Happy New Year!
It honor of Chinese New Year, I wanted to write a post about traditional chinese weddings. The Chinese culture is a very respectful and customary culture where most of the Chinese in America still follow some of the traditions one way or another. Getting married is a very important occasion in any culture, but for the bride, it is a passage for the parents of the bride to give away their daughter and for the bride to gain acceptance into the groom’s family.
In China, it is common for the groom to present gifts or money to the parents of the bride as confirmation of the formal arrangement of marriage. A marriage is considered a joining of two families in Chinese culture and before the wedding day it is common for the parents of both bride and groom to meet and exchange gifts. The groom’s parents also give the family members of the bride, “loh paw bengs”, chinese pastries that literally translate to “wife cookies”.
To set the date of the marriage, an auspicious day is usually preferred and required. The lucky day is chosen with Fung Shui and the lunar calendar. The bride and the groom’s chinese zodiac symbols are used with the ancient secret theory of Former Heaven Sixty-four Square Chart. Using the combinations mentioned with Heaven Qi and Earth Qi patterns, it creates an element number and period number to calculate the best days that are good for the specific bride and groom. The same auspicious day for one couple may not be lucky for another couple or even with another mate. Most bride and groom’s still follow this type of tradition in China, but I think for Chinese Americans or 2nd or 3rd generations Chinese, it is not as important as the location and time of year.
Lucky Color Red
The color red is also very important as red is considered a lucky color as well as signifying love, prosperity and happiness. Ideally, everything such as the wedding invitations, envelopes, and wedding dress is usually in red and include the double happiness character. In recent days, however, almost any color is fine now for everything. For the wedding dress, it is very common to have the traditional western white wedding gown and veil for the wedding ceremony while also wearing several other outfits for the banquet. It is very common for Chinese brides to switch into different dresses throughout the banquet. The second dress is usually a traditional red Chinese wedding dress called the “Churn Sam” or “Kay Po” for the banquet. A third dress is meant for the going away dress for when the bride and groom thank everyone at the exit for coming to celebrate the momentous occasion.
The night before the wedding, the future bride and groom’s bed should be new along with new or red pillows, comforters and sheets. Young kids are also brought to the room to jump up and down on the bed to give good fertility fortune. Boys are usually preferred so that the couple will produce a son.
Door Games and Bridal Pickup
The big day usually starts bright and early with the picking up of the bride. Once the bride and groom and bridal party are all made up and ready, the groom and groomsmen head to the house of the bride to pickup the bride. In order for the pickup to occur, this is where the fun begins for the bridesmaids. For the groom and groomsmen to be allowed to enter, they have to go through a series of task or games that the bridesmaids have chosen in advance. These door games can vary from reciting poems, singing songs, answering questions, eating weird food, embarassing tasks, physical tasks, and lastly, a lucky red envelope that gets negotiated between the two parties.
One of the very important aspects of a chinese wedding is the tea ceremony. This usually takes place on the wedding day after the door games although doing it on the day before is also common. The tea ceremony is a sign of respect for the elders when the couple serves tea to the family and relatives of both parents. In return, the relatives present the couple with jewelry and red envelopes.
When the bride and groom are ready to head to the wedding ceremony, they head to the wedding car which is usually decorated with ribbons and flowers along with a miniature bride and groom figurine or plush in the front. An umbrella is usually held over the bride’s head meaning “raise the bark, spread the leaves” which is suppose to protect the bride from evil spirits while relatives throw rice on her.
The best part of the Banquet is usually the twelve course meal that gets served as only the best and fancy items should be served. Shark Fin Soup, Abalone, Roasted Pig, chicken, fish, and lobster are customary default items along with other dishes that have happy and lucky meanings. More games are usually played throughout the meal to keep the event interesting on the bride and groom. An emcee usually directs the evening along with speeches and the games.
Everything I have mentioned are the typical ideal and traditional events and traditions that take place for a Chinese Wedding. Most weddings in China and Hong Kong follow these traditions in some form or another. In Hong Kong, western style weddings are also common now for couples who just want a simple City Hall Registration and dinner. In America, from my experience at least, the amount of traditions followed at Chinese weddings can vary significantly depending on what the bride and groom choose to participate in or in some instances, what the parents of the bride and groom require. Most 2nd or 3rd generation Chinese weddings in america only have certain aspects mentioned above mixed in with a western style wedding. For inter-racial weddings, the Chinese bride or groom usually includes some of the tradition as a sign of respect for the chinese heritage and culture. Hopefully, attendees of Chinese weddings can find this entry useful as well as for Chinese wedding planners that may need suggestions on how to plan their wedding day.