Traditionally, Chinese brides change outfits several times throughout the course of their wedding day. Though historically some women would change dresses up to 30 times in one wedding, modern brides usually include between two and four costume changes as part of their weddings. Western influence has played a role in many modern brides’ choices to incorporate traditional white wedding gowns and veils into the ceremonies, and the famous Chinese qipao gown is an important element of a bride’s attire, as well.
Typically, a Chinese bride will change her dress at least three times. One dress is worn for the special tea ceremony with the groom’s relatives in the morning, a second outfit is incorporated for the actual wedding ceremony, and a third dress a chosen for the reception. Some brides also opt to change several times over the course of the reception, for fun.
A Dress for the Wedding Tea Ceremony
Your attire for the tea ceremony doesn’t have to be elaborate, but should be simple and appropriate out of respect for your new in-laws as you serve them tea. In the past, brides from Hong Kong chose to wear a hong gua, or matching silken jacket and skirt outfit with rich embroidery. For modern brides, almost any type of simple, formal outfit or traditional Chinese dress is appropriate to wear to your tea ceremony.
Typically, this set of clothes is worn throughout the tea ceremony, after which the bride changes into her next set of clothes before returning to her family home.
A Dress for the Wedding Ceremony
There are two options for your wedding ceremony dress: a white western-style wedding gown and veil or a traditional red Chinese qipao. These days, most brides choose to wear the white western-style gown during the wedding ceremony as, often, a western church ceremony is also incorporated into the Chinese wedding events. Even if not, many Chinese brides enjoy donning a fancy white gown for part of their wedding festivities, and may also do a photo shoot in the gown.
A Dress (or several) for the Wedding Reception
It is during the wedding reception that most Chinese brides choose to wear a Chinese qipao, a long red silken gown, usually embroidered with a phoenix to symbolize the female partner in marriage. The qipao is traditionally a red floor-length sheath dress with a high collar and short sleeves, and usually the bride will change into her qipao sometime after the wedding ceremony but before the reception.
For fun, many brides also incorporate several changes of costume into the reception to display opulence and wealth. These can range from other traditional Chinese gowns to modern-style cocktail dresses. Most often, the final change of attire comes before the bride and groom bid the guests farewell. For this, the bride usually wears a more casual jacket-skirt outfit, which historically would be more comfortable attire for the couple’s impending journey or honeymoon.