Thursday, March 20, 2008

Chinese wedding customs

Last weekend I was back in Johor to attend my cousin sister's wedding.

It was an interesting observation on the Chinese wedding customs still being practiced even though my cousin and her husband are Catholics. I guess it's because of the traditions being practised in the rural areas so they have to follow anyhow.

I should have taken more photos but I didn't but here are some interesting customs being practiced and the meaning behind it all. (Information extracted from Chinese Wedding Guide)

Betrothal gifts 娉礼

The betrothal gifts are packed in a multi-tiered wedding basket that is borrowed from a chinese wedding cake shop and typically include:
  • western and chinese wedding cakes,
  • two bottles of brandy,
  • even numbered of tangerines or oranges,
  • peanut/rice candies,
  • two pairs of dragon and phoenix candles 龙凤烛,
  • bethrotal jewelry from the groom’s parents to the bride.
I'm not sure what was inside the basket for my cousin but I know for sure they include peanut candies and oranges as I had those at night after the wedding dinner was over. The candles were also included (although no picture of dragon and phoenix) as it was being lit up during at my aunt's house during the wedding day.

A chastity pig

Pig [猪] in cantonese "ju" sounds the same as [宫纱珠] "kong sa ju", the chinese legendary sign of virginity. If the groom was satisfied that his wife was married as a virgin, a gift of roast pig complete with tail would accompany the bride's home visit. If not, the roast pig's tail or ears were broke off.

The bride's family will only retain the middle portion of the roast pig. Included in the return gifts are clothing and a belt for the groom. The gifts are wrapped in plastic and placed between the head and tail of the roast pig. A piece of red paper is then wrapped around these.

3rd Uncle was given the task to chop off the middle section of the roast pig without breaking the pig's tail or ears. He did a great job and later we enjoyed some of the delicious roasted pork as well :)

Ancestor worship

Back at the groom's house, there were many items placed in front of a table covered in red cloth. I understood this is part of the ancestor worship.

There were many more Chinese customs that were bring practised, and I'm glad I do not have to go through all these hassle during my wedding day. The only Chinese custom I know I will be practising is probably the most important custom of all - The tea ceremony.

Wedding tea ceremony


The tea ceremony for the groom's side is usually in the morning once the couple has settled down a bit in the bridal home. Tea ceremony for the relatives on the bride's side is usually held in the afternoon.

The order of service is usually
  • parents,
  • grandparents,
  • grand-uncles and grand-aunties,
  • uncles and aunties,
  • elder brothers and sisters,
  • elder cousins

However, there are also families that prefer to serve the grandparents tea before the parents.

Within each generation, dad's relatives are served before mum's relatives.

The bride will stand to the right of the groom. The male elder being served will sit facing the bride. The female elder will sit facing the groom. The bride and groom will bow to the elders and greet them by their formal title in the family while serving them tea.

Apparently, no ordinary tea is to be served during the tea ceremony - it must be some form of sweet tea!

Any sweet tea, symbolizing sweetness in the new union, is good for the chinese wedding tea ceremony. You can use sweetened red tea for simplicity sake, but some traditional chinese sweet teas are preferred for the good connotations in their names.

  • Lotus seeds and red dates tea (莲子红枣茶)
  • Symbolizing that the couple will bear children quickly and continuously.

  • Longans and red dates tea (龙眼红枣茶)
  • The longan represents a "dragon" and the wish for having male children.

Hopefully my wedding day will not be so stressful with only the tea ceremony, but from the looks of it I'll still be stressed out anyway!

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