A wedding day is considered as the most important and memorable event in one’s life because it is their way of affirming their love and intimacy in public. At that very moment, the couple makes sure that everything is perfectly planned, from proposal to reception. This is because the groom usually wants to offer the best to his bride. A wedding is also considered among many nations as a very sensitive event because all aspects of the wedding shall conform to their beliefs and traditions.
The date and place of the wedding are also given considerable significance. Moreover, the wedding rites are meticulously carried out because everything used symbolizes something especially among Chinese.
In Chinese tradition, the wedding is purposely to continue their clan and to strengthen the relationship of the two families. It is in the best interest of the parents and so they exert a great deal effort of finding good match for their son. The matching is made very carefully through rituals to ensure the absence of bad omens.
Furthermore, a traditional Chinese wedding is interestingly coupled with complicated beliefs to ensure luck, joy, and happiness for the couple.
Before the Wedding
The proposal in Chinese wedding is not made by the boy, instead, his parents find a girl that matches him. When the match has been found, the proposal and expression of the match is done through a “go- between” who would present a gift to the girl’s parents. If the proposal is received, the go- between will get the girl’s birth date and birth hour to be recorded in a formal document which will be placed in the altar of the boy’s family for three days (Chinese Historical and Cultural Project). If within three days, no inauspicious omen occurred like trouble between the two families, the information is given to an astrological expert for confirmation of the match (Chinese Historical and Cultural Project). When a favorable horoscope is found, the girl’s family will also do the same ritual.
The next process is the bethrodal where both parents exchange presents as a form of their intentions. During the bethodal, the parents would extensively bargain for the amount of money and goods as a gift to the girl’s family. Usually, the bethodal gifts includes, tea, dragon and phoenix bridal cakes, pairs of male and female poultry, wine, tobacco, and others (Chinese Historical and Cultural Project). The cake received by the bride is shared to family friends and relatives as a sign of the wedding announcement and invitation. In exchange, the girl’s family would offer foods and clothing.
On the same day, the wedding date is set. It is important among Chinese that the wedding date is a lucky day. The date is chosen according to the lunar calendar when the moon and the stars are properly aligned with the guidance of an astrologist (983Weddings.com). Moreover, it has been a practice that the couple marry when the hands of the clocks are moving up instead of down because it is their belief that their married life would begin in an upswing manner (983Weddings.com).
Before the wedding day, the bride is required to stay in seclusion together with her closest friends where she would be rendered a lamentation for her separation from her parents (Chinese Historical and Cultural Project). Another preparation made is the installation of the new bridal bed by married men or women having many children. The night before the wedding day, the groom is required to sleep on the bed with an innocent young child to invite fertility.
On the very day of wedding, the bride takes a bath in water filled with pomelo and other varieties of grape fruit to cleanse her of evil influences (Chinese Weddings by the Knot). Her hair is combed by a married woman four times and each stroke symbolizes good luck, fertility, longevity, and happiness, respectively (Helium).
Her hair is styled in a bun at the top of her head like that of a married woman. Moreover, her hair dress, made of either red silk veil or curtain of tassle or beads, is hanged from her Phoenix crown so that her face will be covered (Chinese Historical and Cultural Project). The brides wear a simple yet elegant red wedding dress and red shoes (Helium). The presence of a “good- luck woman” is also required during the bride’s preparation (Chinese Historical and Cultural Project). After all the preparations, the bride bows to her parents and to the ancestral table then waits for the bridal procession (Chinese Historical and Cultural Project).
On the other hand, the groom wears a long gown, a red silk sash with a silk ball on his shoulder together with red shoes, (Chinese Historical and Cultural Project). As he kneels before the altar, his father places the cap, which is garnished with cypress leaves, on his head (Chinese Historical and Cultural Project). Before the groom goes on a bridal procession, he is required to kneel before the tablets of Heaven and Earth and his ancestors then to his parents and relatives (Chinese Historical and Cultural Project).
Noticeably, the color used for wedding dress, invitations, and envelopes is red. For the Chinese, red stands for luck, joy, happiness, and courage. On the red wedding invitations and decorations, the symbol of double happiness is placed on them to represent a wish of happiness to the newly wed (Fong & Chuang, 2003, p.138).
After the preparation, the groom leads the bridal procession to pick up his bride. The procession is accompanied by the noise of firecrackers, loud gongs and drums (Chinese Historical and Cultural Project). The groom is also accompanied by a child to symbolize his future sons (Chinese Historical and Cultural Project).
The wedding ceremony itself is simpler than the preparation. The couple is led to the altar to pray to the Heaven and Earth, to family ancestors, and to the Kitchen god, Tsao- Chun (Hudson Valley Weddings). Afterwards, a tea with lotus seeds is offered by the couple to the grooms parents (Chinese Historical and Cultural Project). The marriage ceremony is completed when the couple bows at each other.
The wedding feast is prepared by the bride’s family separate from that of the groom’s family. On each feasts, the men sits separately from women. Then bride and the groom are presented with the two goblets of honey and wine tied together with red ribbon (Kingma, 2003, p. 166). They partake in these two drinks to represent that they have come together in marriage in love and in courage.
After the Wedding
On the day after the wedding, the bride is required to wake up at dawn to honor their ancestors and bow before the groom’s relatives as she receives gifts from them. That is the only day when the bride is formally introduced to the grooms family and relatives.
It can be considered that the trditional Chinese wedding is the most complicated and meticulous yet most elegant wedding there is. It can also be said that since the wedding has the longest preparation, the parents of both partners may plan for it while the future couple are still young. Moreover, the wedding ceremony itself is given utmost importance as it is enriched by beliefs to ensure good things for the couple and for their family.
“Chinese Wedding Traditions.” 2008. Chinese Historical and Cultural Project. 4 June 2008 <http://www.chcp.org/wedding.html#auspicious>.
“A Guide to Chinese Wedding Customs.” 2008. Helium. 4 June 2008 <http://www.helium.com/items/716753-fatherly-moonlight-string-around>.
“Chinese Wedding Traditions.” 2008. Hudson Valley Weddings. 4 June 2008 <http://www.hudsonvalleyweddings.com/guide/china.htm>.
“Chinese Wedding Traditions- Marriage Customs.” 983 Weddings.com. 4 June 2008 <http://www.983wedding.com/chinese/>.
Fong, Mary & Chuang, Rueyling. Communicating Ethnic and Cultural Identity. Rowman & Littlefield, 2003.
Kingma, Daphne R. Weddings from the Heart: Contemporary & Traditional Ceremonies for an Unforgettable Wedding. Red Wheel, 2003.
“Wedding Style: How to Make Your Wedding Unique.” 2008. Chinese Weddings by the Knot. 4 June 2008 <http://www.chineseweddingsbytheknot.com/articles/article.aspx?a articleid=a60830151130>.