Popping the Question? The Rules of Engagements in China

Popping the Question? The Rules of Engagements in China
Oct 08, 2020 By eChinacities.com

Marriage proposals in China are traditionally a formal affair, with matchmakers, soothsayers and elaborate gifts all required. These days, proposals are not as stiff and serious as they once were, but popping the question in the right way to ensure both the bride and her family are happy is no less important. If you’re a foreigner looking to take it to the next stage with your sweetheart, read on for the rules of engagements in China.

Popping the Question? The Rules of Engagements in China
Source: Stephen Leonardi

The Rise of Western-Style Proposals 

Western-style proposals have started catching on in China, with young Chinese gents just as likely to get down on one knee and offer a ring these days as they are to present a red envelope to a girl’s parents. Perhaps due to the influence of Hollywood movies and viral internet videos, outrageous proposals and grand romantic gestures are also becoming increasingly popular.

One of the most memorable Chinese examples is that of Pan Kun, a young man from Qingdao who wanted to make sure his offer of marriage was accepted by his girlfriend of six months. In order to achieve this goal, he convinced 48 of his buddies (who even has that many buddies?!) to dress up as giant carrots and perform a flashmob. Pan spent more than RMB100,000 on the stunt, which reportedly took three weeks of planning and preparation. All that hard work paid off, however, as she said yes and the video of his proposal went viral, with many netizens commending him for his creativity and willingness to embarrass himself for his girlfriend.

When to Propose

Keep in mind that once a relationship becomes serious, Chinese people typically expect it to progress quickly towards marriage. It’s quite rare in China for couples to date for years before getting hitched, so don’t put off your proposal for too long if you know you want to “put a ring on it” eventually. Many Chinese couples get married within a year of starting their relationship, especially if both have already joined the workforce and established their place in society.

Similarly, long engagements are rare. Once you’ve proposed, you can expect marriage arrangements to be made pretty swiftly. Make sure you’re ready for this before you get down on one knee.

Parental Expectations

If your intended is a more traditional type, it’s probably best to get the go-ahead from the parents before popping the question. Be warned, however, that parents may have high expectations in terms of what you will provide, either at the engagement stage or in married life, particularly if you happen to be a foreigner.

One American man in Guizhou found this out the hard way on proposing to his Chinese girlfriend, a waitress from a rural area. He was shocked to discover that her parents expected him to buy an apartment in the city where they, and the couple, would live. In another instance, a Canadian discovered, much to his dismay, that his girlfriend’s parents would not allow their daughter to marry him without a large dowry payment.

Parental expectations for marriage proposals will vary from province to province, city to city, and between social classes. While even today, many high-society city women wouldn’t dream of getting married to a man without an apartment and a car, families from the countryside may not demand as much, especially if they think a “wealthy foreigner” will treat their offspring right.

Have the Chat

In order to avoid surprises, therefore, talk with your other half before asking for their hand in marriage and find out what the customs are in their part of China. If you want the proposal to be a surprise, you can position yourself as a clueless foreigner simply interested in the local culture. This will help you decide whether you need to present their parents with just a hong bao or the keys to a new villa, whether there are any local traditions or gifts you should give to family members, and whether you actually need to involve the family at all.

If you aren’t in the position to buy an apartment or pay some sort of dowry and you’re being upfront about your intentions, work out a strategy with your partner that will reassure both her and her family that you’re serious and reliable.

How to pop the question

So, if you’re thinking of proposing to your Chinese squeeze, how should you go about it? While you probably don’t need 48 dancing carrots, a romantic gesture certainly won’t hurt, even if it’s just taking them out for a nice dinner and getting down on one knee.

Engagement rings are not traditionally a part of China’s wedding culture, but again, the influence of Western culture has seen the giving of a ring at a proposal become more and more common. Chinese women will not necessarily have the same preconceived notions about how big the ring should be or how many months salary you should spend on it, but go for something nice and tasteful that doesn’t look too cheap.

In the end, no matter whether the proposal is elaborate and off the wall, or simple, sweet and traditional, this will be a moment that you both remember for the rest of your lives. When proposing in China, do your research, sound out your intended and make sure you’re ready before you take the plunge.

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Keywords: the rules of engagements in China marriage proposals in China


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I wouldn't be afraid to get married in China. They don't have the feminist laws that favor the woman as in the west. Whoever bought the house gets to keep it in China. Support agreements aren't enforced either.

Nov 08, 2020 11:06 Report Abuse



Why get hitched when the guy can get the milk for free? Too easy and too many Chicks giving it away for free.

Oct 11, 2020 12:27 Report Abuse



Marriage rates are falling/failing and divorce rates are skyrocketing worldwide. No thanks. Im good on my own.

Oct 11, 2020 12:23 Report Abuse



Buy a house, promise all your hard money to the wife, get a little nookie 2 or 3 times a month and you will be the next corporate or government slave to keep the peaceful harmony going for another generation. Thanks , but no thanks. GO MGTOW and have some fun.

Oct 10, 2020 20:47 Report Abuse



enjoy your money, don't support a woman all of your life with it and die with nothing so she can tour the world on your money. my point was living to support a woman and kids is a trap for men that has no exit and no upside, just an early death unless you are one of lucky ones that live pass 80. The women don't have the stress or hard work and get to spend the money dancing on your grave, not a very good system for the man.

Oct 11, 2020 23:57 Report Abuse



Interesting post!

Oct 09, 2020 03:45 Report Abuse



This is an odd article. Just speak to your partner about their expectations and be respectful of their family and traditions and there shouldn't be a problem.

Oct 09, 2020 03:18 Report Abuse