Chinese Wedding – Traditional Marriage Customs

Chinese Wedding - Traditional Marriage Customs

Along with the history of more than 5000 years, Chinese wedding has become one of the quintessence in Chinese traditions and been adopted more contemporary features over the generations. China is a vast country with many ethnic groups, that the wedding customs and rituals diverse from regions to regions is such an imaginable thing. However, they still have common celebrating customs. If you’re considering coming or organizing a China tour package during the wedding season, you should familiarize yourself with some of these most revered traditions.

How Chinese Choose Their Life Partner?

Marriages Arrangement in The Past

In feudal society, it was their parents who arranged marriages for their children and weddings were often forced to be celebrated. Every aspect would be put on the scale of that time such as wealth, educations, zodiacs, and social status, etc. A well-off or royal family was unlikely to let their children get married to those from poor families, even against their children’s will. In this society, the matchmaker who helped to set a marriage between two families played a key role as the third party. They were the bridge for two families to conduct a poll about the marriage. Only when things went favorable and both families accepted and arrange to meet, could the future bride and groom meet their “other half” face-to-face.

Free Love in Today’s China

Over the generations, the majority of Chinese couples today get married for love. They find their match or introduced by their families and relatives. Any person around them could be their “other half’ including co-workers, classmates, internet pals or a soul mate they meet in their life.

Yue Lao — The god of Matchmaking

Chinese people believe that there is a matchmaker god called Yuelao, who is in charge of people’s marriage. He unites people’s marriage by tying a red string around the ankles of the future husband and wife. In ancient China, many young girls and boys at the age of getting married went to Yuelao Temple to pray for a considerable match. That custom is still kept on today but young men and women often pray for a romantic chance of coming across their life partner.
Yue Lao — The god of Matchmaking

What should be done before a Chinese marriage?

Making a Proposal

This is a new mark of their relationship as a union between families by marriage. The boy’s family plays an active role in triggering marriage by elaborating on a marriage proposal to the girl’s parents. If everything is active both families will set a date for a formal meeting and negotiating the betrothal.

Betrothal & Dowry Before Engagement

If we get used to western marriage, we find it common when a couple formally announces their wedding by engaging and wearing an engagement ring. The engagement in China is much more complicated with a lot of procedures. The groom’s family has to present “ Grand Gift” to the girl’s parents’. These various proposal gifts describe fertility and prosperity to appreciate the girl’s parents’ efforts in raising the girl. After that, the girl’s family sends the girl’s dowry (often valuable things) to show their support and love for their daughter. It is widely considered that the betrothal and dowry are an important part of settling the marriage, which proves for an official engagement.

Betrothal and Dowry in China Today

Nowadays, a couple has to be ready in preparing an apartment (or house) and a car before getting married. The lucky numbers are “sixes”, ”eights” and “nines”, which represent for “well”, “wealth” and “forever”; the “Grand Gifts” can be replaced by money. All in all, marriage is for love not for money, and also the value of the betrothal and dowry depends on the wealthy state of both families.

Getting a Legal Marriage Certification in China

The Chinese legal marriage certification is a red brochure, on which the newly-couples’ name and ID detail are listed. The Civil Affairs Bureau is the only office in charge of completing the legal element of a marriage. After getting the certification, couples are recognized official marriage and often celebrate the next weekend, or even later.

What to prepare for a Chinese Wedding Ceremony?
Selecting an Auspicious Wedding Date

Feng Shui plays an important role in any big event in one family in China, like moving house, visiting ancestors, holding a funeral ceremony, opening a new business and of course, holding a wedding is not an exception. People in a family will go for a fortune teller or Feng Shui teller to find out an auspicious date according to the wish of both families, which is that the wedding celebration will go smoothly and make no offense to any god or evil spirits.
Feng Shui relates to the yin or yang element and it is believed that every single item in the universe is categorized into five types: metal, wood, water, fire, and earth. To figure the auspicious date for a wedding, Feng Shui teller analyzes the couple’s birth dates (year, day and hour), zodiacs and the year’s figure.

Taking Professional Wedding Photos

Undeniably, professional wedding photos are one of the desired parts for newlyweds. Couples pay for a local photographic studio and hire fancy costumes namely traditional Chinese wedding dress, western stylish formal wedding dress, and formal suit
This is a bit different from the West. Chinese couples would pay for a local photographic studio for professional wedding photos. They will hire fancy costumes such as the traditional Chinese wedding dress (Long Fenghua and Cheongsam), the western stylish formal wedding and formal suit. Photoshop becomes a powerful tool to make the future bride and groom look as pretty as possible. As to how much they will spend on these photos, it depends on the wealth and social status of the couple (around 5000rmb). However, it can be quite costly if the couple wants to photo at a romantic tropical island rather than the local beauty spot.
Taking Professional Wedding Photos

Sending out Wedding Invitations

Usually, when the wedding photos are done, the couple will send out their wedding invitations. It could be a simple red card with the couple name and wedding reception details on it or more complicated with their wedding photos on it. Today, a video invitation to their wedding photos often is posted as an e-invitation.
Sending out Wedding Invitations

Wedding House Decorating

Chinese prefer to choose flowers with red color like the red rose and colorful lily or peony as wedding decorations. Others like hanging the double happiness symbol in the house, placing the dragon and phoenix candle in bedroom and dragon and phoenix couplet on the front door, both meanings having good relations between the newlyweds. Also unsurprisingly, prepare lots of fireworks to scare the evil spirits away. The newlyweds’ bed is strictly important to ornate. For the reason of fertility, the bed was scattered with red dates, peanuts, longan and lotus seeds.

Chinese Wedding Dress

In the past, newlyweds would wear a Zhongshan suit (Mao suit for the groom and Qipao for the bride). The main color would be red and the dresses would be decorated with embroidered dragons and phoenix or peony flowers for wealthy wishes. The bride got dressed in phoenix coronet, new red shoes, and a red covering veil while the groom wore a big red silk flower in front of his chest.

Chinese Wedding Dress
Today Chinese brides often pick at least three dresses at the wedding ceremony. When they stand at the wedding reception to welcome their friends and guests, they will put on a western wedding gown. After that, the bride wears a delicate Chinese fenggua until finishing the wedding ceremony on the stage, then they dress an elegant Qipao (旗袍) to get mingled and start toasts with their families and friends under the stage.

How Chinese Wedding Day Ceremony

On the official wedding day, the groom and his bridesmaids arrive at the bride’s home in the morning but before they enter, they will be blocked at the girl’s door by her family and friends. The bridesmaids will give out some games and challenges also to play with the groom and his attendants. Then the groom will escort the bride to meet his parents and proceed with the Tea Ceremony at the groom’s home, after which both families will leave for completing the wedding ceremony. Below are some notable rituals of traditional Chinese wedding:

How Chinese Wedding Day Ceremony

Sitting on Embroidered Quilts

On the wedding morning, after the bride has dressed up, a close un-married younger sister of her has to use a five-colored string to post across in front of her face. This is a symbol of making her prettier and refreshing up for a new life journey.

Sitting on Embroidered Quilts

When the bride is waiting for the groom to come, she should sit on her bed with two embroidered quilts beneath her. For the wish of harmonious marriage and wealthy life, one quilt is embroidered with dragon and phoenix, the other with cute babies.

Game of Hiding and Seeking Bridal’ s Shoes

After the groom and his attendants had finally got into the bridal’s bedroom, the bridal friends should hide her shoes and making it is not easy to find by them. The main purpose is to imply that marry their beloved bride can not an easy mission and will teach the groom to treasure her in the future.

Bride’s Feet should not Touch Ground

After the groom found her shoes and wear them for her, he should carry her to his car avoiding her feet touching the ground. This is about avoiding bad luck.

Fireworks and Crossing Fire Bow

The bride and groom will be welcomed with fireworks by both families when they arrive because they believe that fireworks can help to scare away the evil spirits.
The groom’s mother will walk along the way to their house step by step to clear bad luck.
All these procedures should be completed well in advance because the wedding needs to be set to start at an auspicious time punctually.

What does a Chinese Wedding Reception look like?

Chinese Wedding Night RitualsScale and Contributions of a Chinese Wedding Reception

The Chinese wedding reception seems to like a banquet instead of reception since it might last two hours. It is usually the groom’s family that in charge of the fee for the banquet on the wedding day. It is well-known knowledge that guests should prove that they attend the ceremony at the entrance of the wedding hall. The guest’s name and amount of money they contribute will be written down on a contribution book for in future the newlyweds can pay the same amount of money back when the guest gets married. The amount of money that you can contribute often depends on the relationship to them.

Ceremonies on Chinese Wedding Reception

The banquet starts with a brief elaboration of the newlyweds ‘ love story’ by the host, then it is the parents’ appreciation speech for everybody’s attendance. The groom and bride are dominant on stage, together they exchange wedding rings and make vows, drink cross-cupped wine; these activities are to aim at the meaning of share joy and sorrow in the life of the couples. Then the groom and bride should call their mother and father in law as mother and father, by then the two families are considered united formally.
All those ceremonies must be done by a professional wedding ceremony host. In the end, the bride will throw her bouquet to her bridesmaids, similarly to the west whoever gets it gets married next. After the wedding banquet, close friends and relatives stay and play tricks on the newlyweds as a way to extend good wishes.

Chinese Wedding Night Rituals

Light Dragon and Phoenix Candle

On the night of the wedding, the dragon and phoenix candle will be lit by the bridal room to drive away from the evil spirit. The newlyweds often cross their hands and arms from each other than drink wine from two cups.

Light Dragon and Phoenix Candle Making a Hair-Knot

Also at that night, the groom and bridle present their promise by simultaneously cutting a curl of their hair off and tie a knot with it. This ritual is a symbol for their bonding both body and soul and the determination of sharing each other’s life despite joy or sorrow.

Post-Wedding Ritual in China

The husband should escort his newly-married wife back to her parents’ on the third day after their wedding. They are supposed to present gifts to her parents and the groom needs to get used to calling her parents as mom and dad. In doing this, he expresses appreciation and respect to his mother-in-law and father-in-law and mainly shows them that their precious daughter has been treated well.

Today, many Chinese couples travel away for a honeymoon holiday right after their wedding. In this case, they can visit the wife’s parents earlier or later after they come back. But, this tradition is indispensable.