You've probably been to one, or will be going to one. Chinese weddings offer a great opportunity to socialize and learn about Chinese culture. But Chinese wedding customs differ greatly from those in the West. Here we'll guide you through the superstitions and customs of a Chinese wedding.
Before the Wedding
Before the big day even comes round, the happy couple must jump through lots of pre-wedding hoops. To begin with, the superstitious couple must seek a fortune teller to choose the perfect date for their big day. Most modern-day couples will also arrange for wedding photos to be taken, which in China are shot some time before the wedding takes place. Pe-wedding photo shoots in China are becoming more and more elaborate, with some couples traveling overseas in order to get exotic snaps.
On the Day
In the early morning of the big day, the groom must partake in a number of games and challenges before he even gets his bride to the venue. Dǔ men (堵门) a popular game among younger couples, is where the bride and her bridesmaids lock themselves in the bride's bedroom. The groom and his best men must collectively slide red pockets bundled with money under the door to bribe the ladies to open up. Once the door is open the groom must further find the bride's hidden shoes before he can whisk her away.
Theme and Venue
Chinese weddings typically lack religious significance. Unlike a Western wedding service that is usually held in a church in front of a priest, Chinese weddings carry little religious importance and no religious figure is present. A hired professional event host is usually chosen to marry the couple and entertain the guests with jokes and activities. Weddings are commonly held in reputable hotels that provide large rooms and a stage – as if a kind of company annual dinner party. Chinese weddings are more show-like than their Western counterparts.
Lucky red packets, AKA hong bao(红包) are present at almost any significant event in China, and weddings are no exception. When attending a wedding ceremony in China, you’ll see the best man and bridesmaid (or a family relative) bombarded with red packets of all sizes. Red symbolizes luck in China, and the enclosed money signifies a prosperous future for the wedded couple. This exchange of hong bao occurs as guests are arriving, while the groom, bride, best men and bridesmaids line up and greet the guests. It’s usually at this early stage that every guest gets the opportunity to have a photo taken with the bride and groom.
Formal entertainment, such as a band, is pretty rare at Chinese weddings. If you’re lucky enough to attend a good wedding, you’ll be entertained with karaoke and traditional dance. However, the entertainment part is often skipped after the bride and groom’s fathers have given their speeches. This signifying the end of the ceremony and the beginning of the dining and drinking experience.
The time for excessive drinking is by far the highlight of the evening. There is no first dance from the newly-wedded couple, no games and the only professional entertainer of the evening, the host, has probably already left the building. The room is full of tables leaving no space to do anything but sit down and stuff your face while stopping once in a while to stand up for the occasional 干杯 （gān bēi - toast）from the all-too-eager ‘uncles’ that have made it their night’s mission to toast you, the lăo wài, until you’re slumping in your seat.
As the evening wears on, and if you’re still standing, the newly wedded couple will make their way around the room toasting to each table and their future. The couple will be sipping alcohol, more than likely very watered down, from tiny glasses at the expense of the already hammered guests.
Chinese brides are known for changing their dress a number of times throughout their wedding day. Most will begin the evening in a typical white Western wedding dress before changing into a traditional red Chinese 旗袍 (qí páo ) at the start of dinner, and then finally changing into a, usually red, evening party dress towards the end.
The bride, groom, best men and bridesmaids’ smart attire strikingly contrasts with the guests’. I’ve been to many Chinese weddings where guests have arrived in T-shirts and shorts (during the hot months) or casual street gear. Is this a peculiarity to certain cities and areas? I’m not sure. It is certainly a sharp contrast to Western weddings, where everyone turns up formally dressed.
As more Chinese couples get married early, it tends to leave vacancies for bridesmaids, who must be ‘unmarried’ and ‘not pregnant’. This has left the door open for professional rent-a-bridesmaids in recent years. These are young stand-in girls who act as bridesmaids on the big day. This has, however, given rise to the dark side of Chinese wedding customs, as rent-a-bridesmaids are vulnerable to the ever-growing trend of bridesmaid bullying. Their duties might involve: standing-in for the bride by drinking, toasting, chugging bottles of alcohol, flirting, teasing and enduring sexual harassment and innuendo from randy male guests. In mid-2016 a video , which went viral across Chinese social media, showed a young bridesmaid being egged on by male guests to drink glass after glass of bijiu before collapsing and choking to death on her vomit. Other videos have shown bridesmaids being humiliated and thrown into swimming pools by male guests. In China, money can buy anything.
Have you ever been to a Chinese wedding? Tell us about it below.
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Keywords: Chinese weddings Chinese wedding customs
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