Delarah Banner

7 Unique Chinese Wedding Traditions

Chinese wedding traditions

As Wedding Know How editors, we write about things that we love and we think you'll like too. We have affiliate partnerships and sponsorship and may generate some revenue from these at no cost to you.

If you’ve been invited to a Chinese wedding, you’re in for a surprise. Not all weddings in China are the same. In fact, they can be very different due to the size of the country and the various ethnicities. Although Chinese wedding ceremonies tend to be quiet and intimate, they sure can be a lot of fun. A traditional ceremony is only a small element of the wedding day, but it usually ends with an awesome reception including hours of delicious food and multiple garments worn by the bride. 

The colours red and gold play a big role in a Chinese wedding as red is closely linked with love, success, fertility, loyalty and honour whereas gold is symbolic of wealth. White is avoided since it’s a colour associated with funerals, along with other dark colours. The best part about Chinese weddings is that they have an atmosphere of celebration overall and are full of lovely traditions and customs that make them so unique. We’ve rounded up a list of interesting Chinese wedding traditions, so let’s go ahead and have a look!

Delarah Banner

Hair Combing Ceremony

This ceremony is performed the night before the wedding at the bride’s and groom’s respective homes. First, the couple, in their individual homes, take a bath in water with pomelo (citrus) or pomegranate leaves which is said to ward off evil spirits. Afterwards, they change into new clothes and put on bedroom slippers (the outfit is not complete without them!). The bride sits facing a window through which she should be able to see the moon but if such a window is not available, she should sit in front of a mirror instead. The groom should be seated facing the inside of the house.

The bride and groom have their hair combed by a person of good fortune. If their mothers or relatives meet the criteria, they can perform this ceremony as well. The hair is combed four times while reciting blessings for a long life together, a happy, harmonious marriage and an abundance of children and grandchildren.

Once the ceremony is over, the bride and groom are given glutinous rice balls to eat which symbolize a complete and everlasting marriage filled with happiness.

Crying in Advance

Although this may seem rather depressing, it’s an important tradition that still prevails in China, practiced by many Tujia families. Starting a month before the wedding, the bride cries on purpose for an hour each day and she continues this for a week after which her mother joins in.

Two weeks later, her grandmother and every other woman in the family join them and they all cry together until the big day. This planned crying signifies extreme joy about the upcoming nuptials and if the bride is unable to shed a tear, it’s considered a sign of poor breeding.

On the wedding day itself, she must sing a crying marriage song in front of all the guests and relatives. If she’s unable to pull this off beautifully she will be judged harshly by the entire community. Talk about pressure!

The Three-Day Symbolization

This is a post-wedding tradition that takes place three days after the couple ties the knot. The newlywed couple visits the bride’s family home where she is no longer considered a member of the family but welcomed as a guest. The couple are expected to bring many gifts for the family and the groom must present his parents-in-law with an entire roasted pig as a sign of goodwill.

After this visit, the bride’s family sends gifts to the groom’s side. The gifts are usually a bottle of liquor, vegetables and fruit, a green onion and a cake. They also include the head, tail, feet and half of the original roast pig to symbolize the ‘beginning and the end’. Sometimes, they even send a baby chicken inside a lantern box, but we aren’t exactly sure what this gift signifies!

Shooting the Bride!

Here’s another unique and rather Chinese wedding tradition you’ve probably never heard of – the shooting of the bride! Thankfully, the bride doesn’t actually get hurt in this one. The groom must shoot her with 3 arrows (minus the arrowheads!) and afterwards, he breaks his bow in half. He collects the fallen arrows and snaps them in two, just like he did with the bow and this, according to the custom, means that the couple’s love will be everlasting and unbreakable.

The Giving and Acceptance of Betrothal Gifts (The Betrothal Ceremony)

This is a pre-wedding ceremony that takes place about two to three months before the wedding and serves as the groom’s formal proposal to his future bride’s parents.  He goes to her home and presents her parents with betrothal gifts which symbolize good fortune and prosperity. With the gifts, the groom also gives them the bride price, a payment from his and his family which he hands to them in a red envelope.

If the bride’s parents accept the gifts, it means that they formally accept the groom’s proposal and agree to hand over their daughter to his care. The bride has a dowry bestowed upon her which means that from this point onwards, she has been given property by her parents to begin her new life as a married woman.

Collecting the Bride

This pre-wedding ceremony takes place early in the morning on the big day. The groom goes to the bride’s house to pick her up and the journey starts with a lot of firecrackers, gongs and drums. A raucous procession follows the groom and a child, who represents the couple’s wish for children in the future, walks in the front with him. Some of the people who join play musical instruments while others carry banners and lanterns. The famous Chinese dancing lion follows in the rear creating a festive atmosphere, bringing good fortune and chasing away the evil spirits.

When they finally get to the bride’s house, the groom finds her surrounded by some of her girlfriends who tease him and are reluctant to hand her over. He haggles with her friends until he successfully bribes them with envelopes of money, and they surrender the bride to him. Then, the soon-to-be newlyweds bow to the bride’s parents and return to the groom’s home.

Gifts from the Guests  

Chinese red envelopes

If you’ve been invited to a Chinese wedding, one of the first things that probably went through your mind was how to pick out a gift for the couple. Choosing a gift for a Chinese wedding is simple because the most commonly given gift is a red envelope (called the hongbao) with money in it. The money should be enough to cover the expenses incurred by your attendance, such as the cost of your meal, drinks and the cost of a regular gift that might normally be given at a Western wedding. If you’ve been invited to a Chinese wedding, make sure you give your gift in the currency that the couple uses so that they won’t have to worry about getting it changed.

Wrapping Up…

Unique Chinese wedding customs

Chinese weddings tend to be different from each other as some couples go for the traditional route while others prefer a more western approach. They can also be different depending on what region the couple is from. Whatever the style may be, you’re sure to have a lot of fun and delicious food! There’s a lot to see and enjoy, so make the most out of it and one thing’s for sure, a Chinese wedding is never dull!