Wedding rituals of the Tay
For the Tay, the second largest ethnic group in Vietnam with a population of over 1.6 million, wedding is an important ceremony which involves five steps, namely preliminary proposal, horoscope reading, official proposal, engagement and wedding.

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Ta Thi Tam

Ethnology Institute

For the Tay, the second largest ethnic group in Vietnam with a population of over 1.6 million, wedding is an important ceremony which involves five steps, namely preliminary proposal, horoscope reading, official proposal, engagement and wedding.

Preliminary proposal

After a boy finds his beloved or his parents choose a girl for him, the parents ask a matchmaker to visit the girl’s family to make a proposal. The matchmaker must be a man or woman who is smooth-tongued and conversant with customs and has a happy family. A person who is invited to act as a matchmaker will consider this an honor and do this job for free.

The date of the preliminary proposal is selected carefully and must not fall on a forbidden day of the clan. According to Tay custom, each family line has a forbidden day. For instance, for the To, it is the day of the snake; the Hoang, the day of the tiger; the Dinh, the day of the pig; and the Loc, the day of the monkey. Offerings of this ceremony are simple, comprising one silver coin, two packs of tea and two packs of banh khao (sweet short cake). If accepting the proposal, the girl’s family will give the matchmaker her horoscope.

Horoscope reading

A member of the boy’s family or the matchmaker offers a bottle of wine, betel and areca to a sorcerer, asking him to read the horoscopes of the boy and the girl to see if they are a good match. The reading is based on the eastern philosophy of five basic elements (metal, wood, water, fire and earth).

Official proposal

To make the official proposal, the boy’s family brings to the girl’s a hen, some rice, three meters of cloth and several coins for the girl’s family to conduct a ritual called thom khoan. This ritual aims to call the spirit of the girl back to her ancestors which is believed to follow the boy’s family when it has her horoscope.


This formality is for the two families to decide on the wedding day and betrothal presents. The boy’s family must choose a good date for the engagement which also must not fall on the forbidden day of the clan.

Two members of the boy’s family visit the girl’s family which invites its relatives to this ceremony to discuss and reach agreement with the boy’s family on the wedding day, the time for picking up the bride and wedding presents. In the past, the betrothal offerings included 42 big banh day (round glutinous rice cake), one plate of small banh day, four roosters and four hens, two plates of sticky rice, four kilos of pork, two bottles of wine, 100 betel leaves and 12 areca nuts. Nowadays, the wedding presents usually include VND 10 million (nearly USD 500), a roast pig, 80 kilos of pork, two roosters and two hens, two bottles of wine, two plates of sticky rice, two cartons of cigarettes, 100 betel leaves, 12 areca nuts, some pipe tobacco and a piece of artocarpus tonkinensis tree bark (which is served together with betel and areca).

The engagement marks the official promise between the two families. From now on, any of the sides which breaks their pledge will have to pay compensation. For the boy’s family, it will lose all the expenses paid for the engagement while the girl’s family will have to compensate those expenses once breaking its promise.

In the past, the wedding was held two or three years after the engagement. During this time, the groom had to visit his future parents-in-law on the occasions of the lunar new year Tet; thanh minh, a festival in memory of the dead held on the 3rd of the third lunar month; doan ngo, a middle year festival for prevention of disease and warding off evil spirits held on the 5th of the fifth lunar month, and the tenth lunar month festival.


The Tay’s wedding season lasts from the eighth lunar month of a year to the second lunar month of the following year. A wedding day must fall neither on the forbidden day of the clan nor on the third, fifth and seventh lunar months.

Before the wedding day, both families each build a bamboo pavilion for receiving wedding guests. In the evening, the families treat a party to their relatives and villagers who come to give their congratulations and help build the wedding pavilion.

On the wedding day, the bride will be picked up by the groom’s family at a time carefully chosen by the sorcerer. In some special cases, the bride is picked up at midnight if this time is believed to be good for the couple to have a happy marriage.

The groom’s party to bring the bride home comprises nine members the most important of whom is pu tap, a man who can be a relative or villager of the groom, but must be conversant with Tay customs and well-spoken and lead a happy and well-off family with both son and daughter. The second important person is gia tap, a gentle and kind-hearted woman who must also have both son and daughter. Pu tap and gia tap, together with a tap (a young girl) take the charge of taking the bride home. Other members include the groom, two groomsmen, a girl carrying the offerings and two men carrying a roast pig.

The party accompanying the bride to her husband’s home consists of a man, a woman, a girl and two bridesmaids.

In order to pick up the bride, the groom’s party must pass through 36 gates by answering questions posed by the bridal family and paying some money to the questioners at each gate. The questioners at different gates who can be children, young girls and family members of the bride ask their questions in verses. Pu tap must give his answers also in verses and if he fails to do this tough job at each gate, the groom’s party must drink wine as a fine.

The final gate the groom’s party must pass before reaching the bride’s home is called giai via which means to get rid of evil spirits following the groom’s party on its way. At the giai via gate is placed a small table on which are four cups of wine, one bowl of water and one branch of peach blossom. At this gate, pu tap must sing songs to ward off evil spirits.

Passing this gate, the groom’s party enters the bride’s house, pu tap and gia tap give wedding presents to the bridal family’s representatives who then place them on the ancestor altar.

Then starts a wedding party in which guests are seated according to their positions. The most important place in the family which is in front of the altar is for elderly people of both paternal and maternal families of the bride. The place at the right side of the altar is for the bride’s paternal side and the one at the left side is for the maternal side. The groom’s party is seated next to the bride’s paternal family. Tay wedding dishes include roast pork, boiled pork, chicken and khau nhuc (stewed roast pork), a specialty of the Tay. During this party, both families sing songs responsively to pray for happiness for the new couple.

As the wedding party goes on, the bride and groom pray in front of the altar to greet the bride’s ancestors and inform them of the marriage. In this ritual, pu tap sings a song asking the bride’s ancestors to accept their new son-in-law while the man who heads the party accompanying the bride sings a song to hand over the bride to her husband’s family.

Before entering the groom’s home, the bride and groom must conduct another giai via. The couple then conducts a similar ritual to greet the groom’s ancestors as at the bride’s. Then comes a wedding party during which the bride is introduced to and offered presents by her new family members.

The Tay does not have the matrilocality custom but after the marriage, the bride’s mother will bring sticky rice and a chicken as offering to the groom’s family, asking for its permission to take the bride home. A month later, the groom’s family chooses a good date for the husband to take his wife home.-

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