The wedding of each and every culture has its own set of traditions and customs, which make it stand apart from other weddings. Chinese weddings involve a lot of elaborate preparations. From the décor to the food which will be served to the wedding guests, all of it is properly planned. On the whole, Chinese weddings are absolutely beautiful with some really interesting customs and traditions.
Chinese Engagement Ceremony:
Just like in most ancient cultures, in the past, marriages between a Chinese couple was an affair which completely dependent on the parents. The concept of love marriages was very alien. If the parents of a boy liked a girl, which they thought would be suitable to be their future daughter-in-law, they would ask another married woman, who would act as a messenger or a ‘middleman’ between the two families. The middleman would then take the proposal along with some gifts to the girl’s family. If the proposal was met with approval from the girl’s side, the middle man would ask for the girl’s birth date and bring that information back to the boy’s family.
The boy’s family would then place the date of birth of the girl on the ‘ancestral altar’ for about three consecutive days. During these three days, if there were no mishaps, accidents or misfortunes the boy’s family would consider this as a positive omen and then the middleman brings the date of birth of the boy to the girl’s family. Then the girl’s family would do the whole process of placing the date of birth on the ‘ancestral altar’ and wait for the result.
The Chinese believe a lot in Astrology, so before finalizing a proposal, the guidance of astrological experts is also needed. If the Astrologers think and agree that the potential match would prove to be beneficial for both the sides, only then the next step would be taken. However, this is one custom which has slowly started to fade and modern Chinese families no longer feel the need to consult Astronomers before tying the knot with someone.
Chinese Wedding Gifts:
First, the gifts are exchanged between the groom’s parents and the bride’s parents. These gifts can either be in the form of money or food. If it is food, then tea leaves, special type of Chinese cakes called dragon-phoenix cakes, wine, sweetmeats etc are most likely to be exchanged. The tea leaves in particular have a lot of symbolic representation, as giving them as gifts to a future couple means that they would have many children.
The special Chinese cake called the ‘dragon-phoenix’ cake can only be found in Chinatown area. For those Chinese who are living outside China, these cakes cannot be found so as a substitute, they give ‘cake coupons’ in the place of actual cakes. Even in China, most families are now adopting this way of gifting cake coupons, instead of the actual cake. These cake coupons can be easily purchased from Chinese bakeries.
These exchanging of gifts is first done from the groom’s side. After a few days later, it is the turn of the bride’s family to send gifts to the groom’s family. The bride’s family has a lot of options to choose their gifts from, they can gift fruits and clothes and even small things like key chains.
Chinese Wedding Invitations:
After going through an extensive process of selecting the right date for the wedding, which works for both the bride and the groom, the next step is to plan and send out the invitations. Chinese wedding invitations are printed on bright red colored paper. The color red has a lot of symbolic importance in the Chinese culture, as it is considered to be the color of happiness. White colored or blue colored invitation cards are not preferred because these colors have a different meaning. Other than these two colors, modern Chinese families now experiment with different colors.
Chinese Wedding Dress:
The traditional dress of a Chinese bride is in a beautiful, bright red color with even prettier embroidery. In fact, the most distinct feature of the dress is its embroidery. The color of the dress itself is very traditional. Red color is considered to be symbolic of love and affection. You will not find any Chinese bride wearing any blue, black or even grey colored dress because most cultures consider these colors to be dull and sorrowful and not suitable to be worn at a wedding.
For those Chinese families that can afford expensive dresses, they get their wedding dresses to be embroidered using gold and silver threads. This task is something which needs skilled craftsmen hence, it is costly. As far as the design of the wedding dress goes, there are quite a few designs, but the most popular one is Qi Pao. Qi Pao is that style which is preferred by mostly young women. Women in the south of China go for other designs like The Gua, kam or Chengsam. The Chengsam is symbol of dragon and a phoenix which is imprinted on the wedding dress. It looks beautiful. The dragon represents power, whereas the image of the dragon and phoenix, together, in the Chinese culture is regarded as something very sacred and these two (dragon and phoenix) together represent the natural balance existing between man and woman.
The groom, in a traditional Chinese wedding, wears a black silk coat. On top of that coat he wears a dragon robe. It is believed that these unique designs of a Chinese wedding dress descend from the Qing dynasty.
The Chinese Wedding Bed:
According to the Chinese tradition, the newlyweds must sleep in brand new beds, after they get married. The ‘new’ bed symbolizes innocence. This new bed is usually given from the groom’s side of the family. Before the wedding, the bed is beautifully decorated and nobody is allowed to sit on it, with the exception of babies or children. Interestingly, most Chinese families have this tradition, where they make a baby crawl on the bed for a little while. This is done just as a custom which means that may the newlyweds have a lot of children, too. The bed can of any size, or of any color, as long as it is new.
The beddings of the bed must also be gifted to the couple. This bedding set must have a bed comforter with a beautiful ‘dragon-phoenix’ design. Under the bed, two ‘Red Envelopes’ must be placed. These envelopes contain money. The amount of money can be any, as long as it contain a figure 9, like $9, or $39. Just like the color red, the figure 9 is also symbolically important in the Chinese culture. ‘Nine’ stands for everlasting or long lasting.
Chinese Wedding Games:
Like in most cultures, where the Bride comes to her wedding ceremony herself, but in a Chinese wedding, things are done a little differently. The bride does not come herself, the groom and the groomsmen come to fetch her! They come in a decorated car to the bride’s house, where they are met with the bridesmaid who play fun little games with the groom, before he is allowed to step in the house. The games usually involve fun questions which the groom has to answer, which would tell how much he knows his bride-to-be. He might also be requested to do little dares just to prove his love for his bride, like for example he may be asked to do a few push-ups, or he may sing a song. The groomsmen are there to assist the groom in these games. The whole scene is pretty entertaining.
Towards the end of these games, the groom even gives some money to the bridesmaids. After this, the groom is allowed to take the bride with him, to the wedding ceremony.
Chinese Wedding and the Tea Serving Ceremony:
On the actual wedding day, the bride has to serve tea to her parents to show her love and care for them and also as a token of gratitude for all that her parents have done for her. It’s a simple ceremony and is done before the bride leave her house. She makes the tea herself and serves it to her parents. However, the tea ceremony which takes place at the groom’s family is far more elaborate and is done after the wedding.
While the tea which the bride made at her house, before leaving, was just regular Chinese tea, the tea at the groom’s family is different. It includes seeds of lotus and two red dates. These ingredients together are symbolic of the early arrival of children from the just married couple. The tea is served to the parents, while the bride and the groom kneel in front of them. The tea is made by a close friend, who will also assist the groom and the bride to serve this tea. The groom’s parents will give money to the newlyweds, again in Red Envelopes.
Chinese Wedding Banquet:
The Dinner banquet is the most prestigious ritual of all. At this dinner part, the newlyweds move around the restaurant, making a toast with almost every guest that they meet. It is compulsory that they make a toast with every guest, starting from the either the right side or the left side of the table and continuing their way forward. Some Chinese families, ask the groom to carry the bride as he meets the guest. This shows that the groom will always be there to take care of his bride.