Traditional Chinese Wedding Trousseaux

In Chinese culture, the practise of giving gifts at weddings isn’t reserved for the guests to the couple, as is mostly the case in Western nuptials. Since the bride is considered to be a gift from her family to the groom’s in China, it is only the husband’s family who give presents to the wife’s. This is known as the wedding trousseau, or “hūn lĭ jià zhuāng” (婚礼嫁妆).

Three gifts are traditionally given to the bride’s family by the groom’s. The first is a whole roast pig, which symbolises virginity. In the olden days, if a bride was discovered not to be a virgin, she could be exchanged for the roast pig and the marriage would be annulled. The bride’s family often give the pig’s head and tail back to the groom’s family.

Sugar cane is also given as a gift. Its length signifies a long marriage, and its sweetness stands for harmony between the husband and wife. A bunch of cane is tied with a red ribbon before being presented to the bride’s family.

The final gift is a selection of five types of seeds. The seeds symbolise fertility, and the five varieties augur many children (although the one child policy has put paid to that aspect in recent years). The seeds are displayed on a dish split into five parts.

It is not customary for guests to offer material goods to the newlyweds as a gift. Instead, they offer red envelopes (hong bao) filled with money. As for the amount, you shouldn’t offer any less than you think the celebratory banquet cost, so add more to be on the safe side. The better you know the couple, the more lavish your gift should be.


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