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.
- 4 Ang Baos with cash gift
- Ang Bao with Bride price
- Traditional wedding biscuits
- 2 Chicken
- 2 Bottles of Whisky / Cognas
- 2 pairs of Dragon Phoenix Candles
- 2 sets of Dragon Phoenix Incense
- 19 Mandarin Oranges
- 19 Apples
- A piece of red cloth
- 1 plate of chinese cakes (发糕)
- Some vegetables such as lettuce, celery and shallots
- *additional for Hakka* sesame ball pastry
- 18 Chinese Cakes (发糕)
- 2 Bottles of Orange Juice
- 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).
- 8 Mandarin Oranges
- 8 Apples
- 1 pair of undamaged lotus root
- Bride’s mother will buy new pants, belt and wallet for the groom
- Return part of the bride price, to signify that the bride’s family is generous to share
- New Bedsheets and Duvet
- Tea Set (1 plate, 1 teapot, 4 teacups)
- 1 Bedside Lamp
- 1 Ruler
- 1 pair of Scissors
- 1 Mirros
- 1 Red Umbrella
- 2 Fans
- 2 boxes of Face Powder
- Dining Set (2 bowl, 2 pair of chopsticks, 2 plates and 2 spoons)
- 1 pair of Chinese Clogs
- 1 pair of New Bedroom Slippers
- 1 dozen of Double Happiness Facial Towel
- Dried Food & Nuts (五谷)
- Descendant Pail set
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.
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.
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!