get ready for the party.

Red Dao Wedding Reception
Red Dao Wedding meal

Traditional Vietnamese wedding

Adapting the local lifestyle, we rode motorbikes through the vibrant village and mesmerizing nature to get to the reception venue. As we got close to the venue, we realized that the wedding took place in enormous tents in the main square of the village. At first, we got to sit at the ‘general’ table as we were neither relatives nor friends with the bride and the groom. However, that does not mean that we were treated any differently! Everybody was genuinely welcoming and kept us busy with all the food and drink. We got to feast on the local Red Dao delicacies, including thinly sliced boiled pork, sticky rice, chicken boiled with turmeric & kaffir lime leaves, Vietnamese mortadella, pork stew, and many more dishes. Plus, the one and only drink served at the wedding was corn moonshine!

In the background, as an obvious tradition, the fellow guests were singing karaoke and dancing to celebrate the happy day. After some time getting acquainted with the family and fellow guests, we moved to the second tent where the bride’s family was having fun. Here, we continued to enjoy local food and mingle with Pham’s family through shots of corn wine. It was such a special night that we will remember for the longest time!

Normally, a traditional wedding in such areas lasts around two to three days, depending on the size of the village. The celebration is spread over time so every household of the village can attend. The standard gift to the wedded couple is an envelope with gift money. Depending on the relationship with the couple or the affordability, the attendee will decide on the amount for the envelope. Nowadays, there are fewer arranged marriages, and young couples get to marry for love. Yes, that may sound odd, but it was quite common in Asia. Back then, couples were usually matched by family members and some of them might have never met each other before. On another note, interracial marriages of different ethnic groups are extremely rare.

Caring for marital happiness

According to the local customs, there are also two smaller gatherings before the main wedding. The first one takes place at the groom’s place where his family and invited guests can celebrate. Meanwhile, the bride’s house also hosts a party for her side to have fun before getting married. One more interesting fact! Before the bride comes to her new home, there is also a traditional ceremony to get rid of misfortune in which the bride-to-be has to sit in a chair while people walk around her, playing the trumpets and drums. Another purpose of this custom is to express gratitude and appreciation towards her family for raising such a wonderful daughter. Additionally, the bride will have to spend her first night in a temporary tent before entering her new home. It is not until the first month after the wedding can the bride visit other households to preserve her “happiness.” Sometimes the happy couple would even organize another party after the main one for their closest family and friends.

The Sapa Tour

Ah, what an interesting journey it has been! We also want to give our sincerest thanks to Pham – our amazing Sapa guide – for making this trip extra exciting! We literally cannot wait to see you again! And you, traveler, do you want to visit Sapa with us? Let’s go to Vietnam. Expect the unexpected and delve into endless fun and wonderful encounters with the warm and welcoming locals.

Red Dao ethnics in Sapa

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