Marriage. The textiles and their importance to to pave the way for happy married life and family life.

I never posted this last October 2016 ... here it is: a few words on a Dzao wedding.

Today I went to a wedding. It was the second Dzao wedding I have been to in Taphin, this time I got to see the ceremony. It was a treat.

Slowly slowly I am piecing together a better and better understanding of what it means to be Dzao and today a few things came together by seeing the wedding ceremony. 


Being a woman in Dzao culture and being respected means learning how to make tiny intricate embroidery. A girl starts to learn at the age of 8 with the most basic of Dzao embroidery and by the age of marriage, normally between 16 and 22, a girl is expected to really have got it down. When a women becomes engaged to be married she starts to make her wedding clothes. These comprise of her coat, an enormous tail piece of embroidery and work on the sleeves. There is also a back panel of tiny work, scarves, trousers, bridal scarf and more and more scarves to make up the entire bridal ‘costume’. I am always in awe. The bride is exempt from work on the fields and domestic chores for whole year before marriage. She focuses entirely on her wedding embroidery. This gives her the concentration and the headspace to prepare for the next step of her life. It is a right of passage. She will spend hours and hours over the period of the year sewing. 


Having learnt how to make this embroidery myself I can understand how this focus and concentration allows a sense of opening in the mind. A busy quietness is permitted, a feeling of doing something and nothing at the same time. When you are doing this sort of extraordinarily repetitive embroidery the thinking in the process is relaxed but also attentive. It is very similar to a deep sense of meditation, yet you can see the passing of time through the advancing of stitches. 

Here lies wisdom. A deep wisdom. Cleverly developed by the Dzao to prepare the way for the hard domestic work post marriage in the parents-in-law’s home and the possible next step of becoming a mother. It is all about making progress little by little through trust and steady hard work. Doing things right does reap its rewards. 

Embroidery like this is an essential part of being a Dzao woman. It has been practised for years and years, centuries.


At the wedding today I stood behind the bride and groom (pic above). They both wore heavy amounts of this silk embroidery. The were covered from head to ankle in the wisdom of their community. They were dressed in wisdom. Wisdom that is held by the Dzao culture and only really understood by the Dzao culture. It is a wisdom of hard work, self pride, devotion and shared cultural believe. They all do it together. I said that the bride and groom were dressed from head to ankle… that is because despite the extraordinary depth of tradition the couple both expressed themselves as high fashionistas living in 2016 Vietnam though their individual choice of footwear. Wonderfully white, platform Lacoste trainers for the bride and black shiny leather long toed loafers for the groom. Both made me smile.

Back to the wedding ceremony. It was so long. It went on and on. It was held by the Shaman of the village. He read an entire holy Dzao book from cover to cover, chanting. There was a chick, we all thought it was going to die but it didn’t (phewf!). 

 I was surprised but also refreshed by the fact the bride and groom said nothing to each other. Perhaps on another day I would be disappointed by a lack of personality, or individual agency. However today I felt a sense of amazement at the community support, it wasn't in their hands whether this marriage worked or not, it was more about how things were going to turn out. The couple were held by the community, the destiny and the holy book. The sense of something bigger than themselves was phenomenal. The Shaman was there to pave the way, to remove potential obstacles that would cause problems within the relationship and to check that the marriage between these two people was in accordance to the Dzao book, a huge book of Dzao life written centuries ago (more to come about this is a future blog).  

Then we ate together. This was all before midday! After lunch I went to discuss human trafficking with Tamay’s sister and place the next order for jackets. Great day.

1 comment

  • George

    I am still hoping you produce a book with all these amazing discoveries and beautiful photos. Good luck with your traveling trips. George x

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