Thinking of getting married into a Chinese family or are you planning to do a traditional Chinese wedding?
As a country of rich culture and traditions, Chinese families are not short of wedding traditions. The official marriage ceremony for modern Chinese families is now substantially different from its traditional roots.
In traditional Chinese custom, most marriages are arranged according to social classifications and were heavily influenced by the practices and philosophy of Confucianism. While arranged marriages have come to an end after the 1980 reform in China, traditional wedding practices still persist in today’s Chinese weddings.
In today’s post, we break down the most popular modern Chinese wedding customs.
The Chinese Wedding Ceremony
Today’s Chinese wedding ceremonies are no longer as elaborate as they were. The official modern Chinese wedding ceremony normally happens in a city hall office presided over by a government official. But, the celebration is actually the highlight of a Chinese betrothal which occurs later at a private banquet reception that is usually paid and hosted by the groom’s family.
Moreover, there are religious Chinese families that prefer to exchange vows at a religious gathering, but like the rest, the larger celebrations happen at a later banquet attended by friends, family, and relatives.
The Chinese Wedding Banquet
Modern Chinese families believe that a wedding banquet should be a lavish affair. The banquet last two or more hours and it’s filled with gifts and food. Invited guests sign their names in a wedding book or on a large scroll, and shortly after presenting their red envelopes to receptionists at the entrance of the wedding hall. Often, the money is counted while the guest looks on.
This money gifting custom is an old tradition that has been carried down and it’s still being practised until present. The guest’s names and amounts of money given by the guests are recorded so that the married couple know how much every guest handed toward the wedding. One of the reasons why such custom exists is because it’s helpful for them when the couple attends this guest’s own wedding, they know how much they’ll gift – which is expected to be more than what the received themselves.
Once the money gift has been recorded, the guests are then guided into a large banquet hall. It depends on the preference of the host, seats can be assigned or not. The wedding party begins immediately after all guests are present and seated. All Chinese banquets feature an emcee who announces the arrival of the bride and groom. The entrance of the newly married couple also marks the official start of the celebration.
A short welcome speech will be given by the groom or the bride. Shortly after, the first of the nine meal course will be served. Throughout the meal, the newly wedded pair will re-enter the banquet hall, each time wearing different wedding outfits. It’s also the time when the couple becomes busy with their guests’ needs. If you’re wondering which part of the meal the couple re-enters, it’s after the third and sixth courses.
Before dessert is served to the guests as a conclusion to the nine-course meal, the bride and groom will offer a toast and make their way to each table where the guests stand and simultaneously. Once the bride and groom have their toasts with all their guests, they exit the hall while dessert is served.
After dessert is served, the celebration promptly concludes, but before leaving the venue, the guests line up to greet the bride and groom and their families standing outside the banquet hall. Photos will also be taken with the couple.
The Chinese Post-Wedding Rituals
To finalize the wedding banquet, friends and relatives comes to the bridal chamber and play tricks on the newlyweds as a way to express good wishes. Next, the couple shares a glass of wine and cuts off a lock of hair to symbolize that they are now of one heart. This is an old wedding tradition that many Chinese families still practice.
After three days (sometimes seven or nine days) after the wedding, the bride returns to her maiden home to see her family. Many Chinese couples do it after they’ve gone on a honeymoon vacation.
Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with modern Chinese wedding customs, we would like to know your thoughts and opinions on the comments below. Which tradition is the most surprising to you?
Looking for a photographer for a Chinese wedding?
Pepper Image is a Sydney-based photographer specializing in weddings, bridal photography, and engagement shoots. We’ve photographed modern and traditional Chinese weddings. Contact us today for your free consultation.