Traditional Chinese Weddings are full of rituals and are an elaborate affair. While many of these customs are no longer followed in the modern Chinese society, there are still a few that have survived the centuries and are a part of modern weddings.
In modern Chinese society love marriage is a norm. In olden times and in orthodox communities, however, the tradition is to have arranged marriages. Parents of prospective groom would take help of matchmakers to arrange marriages or to send proposal to a girl's family.
When the two parties show inclination for forming a marriage alliance, the matchmaker would move on to compare the birthdays of the prospective bride and the groom. The process of forming alliance would be carried forward only if the couple is found to be compatible according to Chinese astrology. The custom may or may not be followed depending on the beliefs of the families.
At this stage the prospective bridegroom's family arranges for the matchmaker to present betrothal gifts, including the betrothal letter, to the bride's family.
Selecting an Auspicious Day for Wedding
After the betrothal ceremony, parents of the bride and the groom select the most auspicious day for the wedding with the help of Chinese Calendar. Chinese people strongly believe that the numbers of the month and days have to be lucky and the moon and stars have to be properly aligned for wedding ceremony.
Installation of the Bridal Bed
The groom's side conducts this ceremony on a day before the wedding. At an auspicious hour a 'good luck woman' or a 'good luck man' that is a woman or a man with many children were selected to install a newly purchased bed. After the bed was in place, children were invited onto the bed as an omen of fertility. For the same reason, the bed was scattered with red dates, oranges, lotus seeds, peanuts, pomegranates and other fruits. It's fun to watch children scramble for the fruit.
This special ceremony is conducted on the day of the wedding. The Happy Couple serves tea to the parents of the bride and groom and other esteemed wedding guests, in order of seniority. On their part, the guests present the couple with gold jewelry and money in red envelopes. The color red is considered auspicious by the Chinese and is an integral part of the Chinese Wedding rituals.
Chinese Wedding rituals are extremely simple. The bride and groom are conducted to the family altar, where they pay homage to Heaven and Earth, the family ancestors and the Kitchen God, Tsao-Chün. Tea, generally with two lotus seeds or two red dates in the cup, was offered to the groom's parents. Then the bride and groom bowed to each other. This completed the marriage ceremony, except in some regions, where both also drank wine from the same goblet, ate sugar molded in the form of a rooster, and partook of the wedding dinner together.
The Wedding Banquet
Chinese Wedding Banquet is the most important part of the wedding and is an extremely lavish affair. Chinese people do their best to host the most sumptuous wedding banquet as it is considered to be a matter of prestige. In Chinese society, traditionally the groom's side pays for the banquet but nowadays, some young couples offer to pay for themselves. The food is of utmost importance to Chinese and in most cases only delicacies are served.
After the banquet, the bride changes into another gown (following the tradition a Chinese bride changes into four to five dresses on the wedding day). When the guests are about to leave the parents, the newly wed couple along with close relatives will stand in line at the door to thank the guests and wish them well as they leave. This is contrary to the receiving line in Western culture. When all the guests have left, the bridal party will go home.