Weddings in the Western world are home to some unusual traditions, from the bouquet being thrown for single women to catch, to the bride wearing something old, new, borrowed, and blue. All the way over the other side of the world, Chinese weddings also have their fair share of quirks. Here I look at five fun and unusual Chinese wedding traditions.
Imagine you’re the groom. You managed to convince a woman to spend the rest of her life with you. You bought an expensive ring and made a big romantic gesture. You may have even visited her parents and handed over a handsome betrothal gift. You might think the hard part is over. Guess again.
Perhaps the most famous – and certainly one of the more curious – Chinese wedding traditions is “obtaining the bride”. On the morning of the wedding, the groom will travel to the bride’s house. But before he can collect his soon-to-be wife, he must traverse a series of tricky challenges.
Friends and family of the bride will block the groom’s path. To get past, he must answer questions, solve riddles, and, more often than not, hand over some lucky money. Only once all the obstacles are conquered can the groom be united with his bride so they can be married.
The tradition of obtaining the bride is a fun and creative activity that helps set a playful and relaxed mood for the day of celebrations ahead.
If you’ve never been to a Chinese wedding before, you may hear some loud bangs at some point during the day and think the party has descended into a war zone. Of course, those loud bangs are actually the sound of firecrackers being let off as part of the celebrations.
Firecrackers are very common at weddings in China. They provide a simple (and noisy) way to celebrate the couple’s happiness that leaves a strong impression but doesn’t cost a lot. Plus, it’s thought that the firecrackers help drive away evil spirits.
Letting off some fireworks adds a bit of literal spark and excitement to an occasion. It’s also a great way to keep the younger kids entertained (from a safe distance!).
The art of drinking is a key aspect of surviving social occasions in China. If you’re not careful, you will find yourself very drunk, very quickly, and nowhere is this truer than on your wedding day. As part of the wedding day proceedings, the bride and groom are expected to individually toast and drink with everyone in attendance.
Here are some simple rules to make sure you don’t offend anyone:
-Go to every table and toast with everyone.
-When clinking your glass with someone older or with more authority, ensure yours is positioned below theirs.
-If they only drink half a glass, then you should do the same. Otherwise, they will feel pressured to drink more. Equally true is that if they drink all their glass, so should you.
Now that the rules have been established, here are some tips to surviving the toasts:
-Stay away from any type of wine or hard liquor. If you’re the groom, stick to beer. Sexist as it is, if you’re the bride, you can probably get away with tea.
-Try to toast the entire table as one. Some guests will try to wear you down by taking it in turns to toast with you individually. Avoid this whenever possible.
All in all, the drinking customs at Chinese weddings make most Western ceremonies seem tame in comparison. As long as you’re careful though, they are an awful lot of fun!
Going easy on the booze is especially important when trying to navigate this next custom. Originating from the Uyghur people of Xinjiang province, this tradition involves the groom firing three arrows at his bride.
Before you prepare to call for an ambulance, it should first be pointed out that as these arrows have no heads, there isn’t likely to be any hospital emergencies. After firing the arrows, all of which should hit the bride, the groom must collect them and snap them in half along with the bow, thus ensuring the couple enjoys everlasting love.
So, if you find yourself in the situation where you need to shoot your new wife with a bow and arrow, channel your inner Legolas and aim well. Otherwise, it could mean bad luck for your future.
When you picture a matrimonial bed on a wedding night, you might see something romantic. Perhaps the groom came in early to light some scented candles, put on some love songs, or cover the bed in roses. In Chinese wedding tradition, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
The preparation of the marital bed is less of a private affair and more a team effort. First, a “fortunate woman” is selected (one who has had many children and whose husband is still alive) to prepare the bed and choose auspicious red linens. Meanwhile, other relatives place lucky items around the bed, such as dried lychee, red dates, and most lucky of all, hong bao (red packets) packed with money in multiples of nine (nine represents the concept of longevity in China, and by extension everlasting love). And just in case the bed isn’t fertile enough, as many children as possible are brought in to jump on and roll around in the bed.
It may seem over the top and a little bit mad, but ultimately this is another fun tradition that allows for family and friends to feel part of the special day. The kids will get a kick out of it, at the very least!
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Keywords: Chinese wedding traditions
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