Traditonal Chinese Wedding Customs You Need To Know- Cantonese / Hakka

As our generation is getting more and more westernized, we tend to forget some of the traditions that were practised in our culture. When it comes to traditional Chinese wedding customs, it’s very common to see couples and families getting confused over what should be done.

Hence, we’ve decided to come up with a series that features the different Chinese wedding customs. Most of the customs in a traditional Chinese wedding is similar across all dialects.

However there is some variations in the details such as the contents of the betrothal package and dowry. In the first of our series, we will be featuring the wedding customs for Cantonese and Hakka.

Before we start, here are some of the terms used in Chinese wedding customs that you should get familiar with.

  • 过大礼- Betrothal Package

This is given by the groom to the bride’s family one or two weeks before the actual wedding day.

  • 回礼- Returning Gifts

The bride’s family will “return gifts” to the groom’s family.

  • 嫁妆- Dowry

This is given by the bride’s family to the groom. This is prepared by the bride’s mother and has to be given to the groom’s family latest before the wedding day.

  • 安床- Bed-setting

The bed is ‘set’ in a particular manner with the belief that it will bring good luck and energy forthe couple to start their family.

So here are the specifics in a Traditional Cantonese / Hakka Wedding.

Betrothal Package

  1. 4 Ang Baos with cash gift
  2. Ang Bao with Bride price
  3. Traditional wedding biscuits
  4. 2 Chicken
  5. 2 Bottles of Whisky / Cognas
  6. 2 pairs of Dragon Phoenix Candles
  7. 2 sets of Dragon Phoenix Incense
  8. 19 Mandarin Oranges
  9. 19 Apples
  10. A piece of red cloth
  11. 1 plate of chinese cakes (发糕)
  12. Some vegetables such as lettuce, celery and shallots
  13. *additional for Hakka* sesame ball pastry

Returning Gift

  1. 18 Chinese Cakes (发糕)
  2. 2 Bottles of Orange Juice
  3. Dried food such as seeds (瓜子), lotus seeds and lily (莲子百合), red dates (蜜枣), longan (龙眼), tea leaves (茶叶).
  4. 8 Mandarin Oranges
  5. 8 Apples
  6. 1 pair of undamaged lotus root
  7. Bride’s mother will buy new pants, belt and wallet for the groom
  8. Return part of the bride price, to signify that the bride’s family is generous to share


  1. New Bedsheets and Duvet
  2. Tea Set (1 plate, 1 teapot, 4 teacups)
  3. 1 Bedside Lamp
  4. 1 Ruler
  5. 1 pair of Scissors
  6. 1 Mirros
  7. 1 Red Umbrella
  8. 2 Fans
  9. 2 boxes of Face Powder
  10. Dining Set (2 bowl, 2 pair of chopsticks, 2 plates and 2 spoons)
  11. 1 pair of Chinese Clogs
  12. 1 pair of New Bedroom Slippers
  13. 1 dozen of Double Happiness Facial Towel
  14. Dried Food & Nuts (五谷)
  15. Charcoal
  16. Descendant Pail set

Bed Setting


Traditionally, a 好命婆 will set the bed with new sheets and dragon phoenix duvet.

This is followed by sprinkling dried food like jujube, longan, dried lychee, red and green beans.

Sometimes a young boy will be asked to jump/roll on the bed so that the couple will have better luck in starting their family soon. Nobody is supposed to go near the “new” bed for the couple.

However in modern context, as long as the “new” bed is not touched it is sufficient.

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Hair Dressing


An elder in the family, usually the bride’s mother, will comb the bride’s hair while reciting the following words as good luck for her new marriage:


Gate Crash, Receiving the bride and Tea Ceremony

1) The groom will proceed to the bride’s house with a roast pig (signify that the bride is a virgin), along with an Ang Bao, a basket with 18 oranges, 2 bags of peanuts, 2 bottles of whisky/cognas, 2 chicken, 2 stalks of lettuce, 2 stalks of celery, 2 stalks of shallots and a bottle of rice wine (for ancestral offering).

2) At the bride’s place, the bride’s unmarried younger brother will open the door of the groom’s car, and the groom will present him an AngBao. At this time, the bride’s parents will lower the bride’s veil.


3) After going through the bridesmaids’ gate-crashing task and giving them the AngBao, the groom will enter the house (without removing shoes) to receive his bride.

As for the roast pig, the bride’s family will take the centre section. The remaining is wrapped in red paper and sent back to the groom’s place along with a pair of pants for the groom (女婿裤), 2 mandarin oranges, 2 apples and 1 Ang Bao.
4) The couple will offer tea to the bride’s parents first, then the other elders. Ang Bao or jewellery is gifted to the couples by the elders too. After that the younger siblings and cousins will offer tea to the couple, and the couple will present them with an Ang Bao.


source: anglinehue

5) As the bride leaves her house, the bridesmaid has to shelter her with a red umbrella, while throwing rice towards the sky, above the umbrella, and on the wedding car. Only singles in the bridal party can follow the bride to the groom’s place.



6) When the couple reaches the groom’s place, the elders are not allowed to receive them before they enter the house; as it is believed that if they receive the newly-weds directly, it will lead to conflict between the bride and her new family in future.

The newly weds will offer their respect to the gods (天地), followed by the ancestors. This is followed by the tea ceremony to the in-laws and elder of the groom’s family.

Returning Home (三朝回门)

The bride will return to visit her family with her husband 3 days after the wedding.


That’s it! Stay tuned as we update you with more Chinese wedding customary. For more information, you may refer to our sources below too:

 Or if you think we have missed out something, feel free to tell us by commenting below!

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Steph Leong considers herself a lifestyle chameleon, with a passion for fashion. Steph is also passionate about street dance; specializing in Waacking. A dancer by night, Steph does freelance writing and graphic design by day.

'Traditonal Chinese Wedding Customs You Need To Know- Cantonese / Hakka' has 14 comments

  1. February 22, 2015 @ 2:30 am Limin

    I don’t think we’re getting modernised by forgetting our cultures… More like an westernization to all societies….

  2. February 23, 2015 @ 11:39 am Thomas Sng

    Very interesting information for the chinese couples who are getting married. Will be better if can blog on wedding rites of other races too. Keep up the good work!

  3. February 24, 2015 @ 5:31 pm Steph Leong

    Hi Thomas!

    Thank you for your kind compliment. Point noted and I’ll start researching on them soon too.

  4. February 24, 2015 @ 5:34 pm Steph Leong

    Hi Limin,

    I believe you’re right and I agree with you on this; that there is a difference between “modernisation” and “westernization”. Will make the changes and thanks for pointing this out.

  5. March 10, 2015 @ 8:53 pm SL

    Hi Steph
    Thanks for taking the effort to write this article. Totally love it! 🙂
    I wonder if u could elaborate further on the meaning of the items mentioned in the betrothal package, dowry n gifts. I bet alot of ppl are curious what it signifies..

  6. March 11, 2015 @ 11:34 pm Juliana

    I think you have made a mistake on the dowry part. It should be the other way round whereby the dowry is given to the bride’s family.

  7. March 12, 2015 @ 1:16 pm Steph Leong

    Hi Juliana,

    I’ve doubled and triple checked, the dowry is given by the bride’s family to the groom.

    “dowry is the wealth transferred from the bride’s family to the groom or his family, ostensibly for the bride.”- wikipedia


    Based on history records, the dowry is given to the groom as a favour from his in-laws to help the new couple start their family. Some of these dowry include money, funitures and sometimes even land properties. Another underlying purpose of the dowry is to help protect their daughter from “being despised” when she marries into her groom’s family, to encourage the in-laws to take good care of their daughter. That’s why the dowry is in a way, used to signify the financial and social status of the bride’s family. Hope this clarifies 🙂

  8. March 12, 2015 @ 1:17 pm Steph Leong

    Hi SL,

    thank you for the kind compliment! I believe every Chinese in Singapore will need to know these. In a way I’m also doing research fro my wedding in future (haha!)
    Yes that’s an idea! Thanks for suggesting. I’ll do up a post on this soon too

  9. March 13, 2015 @ 9:34 am Chris

    Dowry here is not necessary in form of cash. In this case, the gifts that were presented by the bride’s family were for the new couple to start a family. We never thought these gifts were also called dowry. Here’s something to add on. The mother of the bride will pack her a piece of chicken drumstick or other quick food for her to eat in her bridal room as the bride is not suppose to eat until the day is over! Correct me if I’m wrong. That’s what I had when I got married to another Hakka almost 30 years ago.

  10. May 13, 2015 @ 3:20 pm June

    Is there 1 for hainanese?

  11. May 14, 2015 @ 8:31 am Rachel

    Hi Steph
    Thanks for putting all the info together! However, what happens if a Teochew/Hokkien marries a Cantonese/Hakka or vice versa? Do we follow the bride’s or groom’s tradition?

  12. May 14, 2015 @ 12:24 pm HW

    No updated article on Hainanese customs?

  13. May 18, 2015 @ 5:06 pm Steph Leong

    Hi HW,
    Currently we are in the midst of revamping our site hence there is a lull period in our content updates. Nonetheless we will be updating with more articles related to wedding customs and traditions in future 🙂

  14. May 18, 2015 @ 5:07 pm Steph Leong

    Well if we base it on Chinese traditions, the girls belong to the groom’s family when she is married. So I would assume marriage customs will have to abide to the groom’s family.

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