Marriage can be a long and elaborate process, and the traditional Chinese marriage rituals are no exception. There are about six etiquettes that must be adhered to when conducting a traditional Chinese wedding, and they include the following:
Once a boy’s parents had found the potential bride, they will then get a matchmaker whose task will be to mitigate the conflict of interests along with general embarrassments during the discussion of possible marriage between two families.
2. Birth date
If both the potential bride and her parents agreed to the proposal, the matchmaker will begin matching the birthdates of the couple-to-be by using the Suan Ming (Chinese fortune telling). This is done to predict the future of the groom and bride. If the result of Suan Ming is positive, they’ll move on with submitting bride price.
3. Bride price (the betrothal gifts)
During this stage, the family of the bridegroom will arrange for the matchmaker to present the bride price (betrothal gifts) with the betrothal letter included to the bride’s family. The gifts could be aplenty.
4. Wedding gifts
The family of the groom will then send an elaborate array of cakes, food, and religious items to the bride’s family.
5. Arranging the wedding
Prior to the wedding ceremony, both families would arrange for a perfect wedding day by following the Chinese Tung shing. Choosing an auspicious day is crucial in order to ensure that bad luck is avoided as well as the couple-to-be’s good future together. When there isn’t any auspicious date, the couple-to-be are required to review their potential date range and choose another good day for the wedding.
6. Wedding ceremony
Although this is the final stage of a traditional Chinese wedding, there are at least four stages more to go through, and they include:
- Wedding procession
- Welcoming the bride
- Actual wedding ceremonies
- The wedding banquets
Prior to modern times, choosing one’s own groom is absolutely not allowed for the Chinese women. As most Chinese marriages are based on the needs of honor and reproduction, the family members play a bigger role. Nowadays however, things have changed quite a lot.
Everyone should probably know by now that the color red is a must at most major Chinese affairs, and that includes wedding. Since the color red represents good luck in life, the Chinese also believes that it will ward off evil spirits roaming the earth. Back in the older days when life was much more elaborate, a bride’s wedding costume will also consist that of a piece of red veil. The red veil is supposed to cover the bride’s face while the wedding ceremony is taking place. With that being done, the newlyweds could only see each other’s face for the first time on their wedding night. Among the traditional clothes at Chinese weddings are as follow:
1. The traditional Chinese wedding dresses
The Qi Pao is a heavily and elaborately embroidered one-piece frock with gold and silver designs and is usually worn at weddings in the northern parts of China. Meanwhile, the brides from the southern parts of China would normally wear two-piece dress named Qun Gua, Kwa or Cheongsam, also elaborately adorned with golden phoenix and dragon. The modern day favorite pick includes the Cheongsams (but most of them have been modernized to suit personal taste).
2. The bridal crown
The bridal crown is another must-have at the Chinese wedding, and it’s also part of the elaborate Chinese wedding costume.
3. Dragon and Phoenix bridal dress
As the Dragon & Phoenix design symbolizes the balance of male and female power, it’s always a tradition for the Chinese to wear traditional wedding attire with dragon & phoenix design at the wedding day.
4. The Chinese groom’s outfit
While most of the groom’s costume is a black silk coat worn over an embroidered dragon robe of dark blue with the headgear being a black hat with red tassels, now most of the groom’s wear has been simplified to a set of traditional outfit without the overcoat to suit with the changing of times (including personal preferences).
5. Traditional flower girl and boy outfits
Most Chinese wedding receptions normally have nine to ten courses, with expensive dishes such as shark fin, sea cucumber, sea bass, squab, jumbo shrimp, lobster, and abalone served on the wedding banquet menu. Meanwhile, a whole fish, chicken, or pig usually represents luck and completeness in Chinese wedding culture so consider them as a must-have as well. Perhaps the best part about the Chinese wedding is that guests are welcome to take leftovers home, as taking home the remaining food indicates appreciation of the wedding couple’s choice of food. If you happen to be at a Chinese wedding, remember that it’s not polite to leave before the last dish is served. Full course Chinese wedding banquet is available in sit-down or buffet style. Among the must-have food at Chinese wedding reception includes:
1. Roast Suckling Pig
Pork is a symbol for virginity, therefore a must-have. The dish is usually traditionally cooked whole and often roasted. The texture of the meat can be somewhat gelatinous and is pale and tender, with the cooked skin being crispy and chewy.
2. Peking Duck
Since the red colour signifies happiness, serving the Peking Duck dish can only be a good thing. In addition, consider serving this dish with the legs and head intact to represent completeness. (The same is true of the lobster.)
3. Sea Treasure Soup
Shark’s fin soup used to be the ‘in-thing’ but with all the concerns on the cruelty and unnecessary killing just to make us some soup, we can opt for sea treasure soup instead. The ingredients cost as much as shark’s fin, so you don’t have to feel inferior about serving this soup to your guests. It tastes as good, if not better too, with the rich variety if ingredients inside.
4. Chinese Noodle
The noodles are best served at the end of the meal as an additional course. The long noodle strands symbolizes longevity.
5. Red Bean Soup
It’s recommendable to serve dessert as this will help to ensure a sweet life for the bride and groom. The red bean soup may be served with lotus seeds and bak hop (a bark-like vegetable) or steamed bread sweetened with lotus paste as a sign of fertility.
While the Chinese wedding ceremony is pretty much traditional and elaborated in mainland China, the Chinese wedding ceremony in Malaysia has been modernized according to time. Compared to the old days back then, the modern Chinese wedding in Malaysia has been toned down to make it more ‘bearable’ in these fast age. Among the simplified common items that the Chinese are still practicing in this country are as follow:
1. The selection of the Auspicious Date (wedding date)
This is the first most important thing that you need to take care of. Your auspicious date must be picked first by submitting the dates of birth of both bride’s and groom’s to match with date according to the Chinese Almanac that’ll best suit for them to be married on. According to the common belief, this’ll bring the couple good luck, fortunes, and prosperity.
2. Betrothal gifts or ceremony
This is the moment where the groom will bring his parents to the bride’s home to meet her parents and have an agreement or the settlement of the marriage. It’s usually done by offering ‘grand money’ as a token for the bride’s parents for letting their daughter marry the groom. The groom is also expected to prepare some gifts according to the Chinese traditional customs and rituals.
3. Returned gifts
The bride will return the gifts brought by the groom (normally in half the initial quantity). This’ll also include some accessories (which they’re following the customs as well).
4. Bride’s dowry
The dowry typically consists of accessories for the bride to prepare according to the Chinese wedding customs and rituals. This is the moment where the bride will spend the ‘grand money’ given by the groom. This is also the moment where the bride’s parents will buy any necessary things for the bride to get married in traditional Chinese wedding ceremony.
5. Hairdressing ceremony
A day before the wedding day, both the bride and the groom must do their hairdressing ceremony. They’re required to change into new clothes or pajamas and have someone help them to comb their hair (as mentioned by the customs and rituals).