Hired attendants boost wedding festivities

A group of beautiful girls in red ao dai (traditional long dresses) and gentlemen in lounge suits carrying trap (tray or basket) above their heads to a bride's house in Hanoi 's Kim Nguu street , attract the attention of both local and foreign guests.
A group of beautiful girls in red ao dai (traditional long dresses) and gentlemen in lounge suits carrying trap (tray or basket) above their heads to a bride's house in Hanoi 's Kim Nguu street , attract the attention of both local and foreign guests.

The an hoi, or engagement day of Nguyen Phuong Linh and F. Daniel in Hai Ba Trung District was full of happiness thanks to the help of the seven tray carrying couples.

Most of guests at Linh's engagement enjoyed the young people's behaviour and their efforts to keep the guests occupied.

"According to Vietnamese tradition, these tray carriers are supposed to make engagements more interesting," Daniel said.

One foreign guest said, "They told me about Vietnamese wedding traditions in such great detail, it sounded like they'd been coached," the guest said.

In the past, tray carriers were relatives of the bride's family but things have been changed in more modern times as students have helped provide a ‘carrier-for-hire' service, earning them some cash for their studies.

In the past, it was very hard to hire a tray carrying group because unmarried young girls were often not allowed by their parents to carry trays to a stranger's engagement party because they believed that their girls would find it hard to find a husband, said an elderly woman.

The tradition has been handed down from generation to generation in Vietnam . The trays carry the groom's gifts to the family of his bride, including tea, tobacco, fruits and cakes such as green beans or yellow-coloured wedding pastry.

Bui Anh Tho, a student of the Academy of Journalism and Communication, said "I like this job because it only takes me a few hours but I earn about 150,000 VND -200,000 VND (7.9-10.5 USD) to go towards my university expenses."

Tho added, however, that wearing “ao dai”, particularly during the wedding season which often falls in winter, could cause her cold.

"Despite all that I really enjoy it," Tho said.

Like Tho, Nguyen Thanh Phuong from the Hanoi Open University said, "This job brings me valuable experiences, such as learning how to organise an engagement party, plus it gives me the chance to make friends with students from other universities, allowing us to exchange views on all sorts of things.”

Phuong said carrying tray is an easy job but her group had been given some short training by experienced women on how to carry them correctly so as not to let the trays fall down.

"The boys have to carry the larger and heavier trays on the way from the groom's to the bride's house often on foot," said Phuong.

She has had four-year experience of carrying trays for friends and relatives. She emphasises that doing this job, you have to wake up very early and always be ready.

She revealed that reason this job attracts youngsters is that they can easily earn money within a few hours compared to doing something more difficult such as teaching.

"After the engagement, the bride's family will give me ‘lucky' money of 50,000 VND or more; but for a professional carrier, the average salary could reach 2 million VND per month when they carry for ten wedding parties," Phuong said.

She added that during the wedding season she earned some 1.5 million VND per month to support her living and her study.

"But the most important thing is that I could help reducing my poor parents' pressure from being sent money for me every month."

She said she liked this job because it was flexible and far more interesting than working as a tutor, plus she enjoyed the added perk of showing off in an ao dai. Being asked about the superstition that a girl acting as a tray carrier could face a lot of difficulties in finding a husband, Phuong said she has found a boyfriend at a recent engagement party while working as a casket carrier.

Thanh Quynh, an owner of a wedding service centre in Hanoi 's Truong Dinh Street , said she and her boyfriend have run the service for almost five years. They have a tray-carrying group of 200 members, mostly are students.

"I usually take charge of 100 female members while my boyfriend looks after the 100 men. We arrange our service depending on student timetable availability. If they're all busy with exams or private business, he can ask his friends to be instead," said Quynh.

"We often read CVs before we let them work officially, but now youngsters come to us through friends and relatives," she added.

There are many wedding centres like Thanh Quynh on the central Hanoian street of Hang Than, which provide tray couples. The average salary of a tray carrier is about 500,000 VND (26.3 USD) per party.

Apart from the tray carrying, services for wedding parties and funeral ceremonies in Vietnam include cooking, bridal gowns and groom suits for lease, photography, car rental, and professional mourners.

However this service boom, and the increased spending on wedding services haven't escaped criticism. Rich families in urban cities often organise huge parties for their children's weddings ceremonies, and are accused of wasting money.

Cultural authorities have for years urged local people to preserve the country's cultural values and avoid dissolute customs that contribute to the moral corruption of the people. The public were instead asked to opt for traditional weddings, which typically cost just a few million dong./.

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