Wrap it in Red: What to Give at a Chinese Wedding

Gifts play a huge role in traditional Chinese weddings, as gifts are exchanged between the bride’s and groom’s families at different times, as well as during the wedding day, when the guests are expected to bring gifts for the newlywed couple. If you have been invited to a Chinese wedding, you are most likely wondering what an appropriate Chinese wedding gift might be and also which things to avoid.

Typical Chinese Wedding Gifts

The most common gift given at Chinese weddings is cash. Though this sometimes seems insincere in the West, especially in the United States, where gift registries are the norm for wedding couples, in Chinese areas, cash is the norm. For weddings, cash is always given in a “red envelope” – a little red packet that usually comes decorated with gold motifs that are typical of weddings.

If you are invited to a Chinese wedding, you will not be expected to give anything other than cash. However, some guests do opt to include another gift item. There is no typical Chinese wedding gift, but items for the home are always appreciated. Look for items that incorporate some of the typical wedding symbols, such as the “double happiness” character and the dragon and phoenix symbols.

Gift Protocol

First and foremost, you should be aware of the superstitions that surround Chinese weddings and take care not to give anything that might signal bad luck or be insulting. Never wrap your gift or cash in white wrapping paper, as white is a negative symbol used for funerals. Use red or gold wrapping paper instead. Other gifts to avoid for a Chinese wedding are clocks, as these symbolize death, and anything that comes in even-numbered pairs, especially four. This is because the Chinese word for “four” sounds similar to the word for “death”. Conversely, giving gifts in a set of eight is appreciated, as this is the luckiest number in Chinese culture. This applies also to choosing the amount of cash for your red envelope packet – avoid any amount less than USD $60 and any amount relating to four.


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