Dao wedding shows respect for the bride

The Red Dao, an ethnic group living in Bat Xat, Lao Cai province, have strict wedding customs every couple must follow even though young people are free to choose their partners. Original wedding formalities of the Red Dao show the humanity in the culture of this ethnic group.

We visited the home of Chao Phu Sai in Tung Chin village, Bat Xat at dusk. Sai was busy preparing the bridal ceremony for his 24-year-old youngest son, Chao San.

A Dao wedding comprises of three main ceremonies: proposing, escorting the bride to her husband’s home, and welcoming her there.

The Dao believe when a bride goes to her husband’s family, she will bring good fortune with her. There must be important ceremonies involved when she meets her new family, according Chao Duon Liem, the shaman who hosted the wedding.

Bride Tan May is escorted to the groom’s house. Photo: Viet Cuong

When the bridal family arrives, a member from the groom’s family helps do the make-up for the bride.
Photo: Viet Cuong

Bride Tan May on her wedding day. Photo: Viet Cuong

A Red Dao bride is believed to bring the best luck to the groom’s family. Photo: Viet Cuong

The groom, dressed in the costume of a Red Dao woman, shows off for his bride. Photo: Viet Cuong

The groom’s family offers the bridal family ginger and chopsticks which represent fertility and attachment.
Photo: Viet Cuong

The wedding background. Photo: Tran Hieu

The wedding feast. Photo: Viet Cuong

The bride bows to the groom’s ancestors and then greets her parents and parents-in-law. Photo: Viet Cuong

The formalities of escorting and welcoming the bride to her new home must be carried out carefully by the groom’s family to please the bride and her family. “Otherwise, the daughter-in-law will not enter our home,” Sai said.

The date and time of the ceremony to escort Chao San’s bride was selected carefully by the shaman. When the bridal family arrived, the groom’s family members greeted the former at the entrance gate, offering each member of the bridal family a cup of wine and inviting them to a feast which lasted until midnight. The party included singing by the two families, introducing one family to the other and telling how the groom and bride had been raised. While the two families had the party, the bride stayed in a small shack erected next to the groom’s house, waiting for the rite to make her an official member of the family which was done early the next morning.

At the chosen time the next day, the bride was accompanied by her groom, who was dressed in the costume of a Red Dao woman with a scarf covering half of his face, to the altar of his family to bow to his ancestors. She then greeted her parents and parents-in-law and brought a basin of water for the shaman and her parents-in-law to wash their faces. Only after this ceremony did she become a member of her husband’s family.

The original ceremonies in the wedding of the Red Dao, which have been conserved by the Red Dao community in Bat Xat, reflect a Dao family’s respect for the daughter-in-law, the new member believed to bring the best luck to the family.

By Tran Hieu & Viet Cuong