Wedding is an auspicious ceremony that unites not only two individuals, but their families as well. Though wedding, as a ceremony, means the same in all religions as well as in all countries, it is the rituals that differ from one place to another. The same way, the marriage rituals followed in China differ from those in the other countries. Chinese wedding traditions encompass all the stages that bring together a couple. From the proposal stage to the wedding banquets, all the wedding rituals in China are celebrated with happiness and glee. The joyous ceremonies are dealt with great care, so that nothing inauspicious occurs. Learn more about the Chinese marriage traditions.
Chinese Wedding Traditions
Chinese wedding traditions begin with the process of proposal and its acceptance. There is a middle man involved in the process, who brings both the families together and acts as a buffer between them. The parents of the prospective bride and groom take the center stage before the betrothal process, while the couple takes the back seat during the proposal.
Betrothal or the Engagement Period
At this stage, parents of the couple exchange family credentials as tokens of intention. After much bargaining, the families come to a common ground about the amount of money and goods that would be part of the gifts to be given to the girl, by her family. Once the engagement tokens are exchanged, the bride’s family is requested to choose amongst several auspicious wedding dates, suggested by the groom's family, the date for wedding as well as for presenting betrothal gifts. The engagement period generally lasts for a couple of years.
Before the Wedding
Before the wedding, the Chinese bride is given some privacy, to be in the company of her close friends and lament over the separation from her family and friends. While the bride sings song of lamentation, the groom installs a bridal bed on the day before the wedding. An auspicious hour and a good luck woman or man, that is a man or women who has many children and living mates, is selected to install the purchased bed.
On the D- Day
The wedding day starts with the hair dressing ritual of the bride and the capping ritual of the groom, conducted to rejoice their initiation into adulthood. Red takes a prominent place in the clothing as well as other ritual objects. At dawn of the wedding day or the night before, the bride baths in water infused with pumelo, a variety of grapefruit, to cleanse her of evil influences. A ‘good luck woman’ speaks auspicious words while dressing bride’s hair, in the style of a married woman. After her hair is styled, the bride puts on a jacket and skirt and steps into a pair of red shoes. A red silk veil covers the face of the bride.
After the preparations, the bride takes blessing from her parents and awaits the bridal procession from the groom’s house. On the other end, the groom is dressed in a long gown, red shoes and a red silk sash, with a silk ball on his shoulder. While he kneels before the family altar, his father places a cap, decorated with cypress leaves, on his head. The groom bows - first before the tablets of Heaven and Earth and his ancestors and then, before his parents and the assembled family members. His father then removes the silk ball from the sash and places it on top of the bridal sedan chair.
Journey to the Bride's House
The procession, from the groom's house, starts with firecrackers, loud gongs and drums. The groom leads the procession and is accompanied by a child, as an omen of his future sons. The bridal sedan chair is preceded by attendants with lanterns and banners, musicians, and a ‘dancing’ lion or unicorn. When the procession arrives at the bride's place, the groom's party is received by the bride's friends.
Bride's friends take in red packets of money - ang pau from the groom’s representative, before they surrender the bride. At times, the groom has dinner with the bride's family or may have sweet longan tea, two hard-boiled eggs in syrup and transparent noodles. At other instances, the groom takes in soup with a soft-boiled egg, the yolk of which he is expected to break, arguably symbolic of breaking the bride’s ties with her family.
Bride’s Journey to the Groom’s House
After the reception, the bride is carried to the sedan chair, on the back of the ‘good luck woman’ or a dajin, who has been assigned by the bride’s family. While the 'good luck woman' carries the bride, there are others who shield her with a parasol and toss rice at the sedan chair. The bride might also attach a special mirror to her garment, which she would not remove until she is safely seated upon the marriage bed.
At the Groom’s House
Once again, firecrackers are set off, just before the procession arrives. A red carpet is placed for the bride, before the sedan chair. The entire family awaits the arrival of the new bride. She is required to step over a saddle or a lit stove to cross the threshold. In some regions, a grain measure and a string of copper coins are laid out, as representatives of prosperity. After these rituals take place, the groom raises the veil and sees the bride’s face.
While the wedding preparations are magnanimous in nature, the wedding ceremony is simple. The bride and groom are taken to the family altar and they pay homage to Heaven and Earth, the family ancestors and the Kitchen God, Tsao-Chün. Tea, with two lotus seeds or two red dates in the cup, is offered to the groom’s parents. Then, the bride and groom bow to each other. With this, the marriage ceremony comes to an end. In some regions, the newly married couple is required to drink wine from the same goblet, eat sugar molded in the form of a rooster, and also have the wedding dinner together.
After the wedding ceremony gets over, the newly married couple is taken to the bridal chamber. In some areas, honey and wine are poured into two goblets, which are linked by a red thread. The bride and groom first take a few sips from their respective goblets and then, exchange them, drinking the rest of the drink from each other's goblet. On the day of the wedding, and possibly for the next three days, the bed chamber is open to relatives and friends. They have the right to come in and tease the couple.
After the wedding ceremony is over, separate wedding feasts are given by the parents of the bride and the groom, for their respective friends and families. In some of the cases, the feast lasts for a day, while for others, it is a series of feasts that take place over several days. However, the most important feast is the one given by the groom's family, on the wedding day, to publicly recognize a new member in their family.