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Dam Hoi Vietnamese Engagement Ceremony Photos

20 Aug

I can’t think of many things more exciting than receiving a gallery full of beautiful photos from a recent event or trip. When I heard Hubs e-mail ding sound the other night I knew we received the gallery from our photographer, Katarina Price. Never mind that I was already in bed, I jumped out and fired up my laptop to click through photographs of our big day.

My last post on the dam hoi didn’t go in to a lot of detail about the ceremony, tradition and blessings of the day. I wanted to let the rich photographs share the story, so here you go. This is a long one, so warm up your lunch or pour a glass of rose and enjoy!

Bride and Groom holding ceremonial sake cups. Katarina Price Photography.

Katarina Price Photography. http://www.katarinaprice.com

Many more amazing photos after the jump!

Patiently awaiting my bridegroom to arrive!

Looking out the window as the groom's family arrives. Katarina Price Photography.

Katarina Price Photography. http://www.katarinaprice.com

His family arrived in a caravan carrying gifts for my family as an offering in asking for my hand in marriage. Traditional gifts are carried by family members in even numbers stored in red tin baskets with a red cloth covering.

Holding the red cloth covered gift. Katarina Price Photography.

Katarina Price Photography. http://www.katarinaprice.com

The groom’s parents leads the party to my front door, and speaks first with my parents who welcome them inside. The groom’s party includes immediate family and family members who are more senior than him – so aunts and uncles.

The groom's family walking to the bride's home carrying gifts. Katarina Price Photography.

Katarina Price Photography. http://www.katarinaprice.com

Once inside, the groom’s father addresses the bride’s family and states their intentions. The gifts are placed on a table that initially separates our families.

The groom's father explaining their son's intent to marry with family gathered around the gift table. Katarina Price Photography.

Katarina Price Photography. http://www.katarinaprice.com

My family thoroughly enjoyed the ceremony and were touched and amused by Ba’s (Dad’s) by his kind words. The family members are organized by seniority, which reflects the hierarchy and respect of elders in Vietnamese culture.

Bride's family gathered at the ceremony.

After the formal introductions were made, his family unwraps the gifts to present formally to my parents. Traditional gifts include meat, fruit, tobacco and wine, so the trays were filled with dried fruit and nuts, cheese and meat spread, cigars and whiskey. Ba was certainly the director of ceremonies and made sure that everything was unwrapped and presented in the appropriate order.

His family unwrapping the gifts of wine, fruit and meat. Katarina Price Photography.

Katarina Price Photography. http://www.katarinaprice.com

After the formal discussion and official promising of our future marriage, our families got to know each other over mimosas and coffee. We went outside to get a few portraits before it was on to the next phase of the ceremony. I absolutely loved my ao dai (long dress). Mẹ (mom) and my sister-in-law had it made in Vietnam after I picked out a design from a popular ao dai retailer in Saigon.

Portrait of the bride and groom.

Katarina Price Photography. http://www.katarinaprice.com

Our amazing parents, without whom none of this would be possible.

Portrait of bride and groom with both sets of parents. Katarina Price Photography.

Katarina Price Photography. http://www.katarinaprice.com

Thankfully my brother was home for the dam hoi after my nephew arriving early and needing a little extra attention. So happy that he was able to share in our special day!

Portrait with the bride's parents and brother. Katarina Price Photography.

Katarina Price Photography. http://www.katarinaprice.com

My bridal party was also able to enjoy the ceremony.

Bride with her bridesmaids. Katarina Price Photography.

Katarina Price Photography. http://www.katarinaprice.com

Around 11am we left my family’s home and attempted to caravan to his parent’s home where more family gathered. There were a few misdirections so the cars were split and we had some down time. Just enough to say  hello to arriving family and friends, as well as capture the worship table and other ceremony details.

Trăm Năm Hạnh Phúc is a blessing for the couple wishing them “One Hundred Years of Happiness”, and the dragon and phoenix represent the male and the female.

Worship table with roast pig and ceremonial candles. Katarina Price Photography.

Katarina Price Photography. http://www.katarinaprice.com

The whole roast pig is the most important item offered for the couple’s engagement, and it is placed at the worship table where we honor groom’s grandparent’s and those who are no longer living.

Whole roasted pig at the worship table. Katarina Price Photography.

Katarina Price Photography. http://www.katarinaprice.com

Worship table with the groom's grandmothers who have passed away. Katarina Price Photography.

Katarina Price Photography. http://www.katarinaprice.com

Electric firecrackers to alert the arrival of the bride's family. Katarina Price Photography. www.katarinaprice.com

Katarina Price Photography. http://www.katarinaprice.com

Fireworks were lit as I lined up with my (now official) fiancee and family to ward off any negative energy or bad words said about us as a couple up to start our relationship on positive ground.

Fireworks to ward of negative energy. Katarina Price Photography.

Katarina Price Photography. http://www.katarinaprice.com

At this point we began the most traditional, spiritual and personal part of the engagement ceremony. After explaining the traditions, his parents lit the Dragon and Phoenix candles symbolizing the male and female that burned throughout the ceremony. They then lit incense and bowed before their parents in prayer and to seek blessings.

Groom's parents lighting the dragon and phoenix candles. Katarina Price Photography.

Katarina Price Photography. http://www.katarinaprice.com

We were then invited to light incense from the Dragon and Phoenix candles and bow before the table, asking for blessings from his ancestors as we begin our life together. It was a very moving moment in the ceremony and was an honor to acknowledge his family in such a spiritual manner.

Offering prayer and asking for blessings at the worship table. Katarina Price Photography.

Katarina Price Photography. http://www.katarinaprice.com

Now here is where the ceremony took a lighthearted turn. His father held up two boxes and explained that as they were not equal in size, nor are women and men equal in their culture, “And that’s OK”. You just have to know his father to laugh at this – it was amusing to say the least.  He proceeded to explain that he got us both a “souvenir to remember the day”, and placed a necklace around each of our necks. We will never understand why he gave us gold Mardi Gras beads with a dollar sign on the end. At least it matched my dress!

Groom's father giving him a gold beaded necklace. Katarina Price Photography.

Katarina Price Photography. http://www.katarinaprice.com

The real tradition is for the groom’s parents to give the bride a gift of jewelry. They gave me gorgeous diamond earrings to match my engagement ring – an extremely generous gift that I will forever cherish.

The groom's mother placing diamond earrings in my ear. Katarina Price Photography.

Katarina Price Photography. http://www.katarinaprice.com

With gifts given, it was time for us to give our thanks and receive blessings or words of wisdom from our elders. For each individual or couple, we offered a drink of sake and gave our thanks for what they have meant in our lives and listened as they shared advice or blessings for our future together. Each moment was so special, there are too many to include in this blog, so here a few special images.

Thuan expressing his gratitude and thanks to his parents:

Groom thanking his parents and offering sake shot. Katarina Price Photography.

Katarina Price Photography. http://www.katarinaprice.com

One of the most moving moments in the ceremony came from an elderly guest who I had never met. She was Thuan’s grandmother’s best friend, and he spent quite a bit of time with the women growing up.

Grandmother's best friend with groom's mom. Katarina Price Photography.

Katarina Price Photography. http://www.katarinaprice.com

Before she took the sake, she stood up and explained that she not only came to offer us her blessings, but also to catch up and speak with her best friend, long since passed away. As she stood speaking to her best friend and bowing before the alter, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room – it was amazing to see a bond forged many years ago and the honor she showed to her friend on our special day.

Elderly woman speaking to his grandmother through the worship table. Katarina Price Photography. www.katarinaprice.com

Katarina Price Photography. http://www.katarinaprice.com

As we moved through the elder family members, his cousin’s mother in law gave us a traditional Cambodian wedding gift, binding us together with a necklace. We had no idea what was going on at first, but after squeezing through the necklace, we were tied together with blessings for our future marriage. Hopefully I got all of that right, there was a lot going on!

Cambodian necklace binding the two together. Katarina Price Photography.

Katarina Price Photography. http://www.katarinaprice.com

We offered many more thanks and received many blessings and advice from both sides of the family, which we will take forward to enrich our new life together. After the ceremony was complete, it was time to eat, drink and be (very) merry!

We had an amazing spread from local restaurant Sampan Cafe with everything from fish to roast pork to shumai to calamari and mixed vegetables and more dishes that were amazing, but I can’t even remember. And remember the whole roast pig? He made his curtain call on the buffet line, as well.

Buffet food line at the reception. Katarina Price Photography.

Katarina Price Photography. http://www.katarinaprice.com

It was a long morning, but every moment of preparation was well worth it. It was truly an amazing day and such an honor to participate in the ceremony promising me to the man of my dreams – waking and in sleep – as the next step to join our lives together. Only a short time until we’re now legally wed in the state of Virginia…

Bride and Groom before the dam hoi worship table. Katarina Price Photography.

Katarina Price Photography. http://www.katarinaprice.com

Thanks for sticking around for the entire dam hoi ceremony via photos – I’d love to hear about your own experience in the comments below!

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13 Responses to “Dam Hoi Vietnamese Engagement Ceremony Photos”

  1. Jenni Fitzgerald August 20, 2013 at 6:46 pm #

    What a beautiful ceremony… You did a great job narrating the many symbols and traditions. Thanks for sharing this happy day! 🙂

  2. FrenchTwistDC August 20, 2013 at 8:55 pm #

    Looks like a beautiful ceremony, so full of traditions!

  3. jenny a August 20, 2013 at 9:09 pm #

    I really enjoyed reading all about your special day. Thank u for sharing.

  4. henry winn August 25, 2013 at 6:58 pm #

    Look as though you two started out perfectly. Best wishes!

    • amandare September 25, 2013 at 6:26 am #

      Thank you! We’ve been extremely blessed with our families and wonderful celebrations to start our life together!

  5. gg620 May 28, 2014 at 11:53 am #

    Hi there!

    My fiancé is vietnamese and we are gearing up for our Dam Hoi in August and I was wondering if you are up for giving a girl a little advice? haha. I am trying to figuring out what my side (the bride) needs to provide for the ceremony. My fiancé’s mother keeps insisting it is rude for them to dictate what we should do and it is up to me and my family to do whatever we like (not very helpful, but sweet haha). Any help? Thank you! 🙂

    • amandare June 2, 2014 at 8:37 am #

      Hi back! Thanks so much for visiting – it was such a challenge for me to determine solutions for the very same challenges you are having. Are you doing the traditional “pick you up at your parents house before going back to his”? If so, that makes it a bit easier. At that stage, our families are meeting for the “first” time and as tradition dictates, his family stated their intention for their son to ask for my hand in/state their intention for marriage. They brought little gifts for my parents which they sat on the table (fruit, alcohol, tobacco, meat are tradition, apparently) and flowers for me. Since we started the day early, my family made coffee, tea and such, and I insisted on a Mimosa Bar 🙂 We also prepared light snacks since the big meal would be at his home following the formal ceremony. This kept our families busy and refreshed while my fiancé and I went outside for some photos.

      If you’re NOT doing the two part ceremony, then you do need to coordinate a bit more. We really enjoyed introducing our extended families together and showing them a bit of our history. So you could prepare a family recipe or provide the decorations. I’ll send you an email and we can chat more! (Any tidbits we come up with I’ll also post to the blog!)

      Can’t wait to see what you come up with 😀

  6. Stephanie January 4, 2016 at 10:15 pm #

    Hi! Thank you so much for this post (and comments below.) I’m marrying a Vietnamese-American man (also in your neck of the woods) in Oct 2016. May I ask where you got your ao dai? Thanks!

    • amandare January 9, 2016 at 3:35 pm #

      Congrats! Very exciting 🙂 I had the ao dai made in Vietnam through family that is still in Saigon but the style from Thai Tuan – I have a bunch of pinned ao dai on this Pinterest board http://pin.it/xDcRjfA. Good luck!

  7. Stephanie August 29, 2016 at 11:54 am #

    Thanks so much! MayI ask another question? where did you get all the wedding altar stuff (banner, trays, etc etc)? I saw a site out of Australia, but they don’t ship to the states. 🙂 (PS – I trekked to Philly)

    • amandare August 29, 2016 at 4:29 pm #

      There is a Vietnamese shopping center near my home that had everything we needed that the family didn’t already have. I believe we rented the large banner and red trays from a Chinese/Vietnamese restaurant/shop that hosts similar events.

    • Dang Le December 29, 2016 at 4:46 pm #

      Hi Stephanie,

      May i ask where in Philly did you go to get all the wedding supply you mentioned above? Thanks.

  8. Linh July 27, 2017 at 12:18 am #

    Thanks for blogging! This is very cool.

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