The Dzao Tien ethnic minority wedding has three steps like Kinh (the Vietnamese ethnic majority) tradition. Yet the ceremony is also unique. The entire village guests from surrounding villages, sharing the happy family event. This is a social occasion to celebrate marriage, family and community.
Preparation for Dzao Tien wedding takes a relatively long time period – from two to five years. After the wedding date is fixed by a shaman, the groom’s family will bring offerings to the bride’s family: 400kilograms of pork piled neatly in bamboo baskets, 12 packs of salt (4 big packs, 8 small packs) wrapped around a pot of silver ingots or nuggets, depending on each families of the Dzao Tien ethnicity.
In addition, the groom’s family will prepare pork as a special treat. A traditional Dzao Tien wedding is incomplete without fermented pork. Pork is mixed with salt, liquor, and stick rice and then wedding day, the pork is dug up and served to important guests. If buried for long though, the fermented pork still looks fresh and pink, with an alcoholic scent.
The special wedding drink is “Muntjac” alcohol, which looks like milk and has sweet taste. Through the brew tasted like beer, it is very intoxicating and likened to taking sleeping pills. Muntjac is made by mixing sticky with fermented alcohol and burying the concoction underground for several months. Dzao Tien people do not distill this liquor normally; they decant the alcohol in a way similar to how Kinh people prepare sticky rice wine.
A Dzao Tien wedding is principally held at the bride’s household. Traditional weddings took three to 10 days, but now typically last for one day and night. For the bride greeting ritual, the groom designates representatives (one male matchmaker, two men and two women) to visit the bride’s home and bring the bride to the groom’s home.
The two families negotiate and challenge wedding presents to decide a chicken neck cutting ritual wedding date by a shaman, who picks a fortuitous date. The shaman can even determine the ideal hour for the bride to enter her new home.
Dzap people believe that it’s best to begin at dawn, which is when women in the bride’s family adorn the bride with their best clothing and jewelry to her husband’s home; the bride undergoes an “out – the -door” ritual with the help of a shaman. The mother-in-law takes the brie to the front gate, where the bride returns all the clothing and accessories to her family members and then proceeds to the groom’s home. At the gate of the groom’s house await dozens of women holding their most beautiful outfits, which of a rich and powerful family, the bride might have to put on over fifty dresses.
The bride is then taken to bow before the ancestor’s altar where 12 water bowls and 12 salt packs are arranged. In a private room, the bride removes all the outfits and then accompanies the mother-in-law to the stream to fill a bucket with water. They throw two coins into the bucket to see spirits’ opinion of the union. The groom’s family then begins a feast. The bride’s sister must be the first to drink from the liquor bowls, the shaman must be second, and after that everyone can start easting. From that moment on, the couple is considered husband and wife.
After the feast, the groom and delegates from his household bring offerings to the bride’s family and act as servants there for one night (traditionally, this lasted from three to ten days). Offerings and rites are carried out as formally as the Oscar’s. The groom’s family burns a big torch, sings songs praising good life and ancestors, and then gives the bride’s family the torch. The bride’s family carries the torch around the house and recites incantations to drive away evil spirits, evil plots or hidden thoughts of the groom’s family.
The shaman accompanies the groom in the thanking ceremony:
“Thanks to the ancestors
Thanks to the parents who gave her life
Thanks to the brige’s siblings
Thanks to all the women in the bride’s family”
During the thanking ceremony, the groom invites each person to one cup of liquor, on the wedding night a groom may drink nearly 20 liters of rice. After each cup, the groom bows once and all the women jump up.
Finally, before dawn, they weigh the silver dowry with the shaman as the witness. At Dzao Tien weddings, people do not pay much attention to material value, but the shiver weighing is a way to show the bride’s family’s satisfaction for the groom.
Above all such wedding rituals have deep educational significance for younger generation. While tightening relationships in families, in society, and between generations, these marriage ceremonies highlight the woman’s role the Dzao Tien community.
This article written by Lanh Nguyen from Vietnam Heritage Travel
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