Honoring cultural traditions in weddings can be important to many couples, but not everyone knows where to start or which traditions they want to integrate. Truthfully, there is no one right way to uphold these cultural values in your wedding. Having a traditional cultural wedding can be absolutely beautiful and rich with important history. This can also perfectly mesh with modern-day ideas—something that our company excels at. We love including modern trends with traditional customs.
Many of our couples approach us to have our team create beautiful Chinese weddings. There are many different traditions within Chinese weddings, depending on where your family roots stem from. Different people have different customs; in general, a traditional Chinese wedding has certain major elements that are fun to integrate into modern-day weddings!
Chinese Tea Ceremony
One of our brides’ favorite elements to incorporate is a traditional Chinese tea ceremony. The Chinese tea ceremony is still a significant tradition in modern times, and it is a small, intimate ceremony that traditionally happens during the engagement. It was a very important part of the betrothal in Chinese pre-wedding traditions.
Before the wedding, the groom’s family presents the bride’s family with engagement gifts, such as money, gold, and cakes. Tea is an important element of this dowry. If the bride’s family accepts the dowry, they are expressing consent to the marriage. During this ceremony, the bride and groom serve tea to their parents and elder family members. It is a sign of the couple showing respect to their elders and their new in-laws.
Modern brides enjoy doing this on the day of the wedding as a nod to their culture. We have many brides who do this ceremony in their hotel before the wedding or during cocktail hour, and some even request for us to do the ceremony during their reception so their guests can participate in this cultural experience. During the tea ceremony, the couple often dresses in traditional Chinese wedding garments, which will often be the Qun Kwa (or Qun Kua) for the bride.
The Qun Kwa is a two-piece wedding gown embroidered with gold and silver threads. Red is the most common color of the traditional Qun Kwa because red is believed to keep evil spirits away. As such, red is often used for good luck during celebratory occasions. Grooms usually wear an outfit called the Tang Suit.
There are many different styles and designs of Qun Kwas. Dragons and phoenixes are the yin and yang symbols of marriage. Men’s clothing has the dragon, and women’s clothing has the phoenix. Many good marriages consist of couples who balance each other out, serving as yin and yang. Another common traditional Chinese dress is the Qipao. The Qipao (or Cheongsam) is a one-piece dress typically worn in northern regions of China. The Qipao also has many embroidered embellishments on it and is usually able to incorporate more colors in the design.
Another fun component of Chinese weddings is door games! In Chinese communities, especially those in China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore, door games are challenges set up by the bridesmaids for the groom as a ceremonial demonstration of the groom’s love for the bride. He essentially has to overcome these torturous (and funny) challenges and hand out a lot of red envelopes containing money to the bridesmaids to prove his love for his bride. Once he overcomes the challenges, he is able to see his bride.
Some of these games may include the groom doing 100 sit-ups, eating food that is bitter, or having to get a little too close for comfort with his groomsmen! If you have never heard about these games, we encourage you to look them up—they are so fun! Indian weddings have similar challenges for the groom. For instance, the bridesmaids will steal the groom’s shoes from him at the mandap and only return them after he has paid their ransom. Many Asian cultures have variations of this type of fun at their weddings.
The Chinese banquet is essentially the equivalent of the reception in traditional western weddings. The dinner menu usually consists of symbolic, auspicious food. There is always a fish course to symbolize abundance, and, depending on your Chinese heritage, there may be a suckling pig to symbolize the bride’s purity. There is usually also a poultry dish (chicken or duck) to symbolize peace and unity. It is also very common to have a lotus seed dessert to symbolize fertility. So, the next time you are at a Chinese wedding, you will know that all the food presented and shared will have a reason and meaning—how special!
Selecting a Wedding Date
If you think picking a wedding date as a normal couple is hard, try picking one as a Chinese couple! A lucky date is super important and usually has to be blessed and calculated by either an elder, someone from the temple, or a fortune-teller. These calculations are based on the birthdays of the couple, the parents of the couple, and other elders. Having your wedding on the wrong date could mean bad luck in the marriage, and unfortunate incidences may even happen around or close to the wedding date. We always make sure that our couples check with their elders before we lock in a date if one of them is Chinese. Many parents still care about auspicious dates!
Traditional Symbols and Rituals
Red and gold are traditionally featured in several aspects of a traditional Chinese wedding because they symbolize good fortune. The double happiness symbol is also often pictured and is commonly found during Chinese ceremonies. This symbol represents the two happy people joined together as one. No unity candle here—this is a unity symbol in itself and will be seen throughout the Chinese wedding.
A traditional Chinese ceremony involves a quick exchange of rings, and the couple also shares a drink of Tsao Chun tea with their arms crossed. These traditional rituals were historically performed with family as the only guests. However, many modern couples choose to integrate this exchange of vows with a traditional western-style ceremony—white dress and all. Things for guests to know before attending a Chinese wedding include:
- Wearing a red outfit is a faux pas. The bride will likely be wearing red, so the guests shouldn’t, just as you don’t wear white to a western wedding.
- It is also customary for guests to bring a red envelope with money instead of a gift. Many families give upward of $5,000 in their envelopes, depending on how close they are to the couple. There are a lot of cute ways to decorate a money pouch and make it special for the couple, which can be especially nice for guests who aren’t as comfortable with giving money as a gift!
- The ceremony can be a multiple-day commitment, so be ready!
- As with any wedding, you can expect a lot of drinking and eating. If you have dietary restrictions, just know that there will be a lot of meat and herbs on the table! Even the sauces might have components that are made from seafood and other items that some people may be allergic to.
We hope this guide helps you get a glimpse into Chinese weddings and gets you prepared for your next Chinese wedding!