Chinese wedding traditions are unlike any other. From the elaborate red envelopes to the elaborate red outfits, Chinese weddings are known for their extravagance.
Chinese weddings are grandiose celebrations that are as much about the happy couple’s families as they are about their individual families. They are lively and colorful. Many symbolic elements of this ritualized celebration center on wishes for the couple’s prosperity, plenty, and happiness from friends and family members.
Continue reading to learn about the customs and behaviors that are most typical of Chinese weddings.
Before the wedding ceremony, the groom would make a formal proposal to the bride’s parents, known as the Guo Da Li, by presenting betrothal presents (gold jewelry, dragon and phoenix wax candles, tea leaves and sesame seeds, wine or brandy, etc.) that symbolize wealth and good fortune. They will return half of the gifts as a sign of acceptance of the proposal and to express their desire for a cordial relationship with the groom’s family.
Choosing the Wedding Date
The wedding ceremony’s date isn’t picked at random. In order to select an auspicious date that would ensure their marriage is successful, many couples consult with a fortune teller, Chinese monk, or Feng Shui expert. The Chinese zodiac signs of the couple, as well as birthday information (the bride’s birthday is favored over the groom’s), will play a significant part in selecting the ideal date.
Chinese wedding invitations generally feature the Double Happiness symbol and are written in crimson with gold accents. It will contain the names of the bride, groom, and their respective parents, the dates of the wedding feast, and the order of their births. Additionally, information on the dinner’s location and schedule will be provided. A crimson package may be sent with the wedding invitation when the guests may not be familiar with Chinese traditions.
Preparing the Marriage Bed
The An Chuang often occurs two or three days prior to the wedding on an auspicious day and hour. A female relative of good fortune—one who has parents, a spouse, children, and grandchildren—carries out this custom by decorating the bed with fresh red linen and pillows as well as a variety of dried fruits and nuts, including longans, persimmons, and red dates. The combination represents a happy, long-lasting marriage that is endowed with fertility and good fortune. Yu further says that until the couple returns united at the conclusion of the wedding night, nobody is allowed to sit on the chair or sleep in the bed.
Hair Combing Ceremony
A ceremony is carried out the night before the wedding to represent the pair starting a new stage of maturity in their individual homes. The bride and groom will change into new crimson clothing and slippers before taking a shower with pomelo leaves to drive away evil spirits. The bride will be seated in front of a window or mirror, while the groom will be seated facing inside the home. A wooden ruler, a hair comb, two red taper candles, scissors, one stick of incense, and red yarn adorned with cypress leaves will all be prepared by the respective parents.
The hair combing ritual will begin when a woman of good fortune lights one stick of incense and two red taper candles. She will chant blessings to the bride or groom while she combs their hair:
May the first comb bring you a lasting relationship
May the second comb bring you a successful union
May the third comb brings you a great number of descendants
May the fourth comb bring you longevity and prosperity
The ceremony is complete when the woman of good fortune clips the crimson yarn with cypress leaves on the hair of the bride or groom after it has been brushed four times.
Lucky Colors and Auspicious Symbols
The colors red and gold are essential to any Chinese wedding decoration. While the latter represents money, the former is connected to love, success, happiness, prosperity, luck, fertility, and loyalty.
All Chinese weddings have the Double Happiness sign, which comprises two similar Chinese characters that symbolize joy. It can take the form of traditional décors, such as a wall hanging made of fresh red roses for the tea ceremony or neon signs for an after-party. Dragons, phoenixes, and mandarin ducks are also considered lucky symbols since they stand for joy and fidelity. The bride is frequently given a 24-carat gold pig necklace (pigs are symbols of fertility) as part of her bridal jewelry to wear right away.
Picking Up the Bride
Chinese wedding customs have evolved, and there is no longer a massive parade, but the trip to pick up the bride is still an exciting event. Fireworks, the sound of gongs and drums, or even a company of lion dancers are all possible. In order to represent fertility, a kid generally marches in front of the procession beside the husband.
Putting the Groom to the Test
Door games, or chuangmen, are a major component of the celebrations for the day. Modernized games now include entertaining exams. Usually, the bridesmaids prepare them to test the groom’s resolve to marry the bride and to obtain the bride’s family’s blessing. While the challenges vary, common games incorporate at least one painful obstacle, eating something sour, sour, bitter, or sweet, to demonstrate the groom’s ability to endure every stage of marriage and demonstrate the groom’s understanding of the bride.
The bridesmaids will need to “surrender” their pal, and the groom will need to give them a scarlet pouch containing money. Only after succeeding in each test would he be granted access to the bride’s room, where the last test is to find the bride’s lost wedding shoe, put it on her foot, and then bring her outside to the living room for the Chinese tea ceremony.
Offering Tea and Paying Respects
It is required that the Chinese tea ritual be conducted at Chinese marriages. The bride and groom use this opportunity to thank and honor their parents for all of their love, support, and work in raising them. Either the bride and groom’s homes or a single site is chosen for the wedding. During the tea ceremony, black tea is sweetened with dried longans, lotus seeds, and red dates using a red tea set with a Double Happiness emblem.
The pair will receive the teacups from a bridesmaid or a woman of good fortune, and they will bend (or bow) and offer the parents tea while saying, “Please drink tea.” The groom’s family will be served first. The pair will be given a crimson envelope containing money or gold jewelry after each has a cup of tea as a blessing for their union and as a formal welcome to the family. The couple will next serve tea to the grandparents on the paternal side, the elder and younger uncles and aunts, and lastly their older married siblings. For the maternal side of the family, they will follow the same procedure once more.
The Exchange of Vows
Depending on the couple, the ritualistic exchanging of vows could happen in a neighborhood government building or in a private ceremony when the pair bows to each other after paying respects to the ancestors in front of the family altar. Additionally, some couples choose for a traditional Western wedding, complete with a white bridal gown and a walk down the aisle.
The Wedding Banquet
The couple’s parents threw a spectacular eight-course dinner. A fish entrée for plenty, a suckling pig to represent the bride’s purity, a fowl dish (often chicken or duck) for peace and harmony, and a sweet lotus seed dessert for fertility are all on the menu for the evening. A slideshow of childhood pictures from both sides is a must-do, as is the boisterous “yam seng” (cheers) toast made toward the end of the reception to congratulate the groom on winning the hand of his bride. The bride will change into a red qipao (long Chinese wedding dress) halfway through the banquet.
Three Days After
Three days after the wedding, the bride and groom visit their families. She is no longer regarded as a family member at this time. The bride’s family hosts a small luncheon to greet the newlyweds, and the groom delivers a roasted pig as a gift.
Chinese wedding traditions are complex and fascinating. From the elaborate outfits of the bride and groom in traditional Chinese culture to the food served at the ceremony, to the traditions surrounding the birth of a baby, there is a lot to learn about Chinese wedding traditions.