“Something borrowed, something blue…”. That’s one of the most popular phrases you will hear as a couple preparing for your wedding. Interestingly enough, this rhyme stems from Western influences. So, what about our own culture’s wedding practices? There has been a growing trend of newlyweds revisiting their roots and reviving these wedding traditions. These practices are not set in place for no reason. They are acts of blessing and also done to show respect to elders – an essential facet in Asian culture. Curious to know more? Read on to learn about a few Chinese wedding traditions to incorporate into your nuptial.
1. Auspicious date to get married
Ever noticed particular months where you get a flood of wedding invites whilst other months seem to be dry spells? Many couples choose auspicious dates to get married, following the Tong Shu which recommends auspicious dates to carry out certain activities. This often results in particular dates and months being the peak periods for wedding ceremonies. Couples may even take it a step further and consult a geomancer to select a date based on the couple’s individual Ba Zi (8 Characters). This is more personalised to the couple instead of the more general dates from the Tong Shu.
2. Gate crashing to fetch the bride
Many young couples practice this for the fun experience and the laughs. It’s practically a staple even if they don’t know the true meaning behind it. The groom is to fetch the bride from her house, arriving with an entourage of groomsmen to back him up. The bridesmaids – who are with the bride – have to to try and make it hard for them to enter through various tasks and challenges. This is symbolic in showing that the family is reluctant to marry the bride off, and she should be “fought” for. The groomsmen and groom himself participates in these challenges to prove that they have the persistence to brave through them to fetch the bride. Bridesmaids may also cheekily expect the groomsmen to pay up with a red packet before finally allowing them to enter.
3. Tea Ceremony
After the hoo-ha of gate crashing, the groom brings the bride to his house in order to perform the tea ceremony for his parents and relatives. With the bride on the left, the couple will be kneeling in front of his relatives while pouring and serving tea. Starting from the groom’s parents, and then from the eldest to youngest relatives present. In the afternoon, they return to the bride’s house to do the same with her kin.
The drink served isn’t any run-of-the-mill pre-packed sachet. Longan and red date tea is often used. This symbolises a sweet relationship and birthing of offspring in the earlier years of their marriage. The bride may also choose to don on the Kua, which is a traditional Chinese dress to serve the tea as well. Some couples may carry out this tradition right before their wedding dinner in private rooms, as some relatives may not be able to make it on the day.
4. Red packets as wedding gifts
A prevalent Chinese tradition is for guests to pass the wedded couple red packets as a token of blessing. This takes the place of the Western custom of buying items from the couple’s gift registry. The amount to put in red packets have been widely debated. Generally, that depends on how close you are to the couple and how grand the dinner venue is. You can do a quick google search to bring up the approximate red packet amount for the respective hotels. The consensus is that it should cover at least your seat at the wedding dinner table. Amounts range in the hundreds, with couples sometimes having surplus due to generous relatives and friends, but don’t count on that happening often!
5. Yam Seng
Translated from Cantonese as ‘Cheers to Victory’, the last of our wedding traditions comes in the form of a rousing toast. Friends and relatives will gather on stage to lead the Yam Seng with the newlyweds, dragging the words out as long as their breath can last. It is believed that the more prolonged the shout, the more blessings will befall the couple. It is usually done thrice. The first for a happy marriage, second for undying love between husband and wife, and lastly, for fertility (which so happens to be the loudest and longest of them all!)
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