The purpose of a Chinese wedding is to join and two families together. A traditional Chinese marriage is best described as a transfer of personnel (the bride) from one group to another. This transition was not arranged by the bride and groom but rather by their respective families, who take on the “match marker” role.
TRADITIONAL CHINESE WEDDIGN PROPOSAL
Unlike proposals that happen in many other cultures where the man proposes to the bride, and she then accepts or respectfully declines, a different route is taking when the engagement of two individuals in the Chinese culture are about to get wed. The proposal begins with a “matchmaker” or go between, who tries to find a man the perfect wife. The go between would consult and negotiate with the parents of the likely bride and groom, not the potential bride and groom themselves.
When the go-between finds a likely spouse, the potential groom’s parents if they agree will send the bride’s family gifts for the bride with the go between, and the go between would state to the bride’s parents how the groom’s parents feel. If the proposal goes well and the parents accept the brides gifts, the go-between would obtain the date and hour of the girl’s birth recorded ona formal document. The handing over of the girl’s birth information is seen as consent by the parents.
If the bride’s parents hand over their daughter’s birth information, The groom’s family would also place his document on the ancestral altar for three days. If no altercations between the parents or a loss of property took place within that time, the parents would give the information to an astrological expert to confirm that the young woman and their son would make a good match. If the boy’s family found the horoscope to be favorable, the grooms parents would then give the go between to give to the bride’s parents and the bride’s parents would do the same thing.
Finally the families get to meet face-to-face for the first time, the families start off by evaluating each other in terms of appearance, education, character, and social position. If both were satisfied they would proceed to the betrothal, the final step before the wedding.
The betrothal is the bargaining the parents conduct so that they can arrive as the amount of money that they feel will be a sufficient amount to gift the entire bride’s family. The bride’s parents must then pick from a list of potential wedding dates outlined by the groom’s family.
CHINESE TRADITIOJNS IN MODERN DAY SOCIETY
Today, having go betweens arrange marriages are very rare in western societies, however may still be practiced in China. Today, couples are more free to pick whom they want to marry and spend the rest of their life with, without having the parents make the ultimate decision for them. In today’s society, instead of he conducting the traditional betrothal between the parents as previously mentioned above, bridesmaids may put on their own love of test for the groom. The groom can either gift each bridesmaid something special wrapped in red, (a very important color in Chinese tradition) or by performing specific things dictated to the groom by the bridesmaids for instance, doing headstands or cartwheels. This test goes to show that the groom will do anything for the love of his life.
Having a tea ceremony is another tradition found in the traditional Chinese wedding. The tea ceremony is done to show respect from the bride and groom to their parents and elderly respect, and may take place prior or immediately following the ceremony. The bride and groom may kneel before their sets of parents as a gesture of respect while asking for permission to get married. At this time, the bride and groom are provided with gifts such as gold necklaces and bracelets, or red envelopes with money enclosed.
THE CHINESE WEDDING BANQUET
Chinese weddings receptions are usually very grand and detailed. The reception may consist of a twelve course sit down meal of Chinese inspired creations such as lobster, shark fin soup and the traditional roasted pig. Chinese weddings are also very game oriented. One example may be the “cherry bobbing,” where the couple tries to eat a suspended cherry before the other one.
It is also very traditional for a Chinese bride to change outfits up to four times during her ceremony. Two of the primary dresses however consist of the one worn at the ceremony and the one worn at the reception. The tradition dress worn at the ceremony is usually the color red, for red in the Chinese culture is a symbolic one symbolizing joy, prosperity and love. At the reception, the bride can stick to a traditional white dress.
A lot of couples try to incorporate more of the Chinese tradition by decorating the hall by having things like red table covers, Chinese lanterns or even Chinese symbols on napkins.