Shoes are usually the last thing a bride and groom think about when planning their wedding, but shoe etiquette has long played an important role in Chinese weddings. The Chinese word for ‘shoe’, xie, sounds similar to the word for ‘harmony’, and so they were considered an important symbol for weddings.
In China, it is customary to remove your shoes when entering someone’s home, and most Chinese hosts have a selection of house shoes for you to wear indoors. This tradition evolved mostly in an effort to protect hygiene inside the house, and it is a custom still widely practiced across China today.
For weddings, though, it is a different story. Most Chinese brides and grooms do not take off their shoes, even when performing the various home visits that are usual on the morning of the wedding day. The shoes are also worn during the traditional tea ceremony, during which the bride is formally introduced to the groom’s family.
Shoes have been an important symbol for Chinese weddings since ancient times. Traditionally, the shoes, especially those worn by the bride, were made from silk and were often embroidered with Chinese symbols that portrayed good meanings, such as “double happiness”, “harmony” and auspicious flowers like the peony, which were thought to be good luck for weddings.
The style of Chinese wedding shoes evolved through the decades. For example, during the Southern dynasties, wedding shoes were typically made from silk and, during this era, were presented as part of the betrothal gifts. Later, red wooden clogs were worn as stylish wedding shoes, especially during the Han Dynasty.
Color has also played an important role for wedding shoes. Whether silk or wooden, most wedding shoes were red. However, some were an auspicious yellow, such as the pair worn by the bride when she entered her wedding sedan.
Shoes were also included in the bridal chamber, and it was only at this final stop on the wedding day that the bride and groom were finally allowed to remove their shoes, as man and wife. Sometimes, family members would throw red shoes into the bed chamber, and the couple was supposed to leave them there forever, symbolizing that the bride would not marry more than once.