In the west, we often refer to getting married as ‘tying the knot’, which refers to the ancient custom of preparing the couple’s wedding bed by securing the hinges with ropes. In China, couples tie the red ribbon – literally! During the act of saying vows, the couple drinks from two goblets tied together by a red ribbon. Traditionally, the bride and groom link arms and drink from each other’s goblets to symbolize the unity of marriage.
Usually these wedding goblets are filled with a mixture of wine and honey. This sweet drink is a symbol of the couple’s love for each other and of the courage that a lasting marriage requires. The cups are always tied together with a red ribbon or rope to signify the everlasting bond that the couple has committed to one another. Red is the most auspicious, lucky color in Chinese culture, so it is an obvious choice for tying the newlyweds together.
The drinking of the goblets occurs during a private ceremony on the night of the wedding. This is the most important part of the entire wedding because it is the exact moment when the two become officially married. Traditionally, the couple entwines their arms and each offers their cup to the other to drink. Care must be taken not to spill the goblets, which can be tricky since they are already tied together with the red ribbon or rope. This act is a symbolic first hurdle for the couple to overcome, working together not to spill the wine.
Chinese weddings include many interesting traditions and are usually quite different from their western counterparts. The actually marriage ceremony is small and private, while the reception is usually large and well-attended, sometimes costing the family a year’s salary or more. Guests are expected to offer monetary gifts to the newlyweds in the form of hong bao, or red envelopes. Chinese wedding receptions are usually raucous affairs, with the bride and groom becoming increasingly intoxicated as they offer toasts to all of their guests!