A Fine Price for a Beautiful Girl: Wedding Dowry

Chinese weddings are very traditional events, and they have a long history of customs going all the way back to the earliest dynasties. Historically, Chinese marriages were arranged by the parents of the couple, for the purposes of political and social gain, moreso than romantic love, and so many of the customs surrounding Chinese weddings stem from those early arrangements.

One such custom is the traditional bridal dowry. This was an allotment of goods and wealth that the bride’s family contributed to the young couple at the time of their marriage. Many societies have a history of offering a bridal dowry with marriage, but in China, there were some specific customs and items that were included in the dowry. While today, most Chinese marriages are not arranged anymore, families that choose to hold a traditional wedding might also incorporate the dowry into the proceedings.

Traditional Chinese dowry items include bedding tied with red ribbons, clothing and suitcases, baby items for the first child, mirrors, combs and other hygienic items, gold jewelry, fruits and animals. Other traditional dowry items include red clog shoes (meant to be good luck) and a traditional tea set, which the bride will use to serve tea to the groom’s parents on the morning of the wedding. If the bride’s parents choose to give a dowry today, they might also include cakes, meats, tea and wine.

Chinese bridal dowries are generally delivered on the day of the betrothal. The bride’s parents will gather the gift items and send them in return for the wedding gifts that are delivered the same day from the groom’s family. In some cases, the dowry can also be delivered directly to the bride and groom or the groom’s family home, a few days before the wedding.


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