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The Chinese Wedding Series -- Part 2

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Leading to the Big Day

The intimate process from the arrangement of Betrothal to the Wedding Day and beyond is an interesting journey between the families of the potential bride and groom. At times ceremonial, these negotiating stages have been known to have derailed the perfect match. Due to the long intervals and preparations for the wedding, representative and intermediaries unwittingly misrepresent negotiating parties which could lead to unreasonable requests and demands.

Marriage Process of the Days Past

The potential groom’s family will start the ball rolling by sending approximately thirty symbolic gifts to the family of the potential bride to present their intention and goodwill. A check on the potential groom’s background, character, personality and prospects will be screened on the bride’s side. This stage is known as the Proposal (纳采).

This is quickly followed by the bride’s family by sending their daughter’s Destiny Analysis(八字)to the male’s family for calculation of compatibility and acceptance, otherwise called the Compatibility Audit (问名).

If all is well, a self-penned(聘书)intention or visit from the potential groom’s family will represent the engagement between the future couple.

On acknowledgement(纳吉)by both parties, the engagement documents primarily consisting of the couple’s Destiny Analysis will be placed at or near the altar of the groom’s ancestors for ‘guidance’. The clearance for the marriage will bear fruit within a specific agreed time when nothing inauspicious, such as a death or injury to elderly, takes place. Once cleared, this stage is called Stability(文定). The documents, now known as Book of Ceremony(礼书)is then sent back to the future bride’s family together with the wedding gifts list.

Two to four weeks before the wedding ceremony, representatives from the groom’s family, together with the Match-maker, will bring the full suite of wedding gifts to the bride’s home to mark the ‘Presenting the Ultimate Tokens’ or simply known as Dowry(过大礼). This gesture is reciprocated with the return of part of these gifts as a respect and civility.

A Professional Date Selection Process(选吉日)is set for the wedding day. A marriage certificate(迎书)is produced to the bride’s family to certify she is now part of the groom’s family. At this stage, she will assume her future husband’s name and prioritize her husband’s family in all aspects.

Another Professional Date is set for the Setting of the Bridal Chamber(安床)to ensure descendants’ luck.

The night before the wedding ceremony, a milestone ritual known as the Combing(上头)in which an elderly female within the bride’s family will comb her hair for auspices.


Three days after, the couple will bring gifts and make a return visit. This is done with the groom paying respects at the ancestors’ altar(拜见礼)before proceeding to his wife’s parents’ home, completing the whole process.The wedding ceremony day(迎来)will see the groom with his entourage arriving at the bride’s home to receive her. The groom has to go through the ‘Meeting the Bride’ ritual(拜见礼)before entering the bride’s home for the wedding dinner. A palanquin carried by four men (Bridal Sedan) will be used to bring the bride home to the groom’s home. On arrival, they will go through the Paying Respects Bows to Heaven, Ancestors and each other (拜天,地,租先)before retiring to the bridal chamber as Man and Wife.

In the next article, we will go into details of the Modern Day Marriage Proposal. For requests of Professional Date Selection for Weddings, Setting of Bridal Chambers and other important activities, please call or email us at enquiry@hofs88.com . We also offer talks and interesting presentations on Wedding Customs.


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