We asked the team at East Meets Dress to explain the history and meaning behind popular Chinese wedding traditions…
Are you looking to celebrate your Chinese culture, or your fiancé’s in a multicultural wedding? Incorporating Chinese wedding traditions into your wedding festivities is a timeless way to honour your family and heritage. From hosting a tea ceremony to wearing a traditional cheongsam dress, here are some ideas on how to incorporate Chinese wedding traditions into your wedding.
Choose a Lucky Wedding Date
Traditionally, for Chinese weddings, the newly engaged couple will consult with a fortune teller or the Chinese calendar to choose a favourable, lucky date for their wedding. The number 8 is considered very lucky in Chinese culture, so dates that have the number 8 in them are a great option (August 8, for example). Meanwhile, in the lunar calendar, March, July, and September are considered unlucky months to have weddings because of the Qingming Festival, the Ghost Festival, and the Double Ninth Festival, all of which relate to death.
Of course, it’s more important that you choose a date that works best for you and your family, but considering a lucky date is a great way to incorporate this Chinese wedding tradition and make your wedding day feel even more special.
Host a Tea Ceremony
The Chinese tea ceremony is a beautiful tradition that symbolizes the joining of the two families. It’s when the bride and groom pay their respects and show their gratitude towards their parents, new in-laws, and elders by serving them tea. In turn, their families will give their blessings to the newlyweds by gifting them ‘hong baos’ (red envelopes with money).
Traditionally, the tea ceremony is held the morning of the wedding at the groom’s house. Modern weddings may now choose to host the tea ceremony during the rehearsal dinner or cocktail hour, before the wedding ceremony, or even the day after the wedding.
The groom’s family is typically served tea first, followed by the bride’s. The parents get served tea first, followed by grandparents, and then the rest of the extended family. Traditionally, the groom will kneel on the right and serve the tea first, while the bride kneels on the left and goes afterward. During each round of tea, the groom and bride will address the relative and say, for example, “Mum, please drink this tea.”
To help with the tea serving, we typically recommend having someone like your maid of honour standing next to the couple, holding the tea cups on a serving tray. After each round, the maid of honour will bring over a new set of tea cups filled with tea. You should allocate four cups per couple you serve (or two cups per person you serve) and have enough tea to make three pots of tea. She can also be helpful in holding all the red envelopes you’ll be sure to get from your relatives!
Wear a Wedding Cheongsam
On their wedding day, it is traditional for Chinese brides to wear a red dress, typically called either a qipao or cheongsam during the tea ceremony. The cheongsam (qipao) dress is traditionally an ankle-length sheath silhouette dress featuring a mandarin collar. Nowadays, there are many modern options for a wedding cheongsam, from lace variations to more comfortable silhouettes like an A-line cheongsam dress. The most important factor is the red colour, which is a symbol of good fortune and happiness in a marriage.
Play Door Games
Chinese door games, also known as ‘chuangmen’ is a fun way to incorporate your wedding party into the Chinese wedding traditions. This tradition is celebrated by making the groom play a number of entertaining ‘door games’ which can be played before the tea ceremony or during the wedding reception.
The bridesmaids can refuse to ‘surrender’ the bride until the groom has completed all the tests. Some examples of door games include Q&A tests about the couple’s relationship, asking the groom and the groomsmen to do a dance, or holding the bride ‘hostage’ until the groom has appeased the bridesmaids with enough red envelopes.
Host a Chinese Wedding Banquet
If you love food, then this Chinese wedding tradition might be your favourite! A Chinese wedding banquet typically consists of eight different courses over several hours of feasting.
Each course symbolizes a wish for the couple, whether that’s happiness, longestivity or fertility through the names, colours, and flavours of the food.
For example, the lobster and chicken is a common pairing served at a Chinese banquet and represents the bride and groom, and represent the couple’s blissful union. Nowadays, couples might consider incorporating some of these courses in their Western reception, or host a separate Chinese wedding banquet altogether on a different day.
Incorporating Chinese wedding traditions into your own wedding is a wonderful way to honour you or your fiancé’s cultural heritage and family. We hope these ideas inspire you to create a wedding that is representative of your own style and tastes.
One wedding planner reveals what she learned marrying into a different culture, if you want to read more about combining cultures with a wedding.