| Unlike the traditional fairytale weddings that cover the pages of bridal magazines, Chinese wedding traditions do not change with each season, year or new designer. These customs have been around for more than two thousands years and while they have evolved over time, many of the original themes are still proudly demonstrated throughout the ceremonies.
From picking the most auspicious date for the couple to marry on to exchanging gifts that confirm the engagement, the events leading to a wedding are still heavily handled by both the bride and groom's family. While traditions have evolved over time, as it is with many Western weddings, the modern Chinese wedding is entirely a family affair.
While it is far less common today than it once was, arranged marriages were the rule in non-modernized Chinese weddings. Dissimilar to the arranged marriages in other cultures, the pairing was not solely based on logistics such as class and familial ancestry. The astrological compatibility of the potential couple was, and still is, equally as important.
A matchmaker would be hired to oversee the matching of a pair and the proposal. Once the groom’s family propositioned the bride’s family with gifts and in some cases money, if the family accepted, both families of the couple would seek out the advice of an astrologer. They would examine the birth charts of both the man and woman and confirm whether or not they would be a successful match.
Picking the perfect day to get married on is typically left up to an astrologer. The wedding date itself must be held on a particularly auspicious date for each couple. Their Chinese astrological animals along with the alignment of the stars on a particular date play into the selection process. Even the starting time of the official wedding ceremony is analyzed. Many times being performed at the on the half hour, rather than the top of the hour because the hands on the clock in an upward motion are beckon good luck to the marriage.
The go to color for a Chinese wedding is red. A symbol of joy, celebration, prosperity, good luck and is even thought to ward off evil spirits makes it the perfect accent for one of the biggest landmarks in life. It is customary for the bride to wear a traditional Chinese red dress called a Qi Pao or Qun Gua. These are tight fitting, traditional Chinese garbs that are generally embroidered with phoenix and dragons which are both significant symbols for a couple. The Chinese believe that they are decedents from the dragon therefore making it one of the most respected symbols used. The dragon in this case represents the man and the phoenix, the woman. The phoenix and dragon are also prominently used in decorations and are on the “unity” candle that is lit the night before the wedding in the bridal suite to bring good luck to the impending nuptials.
In Westernized Chinese weddings, the bride instead starts out in a white dress for the ceremony, then changes into the traditional Chinese attire for the tea ceremony and will wear this until it's time to say goodbye to the guests. At this point, she dons her third dress of the big day, a cocktail dress. In modern Chinese weddings accents of red are acceptable, if a red gown isn’t the bride’s dream gown. Everything from wedding invitations and double happiness banners are displayed in red.
THE WEDDING DAY
Like every other culture, the wedding day itself is full of tradition. As Americans ensure that they always have something borrowed and something blue, a must for Chinese brides is the good luck hairdresser. As the hairdresser styles the brides hair, customarily in a bun, she whispers words of good luck and fortune into the bridal up-do. A similar tradition of the couple staying apart before the wedding is also carried out in Chinese weddings. In the past, as with arranged marriages across the globe, the bride and groom did not always meet before their wedding so she would wear a red veil during the ceremony. Nowadays, the use of a veil is completely up to the bride. The wedding ceremony itself can be quite short, however a main component of it is the kneeling three times; once to acknowledge their ancestors, once for the earth and then a third for the heavens.
After the vows are taken, and the couple drinks wine from interlaced arms a tea ceremony is performed. In this ceremony, the bride serves her new in-laws tea as they welcome her to their family. She begins by serving the eldest member to the youngest. Often times; a tea ceremony is also performed the morning of the ceremony to for the bride’s family as they are not part of the wedding day tea ritual. As she serves the family, she kneels before them. Lotus seeds are often in the tea to attract fertility to the newlyweds
Among the gifts that are presented to the bride's family are cakes emblazoned with a phoenix and dragon or double happiness characters on the tops. During the tea ceremony, it is common practice for the groom’s family to give red envelopes filled with money. In the past, the family typically was given enough of these cakes to send out to immediate family member with their wedding invitations and still have enough for the groom's family to keep some for themselves. Before the wedding day, the bride’s dowry or gift of goods and money in exchange for the groom being the sole provider for the bride.
In modern Chinese weddings, these cakes are served at the reception instead. Family gives the newlyweds red envelopes that filled with cash or checks or anything with the double happiness symbol on it.
No matter what type of wedding you are attending, the double happiness symbol will bestow good fortune onto newlyweds. Even if they are registered elsewhere, the personal thoughtful touch of giving the pair an unexpected Chinese good luck gift will not go unnoticed. Or maybe just surround yourself with these beautiful and harmonious symbols to attract luck into your own life. Whatever you are may be looking for, Mrs. Lins Kitchen can help.
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