Singaporebrides | Weddings 101

September 2015

Chinese Hair Combing Ceremony How-To’s

The hair combing ceremony (梳头) is one of the few Chinese wedding traditions that most Chinese couples have to go through right before their wedding day commences. But not everyone comprehends the significance of this ancient coming-of-age ritual or knows how to prepare for one.

Passed down from a long time ago, the hair combing ceremony is an important Chinese wedding tradition that symbolises the bride and groom’s transition into adulthood. While this age-old tradition is still being practiced in Chinese weddings today, not every couple knows how to prepare for one, much less what goes on during the hair combing ceremony. Well, it’s about time you learnt how.

What is The Hair Combing Ceremony (梳头)

Chinese weddings; Hair combing ceremony items; dragon phoenix candles; singapore weddings From This Day Forth and Forevermore by Bobbykiran Photography

The hair combing ceremony is a rite of passage every newlywed has to undergo on the eve or morning of the wedding. It takes place at the couple’s respective homes and usually lasts no more than five minutes. They should be seated in front of a table facing an open window, with a pair of dragon phoenix candles lit and the necessary hair combing items laid out on it. The parents of the bride and groom will then begin the ceremony by combing through their hair four times while reciting this ancient litany of Chinese blessings:

一梳梳到尾,
(May your marriage last a lifetime)
二梳百年好合,
(May you be blessed with a happy and harmonious marriage until old age)
三梳子孙满堂,
(May you be blessed with an abundance of children and grandchildren)
四梳白发齐眉。
(May you be blessed with longevity)

If one or both parents are not around, then a lady with good fortune, usually someone who is blissfully married with a surviving husband, children and grandchildren, will undertake the ceremony. At the end of the ceremony, the couple will eat a bowl of glutinous rice balls as a symbol of togetherness.

When Does The Hair Combing Ceremony Take Place

Traditionally, an auspicious time will be chosen for the ceremony, usually on the eve of the wedding, but the actual timing depends on the couple’s dialect group. Some dialect groups require the couple to conduct the ceremony simultaneously at midnight on the eve of the wedding, while others dictate that the bride should start hers at least an hour after the groom’s, or on the morning of the wedding.

What Items Do You Need For The Hair Combing Ceremony

Chinese weddings; Hair combing ceremony items; dragon phoenix candles; singapore weddings (clockwise) A pair of dragon phoenix candles, fruits and offerings for ancestors, ruler, plate of Lian Zi, Red Dates and Dried Longans, mirror and Thuja leaves tied with comb

Besides the obvious comb, a number of items are required for the hair combing ceremony:

  • A pair of dragon and phoenix candles
  • A pair of pointed comb, mirror, red string and ruler (for the Groom)
  • A pair of round comb, mirror, red string, ruler and sewing kit (for the Bride)
  • A set of Thuja leaves (扁栢)
  • A plate of Lian Zi, Red Dates and Dried Longans

These items each represent an auspicious blessing for the newlyweds and their future. With the exception of the Thuja leaves, all of these items can be bought at any Guo Da Li shops. Most shops will already have the items nicely packed as a set, so all you have to do is to tell them you need two sets of hair combing items for yourself and your groom. Thuja leaves can be found at market florists and at Far East Flora.

How To Prepare For The Hair Combing Ceremony

To prepare for the hair combing ceremony, the couple have to bath with water infused with pomelo or pomegranate leaves, as these are believed to cleanse the body and ward off evil spirits. After their shower, they should dress in a new set of undergarments and pajamas, and wear a new pair of bedroom slippers.

They should be seated in front of a table facing an open window. On it, the pair of dragon phoenix candles should be be lit and placed on either ends of the table. The rest of the hair combing necessities should be laid out in the middle of the table. Fruits and joss sticks for religious purposes can also be placed on the table along with the other items.

Hair Combing Ceremony Exceptions/Taboos

While most Chinese couples go through the hair combing ceremony, there are a handful who choose to leave it out of their big day, and that’s perfectly fine. Some couples and their parents agree not to include the ceremony while others are not required to go through it because their parents did not undergo the hair combing ceremony during their own wedding. While there is no hard and fast rule on whether the ceremony must be done or not, the ceremony must be carried out by both the bride and groom if they decide to go through with it.

Brides who are forgoing the hair combing ceremony should still purchase the necessities and display the items on her dresser for a successful marriage. These items can be kept after a week but they must never be given away or passed on to anyone else except her daughter.


Credit: Feature Image from A Kewei and Alfred Love Duet by Tinydot Photography