When it comes to Chinese culture, there is no shortage of tradition. And weddings are no exception. The joining of two families through marriage holds a special place in Chinese culture and — depending on the couple — involves a tremendous amount of rituals.
Of course, in a large country and with so much diversity and diaspora, Chinese wedding traditions and rituals vary widely. If you’re attending a Chinese wedding this summer and wondering what customs you may get to be a part of, or you’re looking for ways to honour and incorporate your own heritage through your wedding, here are a few traditions to keep in mind.
Choosing the date
Rituals for Chinese weddings start long before the rest of the planning! Since a lucky date is key to a long marriage, traditionally, the couple will consult with a fortune teller. While there are auspicious dates based on the Chinese Almanac, the couple’s birthdays and Chinese zodiac signs are taken into consideration. The aim is to choose a unique date that will bless the couple with good luck in their marriage. If there’s a conflict, Chinese tradition dictates to defer to the bride’s birthday and corresponding lucky dates. Happy wife, happy life starts early!
Double happiness symbol
Whether you know it or not, you’ve likely come across the double happiness symbol. Made of two connected copies of the character for happiness or joy, this symbol is prominently displayed on invitations, decor, gifts, and red envelopes at weddings – I’ve even seen some versions incorporate the heart shape into the symbol itself. It’s a popular wedding symbol because its represents joining or doubling joy and happiness as a couple enters into marriage.
Attending a Chinese wedding and wondering what to wear? Avoid dark colours, as they tend to symbolize mourning. And just as you’d avoid a white dress at a western wedding — avoid red. While many Chinese brides still opt for a white dress, if she changes into a traditional Chinese bridal dress (qipao in Mandarin and cheongsam in Cantonese), it will very likely be red to symbolize success, luck and of course, love.
Tests for the groom (door games)
Door games or tests for the groom are one of the most fun Chinese wedding traditions. These tests allow the groom to prove himself worthy of the bride and up for the challenges of marriage. Sometimes they’ll involve feats of strength, knowledge tests, conducting tasks without using their hands, or singing an original song. One of the best door games I’ve seen involved the groom using his toes to pull mahjong tiles out of a bucket of ice water and then having to match them! The more difficult (and embarrassing) the better!
If you’ve ever seen a Chinese wedding, you’re likely familiar with the idea of a tea ceremony at a wedding. I’ve always considered the tea ceremony to be one of the most beautiful and emotional parts of a wedding — and I rarely leave one dry-eyed. It’s an important tradition that allows the bride and groom to honour their parents and families by serving them tea and in turn, allows the in-laws to bless the marriage and welcome the bride and groom. In some families, the tea ceremony is the pivotal part of the wedding, with some even considering it the formalization of the marriage.
Just like couples, no two weddings will be exactly the same. So don’t worry about following tradition to a t. Whether the nuptials you plan (or attend) involve a few or many cultural wedding rituals, modernized or traditional, what’s most important is that you relax, enjoy yourself, and toast (in whatever language is most meaningful to you) to a long and happy marriage.
Featured Image: Written Chinese
Making Asian American media
We believe that our stories matter – and we hope you do too. Support us with a monthly contribution to help ensure stories for us and by us are here to stay.