Wife Catching in Vietnam

Keo vo, or "wife catching"or “hay pu” in Mong language, is an original wedding custom of the Mong ethnic group in the northwestern province of Lao Cai, Vietnam.
Many think that keo vo by the Mong is a depraved custom and is not suitable in modern society.

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A Mong girl is caught by her boyfriend and his friend as part of the keo vo (wife catching) custom of the Mong people.

"Wife catching" is an original cultural trait of the Mong people that takes place during the springtime. It is typically used when the girl’s parents don’t accept their son-in-law. The girl and the boy then agree with each other that the boy will "kidnap" her so that she can become his wife. The moment chosen may be
when the girl goes to the market or to the field. The man asks his friends to help him catch her, and even though she agreed to be caught, tradition dictates that she should shout and cry as if she were really being kidnapped.

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The Mong's wedding ceremony

If she doesn’t appear to be frightened or scream for help, she will belittle her family and her community and be considered a worthless woman. When her relatives arrive on the scene they will be armed with sticks and canes. The boyfriend and his friends will volunteer to be the whipping boys and according to Mong customs, they are not permitted to fight back.

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Mong's girl

After being caught, the girl will be brought to the boy’s family and will be looked after by the boy’s sister for three days. During those three days, the boy’s parents will ask a male matchmaker to bring some wine in a buffalo’s horn to the girl’s house and invite the girl’s family members to drink the wine. The father learns this way that his daughter has been caught and can expect wedding presents.

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Mong girls and boys are free to choose their soul mates.

In the past, there were many situations that brought about this custom – the boy loves a girl but she refuses his advances, the boy’s family uses their power to catch their son a wife. But as society becomes increasingly less male dominated, modern weddings with the Mong are now based on love. However, there have been many cases where the parents forced their daughters to marry persons they did not love as reflected through the following lyrics of a folk song:

“Your father has received the money from them
If you refuse to get married, he shall cut your flesh piece by piece.
Your father has drunk their liquor
If you refuse to get married, he will whip you away”

For such cases, the Mong convention opens a way out for the woman through the “wife-catching” practice. If a married woman wish to build for her a new life with the man she loves, she and her lover shall run away until some day she sends out the news through an intermediately to her husband that she needs a divorce and would return all the wedding presents to him. Only when the husband accepts can the couple become husband and wife.

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Mong people

Another marital practice of the Mong people is that a widow, still young and wishing to remarry, can be allowed by her in-laws to get married with her late husband’s younger brother though the latter has already got married and had children.


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