Your wedding is one of the most important days of your life. So much thought and preparation goes into planning for the big day, but what about those special customs that come in the days beforehand? Traditional Chinese weddings include a variety of activities that go on before the couple’s special day.
Choose auspicious dates
According to tradition, some dates are luckier than others. The date you choose for your wedding is extremely important, as are those of your pre-wedding activities, like the betrothal and gift exchange.
Historically, families consulted a monk or fortune-teller to find suitable dates. Nowadays, you can find information on auspicious dates online. The lunar calendar changes each year, but you should make sure to choose dates that comply with the birth years of the bride and groom, and ones that don’t fall in unlucky months.
These activities must have auspicious dates:
- Installation of the bridal bed
- Exchange of gifts and dowry
- Hair combing ceremony
- Wedding ceremony
- Return to bride’s home (post-wedding)
The betrothal the official time that the bride and groom become engaged. Usually, the proposal has occurred earlier and the auspicious date for the betrothal has been chosen. The betrothal should occur 3-30 days before the wedding. Gifts are exchanged between the two families as follows:
From the groom’s family:
- Western and Chinese wedding cakes
- Peanut candies
- Two bottles of brandy
- Six cans of pork legs
- An even number of oranges
- Two pairs of dragon and phoenix candles
- Gold jewellery from the groom’s parents to the bride (such as the Cantonese Dragon and phoenix bangle 龙凤琢 or the teochew’s four gold items 四点金).
Return gifts from the bride’s family:
- Two bottles of orange syrup
- Two phoenix candles (The bride’s side will light the two dragon candles and the groom’s side the phoenix candles on the wedding day.)
The dowry may be delivered on the same day as the betrothal, or separately before the wedding. The gifts typically include items for the new home, such as bedding tied in red ribbons, clothes, a tea set, baby accessories like a potty or wash basin, sewing supplies and house slippers.
Installing the bridal bed
A “good fortune woman” should install the bridal bed up to 12 days before the wedding. She will make the bed with red or pink sheets and leave a plate of dried longans, red dates, lotus seeds, persimmons, and a sprig of pomegranate, along with two bedside lamps.
Hair combing ceremony
The evening before the wedding, the bride and groom (separately in their own homes) have their hair brushed by a good fortune woman. Each should shower in pomegranate water and sit near a window. The blessing is as follows:
一梳梳到尾 – 1st combing: Remain together forever
二梳百年好合 – 2nd combing: A harmonious marriage
三梳子孙满堂 – 3rd combing: A large family
四梳白发齐眉 – 4th combing: A long life
Place ‘double joy’ stickers on all gifts and wedding items, as well as the furniture in the bridal room. Wedding paper-cuts, like mandarin ducks, dragons and phoenixes, can be placed around the house, and a red announcement banner should be hung across the front doors of both houses.