Chinese weddings are long affairs, the most traditional of which span the course of several days. But unlike Western weddings, Chinese weddings do not end with the cutting of the cake. Rather, after the wedding feast has ended, there are a whole series of wedding night rituals that take place in the bed chamber of the newlywed couple.
Chinese Wedding Banter
The first of these wedding night traditions is the banter ritual. This takes place just after the feast has ended and sometimes goes on for several days afterwards, as the bedroom will be open to visitors during that time. Though the couple may be tired right after their feast, they must be escorted back to their bridal chamber by a host of friends and relatives, including the bridesmaids and groomsmen, and many members of the couple’s families.
The party descends on the wedding chamber to play tricks on the couple, joke around and generally ease the mood for what could otherwise be a very nervous first night together for the couple. Traditionally, Chinese couples wedded very young and were virgins, so the families found it helpful to ease the couple into their wedded bliss with some jokes and games, some of which can be quite racy.
During one such game, an apple is tied to a string and dangled in front of the couple. Facing one another, the newlyweds must both try to bite the apple, eventually leading to a kiss. Other games and tricks are designed to create a lighter mood for the new couple on their first night together, and to teach them about physical intimacy.
Chinese Wedding Night Ritual
On the night of the wedding, a special candle, called the “Dragon and Phoenix Candle”, is lit in the newly wedded couple’s bedroom. This is supposed to drive away evil spirits and provide good luck for the couple’s first night together.
Together in the room, the bride and groom then sit on the bed together and drink wine from two goblets that are tied together with a red ribbon or string, their arms entwined. Then, the bride is fed half-cooked dumplings, as the Chinese word for “raw” sounds similar to the word for “to bear children”. This is meant to symbolize fertility and done in the hopes that the couple will have a large family.