Because the Chinese people have so much value for family ties, they believe that it’s natural for one to get married while growing up. To them, marriage is meant to continue the ancestral lineage as well as creating alliances between the two families. And that is why the Chinese brides see wedding a custom and sacred ceremony of being tied.
The Chinese traditional wedding customs are passed down from generation to generation. And while there may have been some changes over the years, the primary objectives and elements still remain - to join two families and to ensure succession with many descendants. The elements are reverence to the families and ancestors, promises for fertility and success, financial and social responsibilities pledged by both families during the engagement, etiquette of exchanging expensive gifts, and the bride’s adoption into her new home.
Traditionally, the wedding process begins with a marriage proposal and acceptance. There is usually a person who acts as a buffer to the prospective bride and groom, including their families. That is, the proposal and acceptance negotiations are carried out by both the buffer and the parents, and not the soon-to-be young couple.
Once the groom’s parents identify the would-be-bride, the buffer is then sent to present some betrothal gifts to the bride’s family, expressing their interest about the match and promising to go ahead with the marriage.
After the proposal and acceptance, the engagement follows. Different favorable wedding dates would be suggested by the groom’s family for the bride’s family to choose. Also, the family of the boy would present betrothal gifts to the bride’s family. Such gifts include money, dragon and phoenix bridal cakes, wine and tobacco, tea, and an itemized statement of the gifts.
The girl’s parents will then distribute the received bridal cakes to friends and relatives as a way of announcing and inviting them to the wedding ceremony. Those who received the bridal cakes are expected to present gifts, congratulating the bride’s family.
After the betrothal gifts have been presented, the girl’s family would send porters with an inventoried dowry (including a chamber pot that is filled with fruits and coins for the occasion) to the groom’s house.
Both the betrothal gifts presentation and the dowry have significant meanings. The gifts presentation is to acknowledge and reverence the efforts of the parents for raising the bride, while the dowry shows the love of the bride’s family for their daughter and well as their social status. Some wealthy parents would even send serving girls to accompany their daughter to her new home.
How the wedding ceremony will be organized depends on the religion of the couple. Ideally, the ceremony only takes some minutes. The girl and the boy would pay reverence to the Heaven and Earth, the ancestors as well as their parents. Tea with lotus seeds (or dates) is presented to the boy’s family. Some other rituals follow, and the ceremony is over.
A day after the wedding, the new bride would prepare breakfast for both families. The older relatives will present gifts to the bride as she is formally introduced to her husband’s family. After the gift presentation, the bride will be given a formal title in her new home.