Everything you need to know about Chinese wedding

Cover photo for Chinese weddings

Everything you need to know about Chinese wedding

Chinese Wedding – Everything you know about!

Have you ever been invited to Chinese wedding before? Is one of your Chinese friends getting married soon? Or are you planning to propose your Chinese girlfriend/boyfriend?

Chinese people really take marriage seriously. In the past, the wedding was usually arranged through matchmaking between families.The parent and the family decide the marriage rather than the couple themselves. The marriage was a commercial trade to strengthen the two families’ social status, wealth, etc. Although it’s supposed to be the biggest celebration for the two lovers.

Our ancestors firmly believe that marriage is the continuation of their ancestral line. Therefore, they think the task is too important to let us decide on our own!

Were you taken back by the fact? Yes, I was too. Luckily this kind of thinking is not adopted that much in modern Chinese society. If you’re interested, keep reading, I’m going to tell you guys about both the ancient and modern Chinese marriage traditions and customs.

Origins and Ancient Chinese wedding traditions

The origins and the traditions of the Chinese wedding vary slightly according to the ethics and the regions. But the most standard one will be the three letters and the six rules. Records of these Chinese wedding traditions can be found in the book of rites from Warring state period (402-221 B.C) dating back over 2400 years.

The 3 letters were the proposal (betrothal) letter, the gift list letter and the wedding letter to use on the wedding day.

The first step – the proposal and birthday matching

The first rule is about proposing. In the ancient times, once the boy reached the age to get married, the family will look for a perfect girl that match their standard, which is the girl from the similar family background, social and wealth status. Once they found the potential candidate, they will ask a matchmaker to send a proposal to express their intention to tie the knot. If the girl’s family think the two families are compatible, they will provide the girl’s information (including name, birthday and birthplace, etc.) through the matchmaker “媒婆 – méi pó”.

the matchmaker tradition of chinese wedding

the matchmaker from Mulan

After that, the groom family would place this information on the ancestral altar for 3 days. They will proceed the wedding if there are no bad things like quarrel or property loss happen during the 3 days. They believe it’s a process getting approval for the marriage from the ancestors. If everything goes smoothly in 3 days, they will send the information to the fortune teller to confirm that the couple is the perfect match and their marriage would bring good fortune to the families.

This is just one of the many Chinese superstitions of marriage. Once the result from fortune teller is satisfying, they will send the boy’s information to the girl’s family through the matchmaker “媒婆 – méi pó”. And the girl’s side would do the same process. After the girl’s side is also satisfied with the result, the two families will meet up to discuss the betrothal, which comes to the second step.

The second step – the betrothal gifts and dowry

The cake send as chinese wedding gift

the Dragon and Phoenix cake

Betrothal is actually an engagement. The 2 families would meet up and share information about each family, discuss the number of gifts for each side and most importantly, the wedding date. Once they reach the agreement, the groom family will send the gifts with the bridal cake.This cake usually has the dragon “龙 – lóng” and Phoenix “凤凰 – fèng huáng” pattern on it. Mainly because of the dragon “龙 – lóng” represents male and the Phoenix “凤凰 – fèng huáng” represents female in Chinese traditions.

Then the girl’s side will display the gifts and share the cake with their relatives and friends. The process is to let everyone know their daughter’s engagement and it’s also the best time to show off how much they can afford. After that, the girl’s side will send the gifts as dowry to the boy’s side.

the chinese wedding gifts

the display of betrothal gifts

The Third Step – choosing the wedding date and the wedding ceremony

After the gifts, they will go to the fortune teller again to determine the best wedding date for the 2 families. The Chinese believe that choosing the right wedding date can bring a great fortune to the family. Once they have confirmed the date, they will start to prepare for the Chinese wedding ceremony.

Before the wedding date, they will install a new bed. It has to be done by a man or a woman who has a happy married life with lots of children. It symbolized that the couple receives the good luck from that person. After the installation, they will have children to play on the bed. Most of the family will ask any boy who has dragon “龙 – lóng” zodiac sign. As mentioned, dragon “龙 – lóng” represents male in Chinese culture, and thus they believe that by doing so the couple will have a baby boy.

On the wedding itself, the groom “新郎 – xīn láng” accompanied by a group of people will go to the bride’s house with a red sedan轿子 –  jiào zi” to pick up the bride. The group will play music and release firecrackers all the way to share the joyous occasion. The red color is to drive away all the inauspicious and evils like mentioned in Chinese New Year traditions, and red is also a big part of Chinese lucky culture.

Chinese wedding attire

different types of Phoenix crowns and wedding dress

Before the groom “新郎 – xīn láng” arrived, the bride’s family would get an elder woman who has a happy marriage life to help the bride-to-be with her preparation. This woman will help bride-to-be to do the hair and put the comb in her hair. This is also the same logic as receiving the woman’s marriage luck. The bride would wear a red Chinese wedding dress with a phoenix crown凤凰冠  – fèng huáng guān”  shield over with a silk red cape. She cannot remove this red cape until she reached the wedding chamber. This way she won’t see anything that can cause bad luck.

Chinese wedding tradition of using the sedan

the sedan

The Ceremony

When the groom “新郎 – xīn láng” arrived at the house, he would ask the girl’s parents for the girl. The good luck lady will carry the bride “新娘 – xīn niáng”. A servant would shield the bride with a red umbrella while the others would throw rice. They will set off firecrackers when the bride arrives at the sedan to scare off bad luck and evil spirits.

When they reach the groom’s house, the whole family except the parents will come and welcome the new bride to the family. This is because Chinese people believe that it is respectful for the children to go meet the parents. Upon arrival, they will set off firecrackers again for the same reason. Before entering the house, the bride needs to cross either the saddle or a lit stove to drive away any bad luck or evil spirit.

Saying “I do”

Chinese wedding bows

Chinese way of saying “I Do”

After the bride’s arrival, the couple would offer tea to the groom’s parents. Then they will bow to the heaven, the earth and each other to tie the knot. This is the way of saying “I do” in the Chinese wedding. Finally, they are officially husband and wife, and they will go to the wedding chamber.

There will be a feast for the guests outside to let all the groom’s friends and relative know about the marriage. On the next day, the newly bride “新娘 – xīn niáng” would get up early to pay respect to the ancestors. Then she would be officially introduced to all the relatives by serving tea to the elder ones. And she will receive either red envelope money or jewelry for that. She will also add up her surname following her husband’s and get her title according to the seniority in her husband’s Chinese family tree.

Chinese wedding tea ceremony

Newlywed bride offering tea

On the third day, they will go back to the newlyweds will go back to the bride’s family to have another feast with her side of friends and family. By this time the bride family welcomes her as a guest, not as a family member.

Now vs Then

This is just the standard procedure for the ancient Chinese weddings. Of course, there will be some differences between different regions and clans. As you can see, in the past, the whole marriage is about increasing the 2 family’s good fortune and wealth rather than the couple’s happiness.

Luckily, the Chinese nowadays is not that strict at all. Today’s Chinese couple will find their own love ones. Of course, the matchmaking traditions hasn’t gone away as well. There are still some parents would try to secretly arrange blind dating for their children. Matchmaking is still a booming industry in China for those who cannot find a lover themselves.They even have a name for the woman who hasn’t married until 30 “Chinese leftover woman

Chinese wedding matchmaking

the modern matchmaking industry

Some Chinese people would try to preserve the ancient Chinese wedding traditions on their wedding. But they will try to simplify it because it is very costly if you follow the real procedure. The sedan “轿子 –  jiào zi” changed into the car.

Wedding Gate Crashing

Out of all the traditions, the fun and interesting one would be the modern twist of the Chinese wedding gate crashing games. The groom “新郎 – xīn láng” and his groomsmen “伴郎 – bàn láng” have to pass all the obstacles set up by the bridesmaids “伴娘 – bàn niáng”. This is a way of testing the groom’s love for the bride ( funnily play jokes on the groom and his groomsmen). The game can be as silly as drinking up the ketchup mixed with green chilies and wasabi to transferring the food mouth to mouth between groomsmen.

Before the final step, the bridesmaids would ask the groom some questions about the bride to test how much he knows about her. The questions can be varied from their first date to asking the groom to choose the correct lip mark of the bride. If he gives the wrong answer, he will get punishment. A press or a sit up if he’s lucky and the bridesmaids pity him. If not, the punishments will be worse. The bride will be watching/listening all this from a separate room.

Chinese wedding tradition

wedding gate crashing games

After he overcomes all the test, he will have to give the bridesmaids the red envelope money. The amount has to be big enough to satisfy all of them. The last step he needs to do before entering the room is to read out the contract letter prepared by the bride and agree all her terms. The basic terms are the promise to love her, help her with the housework and to give all the salary to her. Of course, these are just for fun. This is the only time the bride and the bridesmaids get to test the groom’s love. So think twice before you decide to have a Chinese traditional wedding. But of course, if you have one and overcome all the hard work, you will have the most unforgettable wedding.

Summary

After reading the whole article, you will realize that some Chinese people still believe in superstitious and their traditions are usually to make sure to attain good fortune. This is true even when it comes to the Chinese wedding. In ancient times, the whole wedding is just for the sake of the two families. Some of you may find this fact quite annoying. But the truth is today China is built upon the ancestor’s preservation and love for their family, country, and traditions. Luckily, as times go by, nowadays, the Chinese weddings are not just for the families and traditions. Young people can choose to marry for love. In addition, modern Chinese weddings are much more flexible combining western style. Nonetheless, all Chinese people will try to preserve as much tradition as they can to carry on their ancestor’s will and to hand over these customs to the next generations.

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