In the ancient Chinese writings, the characters 婚姻 indicate that the most auspicious time to have a wedding is during the evening as it represents love, harmony and friendship – the way marriages ought to be. Marriages only became a custom around 402 to 221BC and were traditionally performed within the same social class of society.
There are 6 rituals to a traditional Chinese marriage, founded on their tradition of “three letters and six etiquettes”, which are based on 3 distinguished ancient books called the Book of Rites, The Book of Etiquettes and Ceremonial and the Baihu Tong:
- Proposal – the groom’s family sends gifts and reveals their intention to the bride’s family
- Birthdate matching as well as horoscope matching, should the family of the bride accept the proposal of the groom
- Betrothal Price (which is a gift from the groom to the bride’s family)
- Wedding Gifts – where the groom’s family would present gifts (wedding cake, brandy, oranges, peanuts, a whole roast piglet or pork legs and dragon/ phoenix candles as well as bangles). In return, the bride’s family will replace the 2 brandy bottles with orange syrup, and return the equal goods to them along with 2 phoenix candles which are to be lit up by the groom’s family on the wedding day)
- Wedding Date – this auspicious date is decided by the elders of the family in consultation with the astrologer
- Wedding Ceremony
Wedding processions begins from the bride to the groom’s home which includes the music band, maids of honor, bride’s sedan and dowry. Welcoming the bride at the site of the groom’s home is tradition. Matrimony: here is where the bridal couple pay respects to God and those deceased. The Tea Ceremony: tea is served to the family of the groom and then the bride, from the oldest to the youngest, to express gratitude to the family. In exchange, the bridal couple will be given gold or cash, often in red ang-pow packets, as a sign to wish them “good luck”. The Feast is finally thrown for all their guests, first feast for the bride’s side and thereafter one for the groom’s side of friends and family.
Before entering the nuptial chambers, the couple will exchange nuptial tea cups and perform 4 ceremonial bows as follows: to God (or to Heaven and Earth), the deceased, their parents and finally to the couple themselves.
The recurring theme that is seen is the incorporation of the bride into the groom’s family. However, what is most beautiful of Chinese weddings is seen in its calligraphy, the Double Happiness. If you look closely at this Chinese character that originated from the Tang Dynasty, you will see 2 persons walking hand in hand (where the top squares represent their heads and the bottom squares their feet). What better way to say, “when 2 become 1”.