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If you're coming to China to attend a wedding, you'll be surprised by the differences in tradition.
Due to China's size and many different ethnic minorities, not all weddings will be the same. Traditions vary depending on where you are.
Read up on these differences beforehand so that you can enjoy the wedding more. The following 11 things you really should know...
Chinese weddings are not the place where vows take place, as this is done at a local government office beforehand when the paperwork is signed. Therefore if you attend a Chinese wedding you will not be watching the legalization of the marriage, but just be attending the celebration of the union between two people, generally through many courses of delicious food.
Chinese wedding invitations are usually presented in a long red envelope, similar to the traditional hongbao in which money is gifted to people at weddings, during Chinese New Year, etc.
The "double happiness" character 囍 (shuangxi 双喜) appears on the envelope, which, back in the day, was hand delivered to the guests a few days before the wedding. Today the invitation is usually mailed out.
These days the couple usually will have an elaborate wedding album prepared before their wedding, with pictures taken around the city, often at popular tourist sights — the more romantic and pretty the better.
The wedding album, however, will not usually contain pictures of the actual ceremony. Wedding photos are taken in advance, so they can be on display at the wedding breakfast.
If you visit China during spring, summer or fall you might see couples having these professional pictures taken. Most like Western-style outfits and surroundings, but being as they tend to have several different outfits and settings, they can choose traditional and modern, fun and formal. It is a great idea as it takes the pressure off on the day, and everyone can see the photos as they decorate the wedding venue.
Before a Chinese wedding celebration, the groom will often go to the bride's house to collect her.
However, the bride will be surrounded by a few of her girlfriends, who will tease the groom before handing over the bride. The girls will have to be bribed or convinced by the groom with pretends or envelopes with money before they will hand over their friend, the bride. Then, the bride and groom will bow to the bride's parents before taking her to the groom's house.
Traditionally, Chinese weddings are very different from Western weddings even just in terms of colors.
Red plays a vital role in Chinese weddings, because this color is associated with success, loyalty, honor, fertility, and love, amongst others. Because of this, decorations at Chinese weddings are generally in red, and so is the bride's dress.
Gold is also commonly used, as it portrays wealth and fortune.
White, however, is commonly associated with funerals, so not used. Dark colors, such as black, gray, and dark blue, are also best avoided. Read more about lucky and unlucky colors.
Decorations in the hall will usually involve 囍 the "double joy" character, reserved solely for matrimonial usage. Colors are red and gold mostly, and banners with wishes in various different phrases, will also be hung on the doors and windows of the venue in order to wish the new couple well.
Flower are used to decorate tables at Chinese weddings, in a similar way to Western weddings. Lilies are the type of flower most commonly used for weddings as the Chinese name for lilies, baihe 百合, sounds similar to a common idiom that means 'happy union for a hundred years', bainian haohe 百年好合. This flower also has another connotation, as it is known as the flower that brings sons to the happy couple. Orchids are also used at times, as they represent a happy couple, love, wealth and fortune.
As visitors to the wedding, you usually will give a red envelope to the bride and groom, with money inside it. Make sure you do not put anything in multiples of four, as four is an unlucky number in China. There are some more requirements. Take a look at the cultural restrictions on gifts.
At most Chinese weddings, the bride will wear a traditional Chinese qipao dress.
However, it is becoming increasingly common to wear a white Western-style wedding dress. This is especially the case when the bride wears more than one dress, as happens in many weddings. In that case the bride will wear a red qipao, a Western-style wedding dress, and a ballgown.
The ceremony will start in one dress, and after the first three courses the bride will change into the next dress. Then again, after another three courses, the last wedding dress will come out. Guests can wear any formal attire in accordance with the bride and the bridegroom.
The groom will walk around the tables greeting guests and taking shots of baijiu, traditional Chinese rice-wine, with the guests. At many weddings, however, he will sometimes sneakily switch to water after a few shots as baijiu is very strong. The men attending the wedding will have to take a drink with the groom.
When you leave a Chinese wedding ceremony, you'll usually be given small wedding favors such as chocolates, candy, or even wallet-sized photographs taken of the couple before the wedding. You'll receive these as you leave, and the bride and groom will personally see you off.
If you're coming to China for a wedding, we can tailor-make a tour around your commitments to make the most of your time.
Or, if you're coming here on your honeymoon, we have plenty of planned honeymoon tours, but we can also adjust to suit your wishes.