Wedding Day Activities
The baby’s potty is placed under or beside the bridal bed with two pairs of chopsticks (筷子) to signify fertility — 快快生 (fast delivery).
The much awaited big day is finally here. While excitement abuzz, the wedding couple is kept busy with the many customary wedding rituals and activities.
Hair Combing Ritual (上头)
At the dawn of the wedding (or the night before), both families will start the hair combing ritual with offerings to their ancestors and deities and light the Dragon Phoenix candles to ward off any evil spirits. The bride will bathe and cleanse with floral and pomelo (柚子) infused water.
Usually the parents or a good fortune woman will comb the hair of the bride and groom at their own homes. The bride and groom’s hair is combed four times with each stroke holding an auspicious blessing. (If either of the couple has been married before the combing ritual can be skipped.)
First Stroke — sweet beginning of marriage till the end (一梳梳到尾)
Second Stroke — harmonious marriage till old age (二梳梳到白发齐眉)
Third Stroke — many sons and grandsons (三梳梳到儿孙满地)
Fourth Stroke — abundance of wealth and long-lasting marriage (四梳梳到四条银笋尽标齐)
Typical items for the hair combing ritual include:
∞ Dragon and phoenix candles (bride and groom)
∞ Double-sided comb (bride and groom)
∞ Red string (bride and groom))
∞ Auspicious ruler (bride and groom)
∞ Round mirror (bride and groom)
∞ Pointed comb (groom)
∞ Round comb (bride)
Fetching the Bride
The groom and his ‘brothers’ will be met by a group of bridesmaids (also called the bride’s ‘sisters or ‘Ah Yees’) whom will challenge and test the groom’s sincerity and love for the bride with a series of wedding games. There will also be much fun haggling over the red packet amount for opening the door for the groom before he can fetch his bride. This door blocking tradition demonstrates the bride’s family unwillingness to marry her off because of their love for the bride.
Once the door opening red packet amount is agreed, the groom will enter the house. The matchmaker, a senior relative or bestman will then present to the bride’s parents a red tray or basket containing the following:
∞ Even number (six or eight is recommended) of tangerines/oranges for good luck and fortune
∞ Dried persimmons for prosperity
∞ Dried logans in shells and red dates signifies completeness and sweetness in the marriage
∞ Dried lily bulbs for hundred years of bliss, harmony and happiness in the marriage
∞ Dried lotus seeds for many sons and grandsons (or daughter and granddaughters)
The bride’s parents will return the red tray with even numbers of tangerines or oranges to signify the sharing of good fortune between the two families.
The groom will proceed to the bride’s room and lift her veil to kiss her. The couple will also share and feed each other a bowl of sweet rice balls to signify a complete and harmonious marriage.
If the bride’s family worships ancestors and deities, the couple will pray to the bride’s ancestors and the deities before leaving the bride’s home. For some Cantonese families, the bride will offer tea to thank her parents for bringing her up before she leaves with the groom.
The ‘sisters’ of the bride will accompany the bride to the groom’s place, carrying with them the bride’s gowns, clothing, shoes and jewellery. For the more traditional families, a good fortune woman or the matchmaker will shelter the bride with a red umbrella, believed to ward off evil forces.
Arriving at Groom’s Place and Tea Ceremony
After the worship (if any), the relatives of the groom will be gathered ready for the traditional tea ceremony. The tea set in the bride’s dowry will be used to serve the tea. This tea set will be kept by the bride and used again in the future for her daughter’s wedding. Lotus, longans and red dates tea (symbolizing fertility and male children) prepared by a good fortune woman will be served first to the groom’s parents, followed by the most senior in the family to the youngest. The order is usually:
∞ Paternal grandparents
∞ Maternal grandparents
∞ Paternal uncles and aunties
∞ Maternal uncle and aunties
∞ Elder siblings
∞ Elder cousins
For the younger siblings, they can in turn offer tea to the bride and groom. For the traditional Chinese families, the couple is required to serve tea kneeling down. However, the modern couples usually kneel down only when serving tea to the parents and grandparents, and bowing courteously to the other seniors when serving tea to them.
The tea ceremony gifts (usually red packets or jewellery) will be presented to the couple on the serving plate. Usually, a red packet will also be given to the person only the tea set. Some relatives may prefer to couple (usually the bride) to wear the jewellery immediately and will put it on for them. There is no need for unmarried elder siblings to give gifts for the tea ceremony. For younger siblings or cousins who served tea, the couple will present red packets to them.
Bride’s Home Visit (三朝回门)
The bride will change into a new gown to symbolize the passing of three days. It can be either the Qun Gua (Kwa), cheongsam or western dress. Kwa is a popular choice among many Chinese. Afterall, this is a once in a lifetime chance to wear a traditional Kwa.
The home visit is the couple first as a married couple, and to show sincerity the couple will bring along with them lots of gifts for the bride’s family. The gifts usually include:
∞ Even number of tangerines/oranges
∞ Roast pig (Cantonese) or roast port (Hokkien/Teochew)
∞ Sweets and candies (eg. Peanut sesame candies, bean paste pastries etc)
A tea ceremony (similar to the one at the groom’s place) will also be held to introduce the groom to the bride’s family and relatives. The bride’s mother wedding tea set will be used, if available. Else, a nice tea set can be used. The family and relatives of the bride will usually give the bride jewellery instead of red packets to ‘add on to her dowry’.
The sweet dessert of rice balls with lotus seeds, longans and red dates will then be served to wish the bride and groom a sweet harmonious marriage with lots of children.
Wedding Banquet (婚宴)
The traditional dinner banquet consists of about 10 dishes of delicacies. The guests will be seated in round tables. Usually, monetary gifts will be given by the guests to the bride and groom to help defray the high cost of wedding. With the escalating cost of weddings today, the gifts barely cover the cost of the banquet.
There is also a growing trend of couples holding their registration or church ceremony before the dinner. This allow the relatives and friends to witness and celebrate their union. One highlight of the banquet is the toasting ceremony by both families to thank relatives and friends for gracing the dinner.
The bride will change into different gowns (usually 2-3) during the dinner. After changing out of the bridal gown, the couple and their families will go to each of the tables to toast and express their thanks to the guests for their attendance. As the banquet draws to an end, the couple together with their parents will stand in line at the door to thank the guests and relatives as they leave. After sending off all the guests, the couple can finally enjoy their own private time back in their hotel room or their home.
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