China is full of plenty of diverse cultures and traditions.
As a result, Chinese weddings are the same. With 56 ethnic groups recognized within China, you can imagine how many traditions these ethnic groups have implemented into their wedding ceremonies throughout the decades.
While Chinese wedding ceremonies may be intimate, when it comes to the wedding banquet, the hosts spare no expense. At a Chinese wedding, expect outfit changes, delicious food, hours of celebration, and more.
While tradition is important, there is plenty of room to add individual flair and personalization.
Let’s take a look at what some of the Chinese wedding traditions and rituals entail.
17 Chinese Wedding Traditions and Rituals
1. Yue Lao
Yue Lao is the Chinese god of matchmaking and marriage. People often turn to Yue Lao for guidance about their marriage. According to tradition, Yue Lao comes in the night and uses a silken cord to tie the ankles of the couple together.
The act symbolizes an unbreakable union between the two. People often depict him as having a long white beard and imperial robes. The bride and groom will pray to Yue Lao as they wish for a happy and lifelong marriage.
2. Gold Jewelry
Gold jewelry plays a large part in gift exchange during Chinese weddings. Gold jewelry is one of the most given gifts at Chinese weddings due to its long history of tradition.
Families will often pass down pieces of traditional items that can symbolize certain things in Chinese culture. Some gold symbols include the pig, dragon, and phoenix. One example, the pig, can symbolize prosperity and happiness throughout the marriage.
3. The Wedding Date
Numbers in Chinese culture have a lot of meaning, and the date of weddings is no different. When a couple is newly engaged, they often visit with a monk or fortune teller. The monk or fortune teller will help them pick a date for their wedding based on their birthdays, time of year, and more.
The couple can also utilize the Chinese calendar to choose the perfect date. Numerous days are deemed unlucky, which the couple will avoid choosing for their ceremony. Ultimately, there is a perfect date for everyone.
4. The Dress
Clothing in Chinese culture can have a variety of meanings, and those meanings can change depending on the color and details involved. For Chinese weddings, the wedding dress is intricately detailed to tell a story and relay meaning. Whether the wedding is traditional or modern, there are options for the bride to choose from to showcase her heritage.
Traditionally brides wear a qipao or cheongsam on their wedding day. More modern weddings involved multiple dress changes to incorporate a traditional dress and a modern look as well.
5. Red Envelopes
Red envelopes, or hong bao, are what you’ll see on the gift table instead of colorfully wrapped packages. These red envelopes are given to the bride and groom throughout the wedding ceremony.
The envelopes symbolize wealth and fortune, which bring positive energy into the couple’s new life together. The red envelopes can also be seen during certain Chinese holidays, including the lunar new year. The envelopes can hold varying amounts of money, from a few dollars to hundreds.
With Chinese traditions come Chinese superstitions. One common one seen in Chinese weddings is the umbrella. It is said that if a bride walks under a red umbrella outside, it will make for a fertile marriage. When it comes to the wedding day, a family member or friend of the bride will be tasked with holding the umbrella for her.
Another replacement for the umbrella is a rice sieve. The superstition is the same, but the object to bring about fertility is slightly different.
7. Wedding Banquet
While Chinese wedding ceremonies may be intimate, the wedding banquet is when the party begins. This is the main part of Chinese weddings and involves food, fun, and family. At Chinese wedding banquets, you can find a 10-course meal with a menu sprawling with dishes like abalone and fish.
The food can symbolize good luck and fortune throughout the marriage. Along with the meal, certain family members are honored to pay tribute to their bride and groom’s upbringing.
8. Favorable Colors
In China, certain colors have a specific meaning. Red and gold are often colors found in Chinese weddings. This isn’t just because they pair well together, but because they symbolize various virtues of goodness. Red means positivity and success, while gold symbolizes wealth and fortune.
Having these colors at the wedding will bring honor, love, and success between the couple and their marriage. It will also block any negative energy surrounding the wedding and the couple throughout their marriage.
9. Chinese door games
Chinese door games came about with the idea that the bride is worth so much that her family doesn’t want to give her away. As a result, the groom must earn the bride through tests or door games.
When the groom arrives at the bride’s home to take her to his, he must complete the challenges set by the bridesmaids. When the groom successfully finishes the challenges, he can get to his bride. The bridesmaids come up with fun games that leave everyone entertained.
10. Tossing the fan
Tossing the fan is a superstition that involves the bride. It is believed that tossing a fan before going inside the groom’s home will help the bride get rid of her previous bad temper and will become a good wife.
The bride tosses the fan before going inside the home to throw away any bad manners she may have previously had. Once her negative qualities are thrown out of the way, she can go on and have a happy marriage with the groom.
11. Tea ceremony
One major part of Chinese weddings is the tea ceremony. The tea ceremony is a show of respect to the elders of the couple. The elders, in return, give well wishes to the bride and groom as they start their journey together. The bride and groom will kneel before the elders and serve them tea. The tea ceremony can sometimes be held twice as well, once at the bride’s home and once at the groom’s.
12. Twelve Gifts
Similar to the red envelopes, another gift-giving tradition for Chinese weddings is the twelve gifts. The twelve gifts involve the groom’s side of the family. They are tasked with preparing twelve gifts for the bride’s family on the wedding day.
The tradition has been simplified throughout the years, but gifts can be anything from candles, cookies, gold jewelry, and more. The red envelopes are still involved in this process, as each gift includes a red envelope for good fortune.
13. Matrimonial bed
The matrimonial bed, or Au Chuang, is a historical tradition often seen in Chinese weddings in the past. While it can be seen in modern Chinese weddings today, it’s not as popular as it once was. This tradition involved preparing a bridal bed for the couple.
It is decorated in red and gold and full of blessings to promote the chances of the couple being blessed with a child. After the wedding ceremony, the couple would go straight to the bridal bed.
14. Hair Combing
Chinese weddings have a ceremonial tradition that involves hair combing. This ceremony is held the day before the wedding inside the bride’s home. Like most ceremonies, this one has a special meaning. It symbolizes the bride going from a girl to a woman.
The ceremony involves the bride’s mother or relative combing her hair while surrounded by candles. They read blessings and embrace the special moment between mother and daughter before the bride’s wedding.
15. Firecrackers and lion dancers
Chinese lion dancers are often seen at many celebratory events. Chinese weddings incorporate not only lion dancers but firecrackers as well. The lion dancers come and do their dance, but throughout the dance, they are bringing about good fortune for the couple.
Having lion dancers at the wedding helps ensure the couple will have a happy marriage that lasts a long time. The firecrackers scare away any evil spirits or energy lingering around the couple.
16. Three-day visit
When it comes to post-wedding traditions, the three-day visit is common. The three-day visit involves the bride and groom visiting the bride’s family. While the bride is now married and technically no longer a part of the family, having this visit gives her parents and elders peace of mind.
The visit lets the bride’s family see how well the groom is taking care of her and lets them know she will live a happy life.
In the western world, wedding photographs are taken during the event, but for Chinese weddings, an album is prepared well beforehand. Wedding albums for Chinese weddings are often intricate and involve multiple outfit changes and various locations.
The bride will have some photos in a traditional Chinese wedding gown, some in her white dress, and some in fun dresses. The shoots can take a full day but the result is well worth it. The album will then be displayed at the wedding so guests can look through it.