The San Chay people’s wedding ceremonies are usually held from September to February on the lunar calendar in Bac Giang province, northern Vietnam. After the groom and the bride’s families finish betrothal formalities, they will select an appropriate date for the wedding.
Bac Giang is home to eight ethnic groups, including the San Chay minority people. Having migrated into Vietnam 400 years ago, the San Chay group’s population has now grown to just 4,000, but they have all paid heed to keeping their unique traditions and cultural characteristics close to their daily life, especially typical wedding ceremonies.
When these formalities are completed, a respected elder from the bride’s family will lay down a piece of black cloth from the bride’s bedroom to the front door and span a bridge made from banana leaves, symbolizing a bridge across rivers and streams.
As the bride is bought to the groom’s home, she will be accompanied by her family’s representatives and bridesmaids. The bride’s family will also deliver their dowries, from bedding to clothes. Some families even offer oxen and cows.
On the big day, a male match-maker representing the groom will deliver the offerings to the bride’s home. These include steamed rice, cocks, alcohols, betel and areca, as well as rice-cake.
The fun begins when the bride arrives at her new home. As a unique cultural characteristic of the San Chay people, the groom’s family sends a representative to go outside and find the bride, hidden by the bridesmaids. To make this more tricky, the bridesmaids are dressed similarly to the bride, with the exception of a flower on the bride’s hair.
A San Chay wedding cannot be complete if it does not have music. When all formalities are accomplished, the groom’s family will invite the bride’s representatives to drink and both sides begin singing in the form of competitive dual. If one side cannot continue the song, the other team will pour the alcohol on their heads.
The most unique feature of San Chay weddings is Sinh singing. There are many different variations and the people always sing it during weddings, even just as a greeting or goodbye to each other on roads.
San Chay weddings always conclude in happy laughter. It can be said that the San Chay weddings are typically cultural characteristics among Vietnamese ethnic people.