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The Ultimate Chinese Wedding Customs And Traditions Guide For Modern Singapore Brides
Let our master Chinese wedding traditions guide help you ace the more traditional aspects of your wedding for a smooth-sailing happily-ever-after.
Chinese weddings are rife with ancient traditions and rituals that bless the newlyweds and their marriage with happiness, fertility, prosperity and longevity. As most of these traditions are passed down through the generations by word-of-mouth, modern brides may find it difficult to find sufficient information on the meanings behind these traditions and how to prepare for it.
In order to help brides understand the purpose of these ancient wedding traditions and guide them in their preparations, we’ve come up with the one and only master Chinese wedding traditions guide you’ll ever need for your wedding day.
1. Asking For Hand in Marriage (提亲)Calista and Christopher’s Big and Gorgeous Wedding at Raffles Hotel Jakarta by Illuminen
Back in the day, grooms were required to pay a formal visit to the bride’s family to ask for her hand in marriage in a ritual that is known as 提亲. While this ritual is not as commonly practiced today, there’s nothing sweeter than a groom wanting to seek the approval and permission of his bride’s parents for their nuptials. For couples who wish to include this ritual into their wedding, you can do so by seeking an auspicious date to pay the bride’s parents a visit.
On the day of the 提亲, both the bride and groom should be dressed in proper attire to show respect to each other and their families. The groom and his parents should also bring along some gifts such as bottles of hard liquor, cakes or fruits as a show of good manners and sincerity. When asking for the bride’s hand in marriage, the groom should be courteous, sincere and respectful, especially if there is a discussion on the wedding date, where or how the wedding should be held at, or who should be invited, to avoid any unpleasant confrontations right from the start.
There are a handful of ‘don’ts’ you should take note of when practising this ritual. First, do avoid the first and seventh month of the Lunar calendar as it is considered inauspicious for Chinese celebrations. Secondly, don’t be late for your appointment with the bride and her family as it shows bad manners and disrespect. If you are caught in a traffic jam or a situation which would make you late, do call in advance to inform them that you are held back and will be slightly late to meet them.
2. The Guo Da Li (过大礼) CeremonyJessica and Jun Wen’s Cosy Wedding at Arbora at Faber Peak by Knotties Frame
Otherwise known as the Chinese betrothal ceremony, the Guo Da Li (过大礼) ceremony is an important Chinese wedding tradition where the first formal meeting between both the bride’s and groom’s families takes place. During the ceremony, several gift exchanges including the gifting of the 聘礼 (betrothal ang pao) and 嫁妝 (bride’s dowry) take place to bless the newlyweds and their marriage. Once the gifts are exchanged, the Guo Da Li ceremony is considered complete and the couple is now officially engaged. You can find more details on the gifting of the 聘礼 (betrothal ang pao) and 嫁妝 (bride’s dowry) in the link to our Guo Da Li guide.
3. A List of Guo Da Li Items According to Your Dialect GroupCalista and Christopher’s Big and Gorgeous Wedding at Raffles Hotel Jakarta by Iluminen
A variety of gifts will be exchanged between the groom and the bride’s family during the Guo Da Li ceremony, but not every couple will have the same items on their list as it differs from one dialect group to another. We’re prepared four easy-to-understand and downloadable infographics with a list of items required for the four different dialect groups to help couples better prepare for their Guo Da Li ceremony.
4. Chinese Traditional Wedding Pastries, Xi Bing (喜饼)Image by SingaporeBrides
Chinese traditional wedding pastries or xi bing (喜饼) are one of the items gifted to the bride’s family during the Guo Da Li ceremony. While these traditional pastries may be common and familiar to our parents and grandparents’, modern day couples do not know much about this cultural treat. To acquaint today’s couples with these traditional pastries, we’ve put together an easy-to-understand guide on the history of xi bing and where you can find them for your Guo Da Li needs.
5. The Gifting Of Si Dian Jin (四点金)Nisa and Shaun’s Fairytale Solemnisation at Lakehouse@Orto and Wedding at Grand Mercure Singapore Roxy by Colossal Images
Literally meaning four pieces of gold, Si Dian Jin (四点金) is a gift from the groom’s family to the bride. Presented during the Guo Da Li ceremony, the gifting of Si Dian Jin represents the groom’s promise that the bride will always have a roof over her head and be well taken care of and provided for. For most families, Si Dian Jin is considered an heirloom and may be passed down to the couple’s daughter or daughter-in-law as their wedding dowry in the future.
6. The An Chuang (安床) CeremonyLi Syn and Abel’s Floral-Filled Wedding at The Fullerton Hotel by Andri Tei Photography
The An Chuang (安床) ceremony, also known as the bed setting ceremony, is an important Chinese wedding tradition that you’ll be expected to practice to bless your union with an abundance of joy, harmony and offsprings. Traditionally, an auspicious time and date will be calculated for the an chuang ceremony, but today, the ritual is held any time between three days to a week before the wedding.
7. The Hair Combing (梳头) CeremonyKyra and James’s Beautiful Garden Wedding at Amara Sanctuary Resort Sentosa Singapore by Samantha from Bittersweet Photography
Known as 梳头, the hair combing ceremony is an age-old Chinese wedding tradition that represents the coming-of-age of the bride and groom as they prepare to leave their parents and start a family of their own. This important Chinese wedding tradition usually takes place on the eve of the wedding day but the actual timing of the ceremony differs between the dialect groups, and it is best to consult your parents or fengshui master on the best timing for your hair combing ceremony.
It is carried out by one or both parents who will recite this ancient litany of Chinese blessings as they comb through their hair four times:
(May your marriage last a lifetime)
(May you be blessed with a happy and harmonious marriage until old age)
(May you be blessed with an abundance of children and grandchildren)
(May you be blessed with longevity)
8. The Fetching of Bride and Gatecrash (迎亲 and 闯门)Hailey and Clifford’s Exquisite Wedding at The White Rabbit by Germaine from Bridelope Productions
On the day of the wedding, the groom will journey to the bride’s home with his groomsmen to fetch her to his home. Upon arrival, he has to wait for a younger male member from the bride’s family to open the door before he can alight. The groom will gift the younger male with an ang bao and in turn, he will be presented with two mandarin oranges for good luck.
Before he can meet up with the bride, the groom has to go through a gatecrash, also known as 闯门. Traditionally, the gatecrash served as a test of the groom’s sincerity and love, and represented the reluctance of the bride’s family to marry their daughter off. Today, however, most couples include the gatecrash into their wedding for the fun and excitement of it.
Together with the help of his groomsmen, the groom has to complete a series of tasks before he has access to his bride, including a challenge involving the tasting of the requisite four flavours: sour, sweet, bitter and spicy (酸甜苦辣). These flavours are a symbol of the ups and downs every couple will encounter in their marriage, so it is important for the groom and his groomsmen to get through them successfully for the couple to have a smooth-sailing marriage.
Once the games are complete, the groom is expected to “bribe” the bridesmaids with ang baos in order to gain entry to the bride’s home and see her. The last step of the 迎亲 and 闯门 ceremony will be complete when the groom has made his way to his bride, lifted her veil and bestows her with a kiss.
9. The Departure From The Bride’s Home (出阁 or 出门)Joanne and Russell’s Magical Horseback Wedding at Capella Singapore by Pixioo
出阁 or 出门 refers to the bride’s departure for her family home. Traditionally, Chinese brides will leave their family home permanently to live with her husband’s after the wedding, so her departure on the day of the wedding is a significant rite of passage for her and her family.
After the gatecrash activities have ended and the groom has successfully reunited with the bride, they are served a bowl of mee sua with hard boiled eggs, a symbol of longevity, by the bride’s family. As they prepare to leave the bride’s home, the newlyweds are traditionally expected to bow three times, once to the heavens and earth as a gesture of respect to the gods and their ancestors, a second bow to their parents to express their gratitude for raising and caring for them, and the last bow to each other out of respect and love for one another.
On the way to the bridal car, the bride will be sheltered by a red umbrella to ward off any negative elements. Usually, the bride’s father will be the person sheltering the bride with the red umbrella, but for Teochew and Hokkien brides, a male elder of her family may also be the one who shelters her with the umbrella. For Cantonese and Hakka brides, it can also be a matchmaker or a bridesmaid who holds the umbrella for her, as she makes her way to the bridal car. Along the way, family members, bridesmaids or a matchmaker may also throw red beads or rice for good luck.
The final step in completing this important 出门 rite of passage requires the bride to throw a red foldable fan out of the car window as she leaves in the bridal car. The act of throwing the red foldable fan symbolises the leaving behind of her past, bad habits and any negativity as she embarks on a new chapter of her life. The fan can be picked up later by anyone from her family.
10. The Arrival at The Groom’s Home (过门)Reaiah and Jeremy’s Intimate and Heartfelt Wedding at Conrad Centennial Singapore by Smittenpixels Photography
When the bride arrives at the groom’s home for the first time on her wedding day, her entry into his home is known as 过门. When they enter, it is customary for his family to hide from the couple to avoid seeing them when they step into the house. They can only appear after the couple has entered their bridal room. This unique tradition is meant to prevent any future disputes between the bride and her new family members.
The couple will be served a sweet soup consisting of longans, red dates, lotus seed, a hard boiled egg and/or glutinous rice ball (汤圆), symbolising a blissful and fruitful marriage. After which, the couple can decide to proceed with the tea ceremony for the groom’s family members. Once the tea ceremony is over, children will be invited to jump and roll on the couple’s bed in a ritual known as 压床, meant to bless the couple with an abundance of offsprings.
Before the couple and their bridal entourage make their way back to the bride’s home, the bride will typically change into a traditional Chinese wedding dress known as Qun Kua (群褂) or a modern cheongsam.
11. The Chinese Tea Ceremony (敬茶)Charlene and Brian’s Chinoiserie Wedding Photography in an Old Kampong Attap Roof House by Maritha Mae Photography
The Chinese Tea ceremony, or 敬茶, is arguably the most important wedding tradition in the Chinese culture. This time-honoured tradition represents the formal introduction of the newlyweds to their families as they pay respect to their elders and receive their blessings for their union. The ceremony usually takes place on the day of the wedding and involves a number of logistics and people. Learn more about this beautiful tradition and what you need to prepare for your Chinese wedding tea ceremony in our essential Chinese tea ceremony guide.
12. The Bride’s Return Home (三朝回门)Brenda and Matthew’s Romantic Wedding at Sinfonia Ristorante by Andri Tei Photography
Traditionally, the bride will return to her family home for a visit three days after the wedding, known as 三朝回门 or simply 回门 . But this tradition has been modernised over the years and it is common for the bride and her groom to return to her home on the same day of the wedding, right after she has completed the 过门 and its related rituals at the groom’s home.
To signify the passing of three days, the bride usually changes into a Qun Kua (群褂), a modern cheongsam, or another wedding dress before she returns home. Once home, the tea ceremony for her family members will commence. Traditionally, this tea ceremony represents the formal introduction of the groom to the bride’s family.
After the tea ceremony has completed, the roast pig gifted by the groom (it is customary for the groom to gift a whole roast pig to the bride’s family as a symbol of her chastity, but today, modern couples are opting to replace it with canned pig trotters instead or do away with this tradition altogether) will be divided into three sections, the head, middle and tail. The bride’s family will keep the middle portion, while the head and tail will be wrapped in red paper or cloth and returned to the groom’s family, symbolising a perfect union (有头有尾). Mandarin oranges will also be exchanged during 回门 for the couple to bring back to the groom’s family.
13. The Wedding Banquet (喜酒)Jacqueline and Joey’s Heartfelt Wedding at Novotel Singapore on Stevens by Natalie Wong Photography
The Chinese wedding banquet serves as the final roundup for the line-up of Chinese wedding traditions that most couples are expected to follow. After the formal ceremonies of a Chinese wedding are complete, a celebratory meal is held to rejoice in the couple’s union and the unification of the two families.
A Chinese wedding banquet is a spectacle to behold, an experience to be had and never quiet. While wedding banquets were unanimously held at a hotel ballroom in the past, couples today prefer a more intimate and casual setting at restaurants or unique event spaces for their once-in-a-lifetime.
During a Chinese wedding banquet, guests will gift the happy couple with their blessings in the form of a red packet (ang bao) at the reception before they enter the dining hall. During the celebration, it is common for the bride and/or groom to change their outfits at least once as they prepare for their march-ins. However, this may vary as some couples prefer to wear the same outfit throughout the duration of the banquet.
Another common sight of a Chinese wedding banquet is the toast, where the emcee will invite the couple and their families and their bridal party up on stage for a lively toast known affectionately as Yam Seng. The emcee will cue for the couple and their guests on stage to start with a yam seng cheer, and prompt the rest of the guests on the floor to follow suit. The yam seng cheers will continue for at least three rounds before everyone is invited to return to their seats. The couple will then make their rounds and greet their guests at their respective tables and more rounds of yam seng cheers might ensue.
At the end of the night, it is customary for the couple and their parents to bid all the guests a good night and thank them for attending the celebration.
Bonus!Calista and Christopher’s Big and Gorgeous Wedding at Raffles Hotel Jakarta by Iluminen
During some of these Chinese wedding traditions, a number of items are included and gifted for their symbolic meaning instead of their practical use. As these items are given as blessings for your marriage, you are not advised to donate, give or dispose of them. Find out what these items are and what you can do with them after you have completed these Chinese wedding traditions.
Feature Image from Lalu and Chris’ Bright and Colourful Sapa-Inspired Backyard Wedding by Alvelyn Alko
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