Chinese Wedding Traditions Before Wedding Ceremony
Specific Chinese wedding traditions vary in detail across the length and breadth of China. However, all Chinese marriages have six basic rituals known as three letters and six etiquette.
The three letters include the request letter, the gift letter and the wedding letter. The six etiquette include the proposal, the birth dates comparison, the bride price, wedding gifts, arranging the wedding and the wedding ceremony per se.
The Request Letter, the proposal & Birth Date Matching
The Chinese wedding traditions dictate that the arrangement begins with the formal request letter from the Groom’s family to the bride’s family via a go-between. If the proposal is acceptable, the date and hour of birth of the girl or boy—recorded on a formal document or horoscope– may be exchanged by the go-between. The documents are placed on the respective family altars for three days to test whether the entry of the individual into the family will cause any kind of disruption among the members of the family.
If the outcome of the test on both sides is good, the proposal will proceed to the next stage, wherein the families meet and evaluate each other in terms of financial position, education and social position.
The Gift Letter and the Betrothal in Chinese wedding traditions
Did you know that the process of evaluating each other involves a lot of bargaining, discussion and negotiation between the families of the bride and the groom as per the Chinese wedding traditions? The amounts that will be paid as bride price, the dowry that will go with the bride and the dates when these items will reach the respective families will be discussed and frozen.
The boy’s family then sends the betrothal gifts of money and significant items to the girl’s family along with a gift letter. The gifts may contain money, tea, dragon and Phoenix bridal cakes, pairs of male and female poultry, sweetmeats and sugar, wine and tobacco. Tea is regarded as a very important part of the betrothal gift and the gifts are known as Cha-li or Tea presents in some parts of China. The acceptance of the gifts by the bride’s family is an acknowledgment by the groom’s family of the efforts put in by the girl’s family in raising the girl and a pledge of the girl to the groom’s family rather than to the groom himself by the girl’s family.
The betrothal is considered binding and cannot be easily rescinded from unless both parties agree to break the contract.
The gap between the betrothal and the marriage can be as long as two years. If the betrothal is between children, the marriage will take place only when the children are of a marriageable age.
Preparing for the Wedding in Chinese wedding traditions
A day before the wedding the bride retreats to the cockloft or a secluded room along with friend and female relatives. The friends and relatives then sing laments that the bride is leaving home and mourn her separation. The songs curse the go between and the groom’s family for taking away the bride. The bride emerges from the cockloft on the wedding day.
Meanwhile the groom’s family installs the wedding bed at an auspicious hour. A couple who have been procreative and have several children are invited to install the bed. Chocolates and dry fruits are scattered on the bed and children are invited to scramble for them on the bed.
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