Whether they’re based on religion or ethnicity, most weddings are infused with traditions. After all, the first weddings that ever took place were in small villages where groups of families would gather and create their very own special conventions that they would then pass down to future generations. Today, many of those customs continue through generations, and this is especially true for those of Chinese heritage.
“Chinese culture is roughly 3,500 years old (as compared to American 250 years) which accounts for this great volume of traditions comparatively to younger civilizations,” explains Annie Lee, Founder of Plannie.
“Like most Asian cultures, China is also deeply rooted in Confucian standards of respect of family and elders. Honoring your grandparents, parents, and other senior members of your family is an important value in everyday life and particularly highlighted at special occasions such as one’s wedding.”
Jamie Chang, owner and destination wedding planner at Mango Muse Events in Los Altos, California, agrees that respect and honor are big parts of Chinese culture. For this reason, many Chinese wedding traditions and expectations stem from that concept.
“Chinese people also highly believe in luck and auspicious things, so a wedding has a lot of those elements as well to ensure a good marriage,” Chang adds.
It’s not just in the ceremony where heritage comes to the forefront of Chinese weddings. Design is also a big factor.
“Typically, red and gold colors play a very important role in all Chinese weddings,” explains JoAnn Gregoli, a New York City-based wedding planner and founder of Elegant Occasions by JoAnn Gregoli. “The color red [represents] love, success, happiness, prosperity, luck, fertility, honor and loyalty. Gold, on the other hand, is a symbol of wealth.
Symbols can also be carried throughout your wedding day decor.
“The Double Happiness symbol ( 囍), which is made up of two identical Chinese characters, appears in all Chinese weddings. [It] can be made out of fresh red roses or as a wall hanging for the tea ceremony.”
While not all Chinese weddings incorporate all of the time-honored traditions, some still do. In Chang’s experience as a planner, when both couples come from Chinese families, there is a higher probability that including Chinese wedding traditions will be important. “
The more westernized they are, or, in other words, the bigger the number of generations there has been (meaning how many generations have lived and been born in the US or not in China), the less tradition is desired and included,” she says.
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The Most Important Chinese Wedding Traditions
If you’re looking to incorporate Chinese wedding traditions into your big day, here are some of the most important ones planners recommend including.
Choose the Right Wedding Date
Many couples fret over their wedding date, but in Chinese culture, it can potentially bring a bout of good—or bad—luck.
“It’s why you’ll see a big fight over certain dates in certain years,” explains Chang. This is especially true for dates that include the number 8, which is a traditionally lucky Chinese number,” she says.
“While you can consult the lunar calendars to see what would be a lucky day, [you can also] pick a lucky day for the couple, which might be when they met, when they got engaged or some important date that has been a part of their relationship.”
The Chinese Tea Ceremony
The most common ceremony that precedes the actual wedding ceremony itself is the Tea Ceremony.
During this ceremony, both sides of the family are formally introduced. Together they then drink Tsao Chun, a traditional Chinese type of tea.
“Once the tea is finished, the couple will traditionally receive a floral lai and be given a lucky red envelope filled with money or jewelry,” says Gregoli. A formal, multi-course banquet or feast is served after this ceremony, where each course represents something special to the couple.
The Bride Wearing a Qipao
In Chinese tradition, it is customary for the bride to wear a red dress, called a qipao. Most modern weddings will have the bride wear a traditional western gown with a color other than white. Then, the bride will change into a red gown and possibly a third (or even fourth) ball gown,” says Gregoli.
“This tradition allows the bride to honor the red color during the ceremony.”
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The Handing Out of Hong Bao
Wedding gifts are a very important part of Chinese culture. However, instead of an actual gift registry for the couple, red envelopes, known as hong bao, are given.
“These envelopes are filled with cash, but guests must avoid giving the money in multiples of 4. The word 4 means death in Chinese culture,” says Gregoli.
Jewelry as Gifts
Jewelry holds a lot of meaning in Chinese culture—both as a form of money and wealth, but also in the passing down of heirlooms, explains Chang.
“Many times Chinese families will pass down jewelry from mother to daughter or daughter-in-law from both sides of the family tree. It’s both a gift and a token of previous generations of women,” she says.
Not a fan of the heirloom piece? Changs says she sees brides update this tradition by taking the jewelry and using the gold, stones or jade to create something new.
The Hair Combing Ceremony
One of the most endearing Chinese wedding traditions often takes place at the bride’s home, or her childhood home, is a hair-combing ceremony. “It is typically performed by the mother and symbolizes the transition from childhood to adulthood,” explains Gregoli.
“This is truly a lovely tradition that allows the mom and daughter to have a wonderful moment between them prior to the ceremony.”
The Groom Processional
Many other cultures have a groom processional, but the Chinese one is quite unique.
“The groom typically leads a procession from his home and lights firecrackers along the way,” Gregoli says. They also strike gongs that help fend off evil spirits. Then, members of the wedding party carry banners and lanterns as the procession arrives at the bride’s location.
“At this point, the bridal party traditionally stands guard as the groom attempts to see the bride,” she says. “He must surrender enough red envelopes (hong bao) which are full of money to gain access to the bride.”
Choose Invites That Honor Your Chinese Wedding Traditions
Invitations are a great way to introduce guests to your wedding theme, as well as begin to introduce the religious and cultural traditions that are important to you.
We’ve compiled our favorite invites from Minted’s new Chinese wedding invitation collection, below:
‘Something Blue’ by Yaling Hou Suzuki
Blue and pink pop against foil accents in this beautiful wedding invite.
‘Unity’ by Caitlin Considine
Make a bold statement with this red and blush invite that also comes in an affordable all-in-one version.
‘Gilded Florals’ by Ashley Rosenbaum
Available in sapphire (pictured), ruby, mint, latte, dusty rose and lilac, the glittery foil on this invite adds the perfect amount of drama.
‘Lovebirds’ by Elly
Spring is in the air with this beautiful invite featuring one of the most common Chinese wedding traditions—a double happiness symbol— as well as foil in red, glittery gold, black, icea blue, and more.
‘Chinese Charms’ by Elan Studio
Good fortune abounds with ‘Chinese Charms,’ available in classic ruby, blush, sky, and forest.
Are you planning to honor any of these Chinese wedding traditions on your big day? Let us know what they are in the comments section, below!