Over more than 5000 years’ history in China, there are certain unique customs settled in dealing with wedding issues in China .Given that China is a country range over a vast land region, the wedding traditions and rituals surely varies from regions, religions and ethnics, below are some common traditions which many of them are still been followed by the wedding couple today to infuse with the modern style wedding.
1. Pick your wedding date
This is normally done by both side parents together with a Chinese monk or Feng Shui Master, Chinese calendar to ensure that the wedding falls on an auspicious date, the reason to do this is having the right wedding date will bring success to the marriage and wealth to the family.
2. Betrothal & Dowry (Caili)
In the western cultures when the couple decide to get married, the man make a propose and buys the women an Engagement ring, however it is very different in Chinese wedding traditions.
Traditionally, the groom’s family should present the betrothal or “Grand Gift” which is various proposal gifts representing fertility and prosperity to appreciate the girl’s parents’ efforts in raising the girl. Later, the girl’s family would send the girl’s dowry consisted of jewellery to display their support and love for their daughter. The betrothal and dowry are considered to be an important part in sealing the marriage, only by then the two are considered officially engaged.
In modern days China, when couple decided to get married, they probably already had an apartment or a house provided by the Grooms family, therefore the Grand Gift to the couple will normally be money which always in 6,8,9, as they symbolize “well” “wealth” “forever”.
3. Wedding invitations
Traditionally, Chinese wedding invitations to family members should be sent by the parents on behalf of the couple. This tradition was handed down from ancient times, as marriage was dictated by the parents. Only the invitations to friends or colleagues of the couple are sent by the groom and bride.
The invitation is red and placed in a red envelope. Usually, the wording is in gold or red, and if in Chinese, it is placed vertically. The Chinese calendar date is noted as well as the name of bride and groom and their parents, then the name of the dinner venue, and times for dinner
In modern days, more and more couples send all the invitations by themselves; normally the elderly family members will get the invitation in person to show respect, and the friends and work colleague will get the invitation electronically.
4. Hair Combing Ceremony
The hair combing ceremony is a tradition that symbolizes the coming of age and entrance into adulthood of both the bride and groom. This ceremony is usually performed the night before the wedding and takes place in the bride’s and groom’s respective homes. Prior to the actual act of combing the hair, both the bride and groom must first bathe in water with pomelo or pomegranate leaves to ward off evil spirits. After bathing, they change into new clothing and put on new bedroom slippers. The bride must then sit in a room facing the window where the moon is seen or in front of the mirror, while the groom must sit facing the inside of the house. A woman of good fortune must be the one to perform the combing ceremony. If the mothers of the bride and groom meet the criteria, they can perform the ceremony. If not, sometimes a relative may do so. The hair is combed four times, while these four lines are recited simultaneously:
May your marriage last a lifetime
May you be blessed with a happy and harmonious marriage until old age
May you be blessed with an abundance of children and grandchildren
May you be blessed with longevity
5. The Procession
Once the main event of Chinese weddings, the procession is now used as a nod to old traditions. The groom will lead a procession from his house and will light firecrackers and strike gongs to ward off evil spirits, while attendees carry banners and lanterns. When the procession arrives at the bride’s home, the bridal party traditionally refuses to allow the groom to see the bride until he surrenders enough red envelopes, or hong bao, full of money.
6. The Door Game
Before the groom can take away his new wife-to-be, he has to win approval from the bride’s friends and family. Hence, door games are performed in modern weddings. Door games originated from the ancient practices that imply a bride is a prized daughter, and her family does not want to marry her off easily. Therefore, a man worthy of her hand should have to pass certain “tests” (in modern days wedding, these are represented by the games) before he can take his wife.
7. The Tea Ceremony
The Tea Ceremony plays a very important part of Chinese wedding tradition; it is the time where the couple shows their respect to both parents and elderly family members. First the Bride & Groom will kneel on a tea pillow facing both parents, and then the couple will take turns serving tea to each parent, if there are any other elderly family members they will be served by the Bride & Groom too.
8. The Chinese Banquet
The Chinese Banquet is similar to the Westerns wedding receptions, it is a celebration of the Bride & Groom married as husband and wife, the banquet normally consist 8 – 10 courses for the duration of 5-6 hours.
During this time the Bride & Groom will go to each table and thank each guests for attending the dinner, multiple games will be played to enhance the atmosphere.
In some part of China there is a tradition where if Bride & Groom are both first time marriage, the banquet must be held at Lunch time, as people believe having banquet at night will bring bad luck to the marriage.
9. Costume change during the day
In modern day Chinese wedding, Bride is expected to change her dress multiple times during the course of Ceremony and Banquet,
To start the day, the Bride normally wears qipao (traditional dress normally wears by women on formal occasions) for traditional ceremony, then she will change to Western style wedding gowns at the beginning of the Banquet, then change one or two dresses after.
It is also very important for any guests attending the ceremony & Banquet not to wear black or white coloured dresses, both colours are considered one of the biggest fashion faux pas for a traditional Chinese wedding as both colours are symbolic of death and mourning.
10. The three day visit
After three days of the wedding, the Bride pays a visit to her parents’ home with the Groom, even though she is no longer part of the family, this is to reassure her parents that she is good hand of the Groom and she is been looked after at her new home.
The beauty of Chinese wedding traditions lies in understanding the meaning behind them. Once you do, you can select the ones that are the most significant to you and your family and add them to your wedding in your own way.
Here at the Brighton Savoy we love to incorporate your family’s cultural wedding tradtions into your wedding day in Melbourne. Please feel free to reach out to us about the wedding packages and wedding specials we offer.
Blog by Jack.