San Chay Ethnic Minority Group Boasts Unique Wedding Customs

The San Chay ethnic minority in northeastern Bac Giang Province have preserved their wedding customs with cultural characteristics that have survived the test of time. 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. The San Chay people’s wedding ceremonies are usually held from September to February on the lunar calendar. After the groom and the bride’s families finish betrothal formalities, they will select an appropriate date for the wedding. 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. Having accepted these offerings, the bride’s family will proceed by lighting incenses in tribute to the ancestors. 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, symbolising 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 beddings to clothes. Some families even offer oxen and cows. 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. Lam Thi Tien, Kien Lao Commune, Luc Ngan District, said in the past, the San Chay people always wear traditional clothes when going to a wedding. But these days, young people study and work far away from their homes, and they bring back new, modern clothes. The brides and grooms often wear these new clothes, but the elders always choose the traditional outfits. 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. Tien said 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. (