Learn some traditions that precede the curious Chinese weddings
In Chinese culture, marriage is considered the union of two families. Therefore, when a couple decides to join, both families have a large share in marriage.
In general, Chinese traditions are quite complex and vary according to the culture and social situation in which they were raised. For this reason, the premarital rituals may vary widely, but there is a sequence of steps known as “Three Letters and Six Labels” (三 書 六 禮), which are often followed by couples wishing to have a true Chinese marriage.
This is a summary of the main steps that are part of preparing for traditional Chinese weddings. While some couples choose to skip some of these steps, others value the symbology of these customs and resort to many other traditions that are part of this type of marriage. Meet some of the peculiarities of curious Chinese weddings:
1. Marriage proposal
Nacai (納 采) is when a young Chinese man reaches the age considered appropriate for marriage and uses a matchmaker to begin the marriage work. The groom sends the matchmaker, who is usually an older woman with a successful marriage, to the bride's house to deliver various gifts, which include about 30 different items, each with a special meaning.
One of the most unusual gifts sent by the Chinese couple is a pair of living geese, as these birds choose a single partner for life and even if one of them dies, the other does not reconnect. This type of gift is quite significant for the symbolism of Chinese marriage.
If both families agree on the relationship, the matchmaker writes down the bride's full name and date of birth and proceeds to the next step.
Jewelry offered to the bride. Image Source: Reproduction / Shutterstock
2. Matching birthdates
At this stage, called wenming (問 名), a Chinese monk or temple clerk looks at the exact date and time of the bride's birth to see if they are compatible. For Chinese culture, this represents the request for deity approval so that the couple can have a happy and prosperous marriage.
3. Engagement Officialization
Upon finding that the bride and groom are compatible according to the cosmos, naji (納吉) happens, which is the moment when the groom confirms the marriage by sending the first letter to the bride's family. This is the "engagement letter" that should bring the date of birth of the bride and groom and always comes with engagement gifts.
4. Gift Exchange
At this stage, named after nazheng (納 徵), the groom's family must send a series of gifts described in the second letter - which is called a "gift letter" - to the bride's house. Again, each item has special meaning for marriage, such as good luck and prosperity. At this time, a promise from the groom's family to the bride's family is also sealed.
To return kindness, the bride's family must return half of the gifts received. In return, the groom's family usually send new items. Some brides even make clothes and shoes with their own hands to be sent as gifts to the groom's family. The gifts are intended to show kindness to the bride's family and indicate that the girl will be welcome in her new family.
Letters exchanged between families. Image Source: Reproduction / Shutterstock
5. Choice of ideal date
Just as the stars were important in confirming that the lovebirds were compatible and could marry, at this stage of marriage - qingqi (請 期) - the families of the couple will seek the most appropriate date for the wedding. The choice is based on the date and time of birth of the bride and groom, as well as their signs in the Chinese horoscope.
6. Wedding Ceremony
In the last phase, called qinying (親 迎), the groom goes to the bride's house to deliver the third letter, which is the “wedding letter”. This is actually the wedding day. After giving the letter, the groom accompanies the bride to wear the typical dress and celebrate the wedding with a ceremony followed by a dinner.
A few more curiosities
- Cards exchanged between families usually come in red envelopes, which is the same color used in the gift package for prosperity, joy and good luck;
- Formerly, with the matchmaking intermediation and the contact between families, some grooms knew each other only on their wedding day;
- The bride's family usually pays a dowry to the groom, which can be given on the engagement or days before the wedding. The value is agreed between the families, but it is expected that the bride's family will always pay a little extra to show that she is not stingy, that the groom's family is very generous and that the two families will prosper;
Parents show dowry offered to groom. Image Source: Reproduction / Very Wed
- Gifts exchanged between families should always be in even numbers in a reference to the couple. Still, they often include food (such as fruit, wine and tea), cigarettes and jewelry for the bride;
- In weddings where the couple speak different dialects and have different customs, the bride must follow the traditions of the groom's ancestors;
- Marrying on an even day to an even month (according to the Chinese calendar) is considered a good omen;
- The bride's outfit is sent to the groom's family along with the return of gifts and includes clothing, bedding, a tea set, sewing items, jewelry and baby items.