Chinese Wedding Traditions

Let's start with the engagement. In the past a family used to hire a matchmaker who then visited the other family and made a proposal. Then a fortuneteller made sort of analysis of the compatibility between certain woman and man. He analyzed various information like the date of birth, personal names etc. This tradition is still sometimes performed.

The engagement has to be approved by both families. After that the groom's family must give presents to the bride's family. These presents usually include food but also some money can also be given.

Not every amount will do. Traditionally a family gives the amount with as many nines as possible. The number nine in Chinese is "jiu". Its homonym (a word that is written and spoken in the same way but it has different meaning) is a long time which is also "jiu". The bride's family has to except the engagement presents. After this act the engagement can not be broken, at least not that easy.

People believe that all dates are not favourable for the wedding. That is why both families asked the fortuneteller to help. The one with several eights is a good one as the number eight is considered lucky by the Chinese.

All over the world Image(s) are made during the wedding day. In China they are actually made before the wedding.

The same as in many other countries in China the couple must get married in the Bureau of Civil Affairs.

The day before the wedding day a bride gets her hair done. A very important woman which helps the bride to make her hair perfect is so called "good luck woman". This woman has to have both parents alive. She also has to live in a happy marriage with children.

The water used in washing the hair is actually a herbal infusion made of pomegranate leaves. It is believed that this water fights off evil spirits. At the same time in the groom's home his hat is decorated with some cypress leaves.

It is a tradition that groom arrives to bride's home to get his bride. But everything does not pass easy. Bride's family and relatives do not allow the bride to leave the house. Funny negotiations begin. After some time the bride is allowed to leave but the groom has to pay amount of money called "li shi". The money is placed in a red envelope.

In the past the Chinese wedding ceremony always included three prayers based on Taoism. In the first prayer a bride and a groom prayed to heaven and earth. The second prayer was dedicated to the groom's parents or old family members. In the third prayer a bride and a groom had to bow to each other.

Nowadays most weddings do not have the mentioned three prayers. The most important event in the modern Chinese wedding is the tea ceremony. There are two types of the ceremony. In the morning of the wedding day there is a tea ceremony when the bride is introduced to the members of the groom's family.

She traditionally serves dragon eyes tea. Herbal particles of this tea symbolize fertility and male children. The Chinese prefer male children as those who will enable the survival of the family. In the afternoon there is a tea ceremony when the groom is introduced to the bride's family.

During these tea ceremonies tea is first served to parents and then to grandparents. But in some families grandparents get their tea first. After the tea ceremony special gifts to the bride and groom are presented. These gifts are usually red packets or jewelery.

After the ceremony there is a wedding reception. The invitations to the wedding are sent in a red envelope. The text is traditionally written in gold. This is done as this colour symbolizes wealth. The invitation very often includes the special double happiness character ("shuangxi").

The people arriving at the reception bring some money in a red envelope ("hong bao"). They must not be dressed in white and black. Many are dressed in red as this colour symbolizes good luck and personal wealth.

As already mentioned homonyms have quite an importance among the Chinese. The next tradition is no exception. A special present is brought to the newlyweds. It includes dates ("zao"), peanuts ("hua sheng"), longan ("gui yuan") and lotus seeds ("lian zi") or chestnuts ("li zi"). They are used as their homonyms are part of a popular Chinese blessing for the newlyweds expressing their wish for the first child.

Most Chinese brides wear a traditional Chinese dress called "cheongsam" or "qipao". Some Chinese brides nowadays wear a white dress from the western world too. There are brides who change several dresses of the same type or those of various type during their wedding. The groom on the other side wears one or two suits.

One detail appears on most weddings in China. It is a object with the character of happiness ("xi") written on it. People put it upside down. It is done because the Chinese character for upside down ("dao") is the homonym with the word arrive ("dao"). So, everything together should symbolize the arrival of happiness into one's life.

After the wedding reception the bride arrives to her new home. Traditionally she brings certain goods, meaning her dowry. The value of these goods often determines her status in the new home.

During bride's first night in her new home the newlyweds lit a special dragon and phoenix candle and drink a wine. The bride also gets dumplings. In the morning the bride makes a meal for the members of her new home.

According to the Chinese government there are 55 ethnic minorities living in the country. Some of them have quite unusual wedding traditions. Here are just few examples.

The Nu or Nuzu people mainly live in the Chinese Yunnan region located in the southwest of the country. During first three days after the wedding the Nu bride and groom do not have much privacy. They have separate beds.

The bridesmaid does all the major houseworks. She does not do it for free. She gets a present when she leaves the newlyweds.

Gelao people or Klau like they call themselves live in the Guizhou Province located in the southwest part of China.

They believe that it is a bad luck for the bride to get married as virgin. That is why a girl who is still a virgin knocks out one or two of her teeth. She believes that by doing it she will become less attractive.

Most Daur people live in Chinese Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and Heilongjiang Province.

The date for local weddings is decided in a very bizarre way. Bride and groom hold their hands together and use knife to kill a chick. When the chick is killed everyone looks at a liver. If the liver does not look right another chick is killed.


An Introduction to Modern Chinese Wedding Customs

Lauren Mack, Chinese Wedding Traditions - Engagement

Traditional Chinese Wedding Ceremony

Chinese Wedding Customs & Rituals

Fascinating Chinese Wedding Traditions

Wedding of the Nu ethnic group: three days not enough

No easy for Gelao parents to marry off their daughter

Daur ethnic group: chicken liver decides wedding day