Traditional Chinese Wedding vs. A Simplified Version

I like learning about traditions. Obviously times are different, some of these traditions aren’t applicable to today’s society, especially living in an environment of mixed cultures. I was just curious what a traditional Chinese wedding include.

This website has a lot of information on this particular subject: Chinese Wedding Traditions.

When we talked to my parents about it, we asked for everything to be simple. Even then, it seems still complicated. However, after reading this page, I can see that ours IS simple. (Of course, the web page describes how it was in the past, things have changed quite a bit since then.)

The Proposal
There was not formal proposal. It was a mutual decision. The diamond engagement ring and the “surprise” popping of the question weren’t important to us. Of course, nowadays you choose your own mate. Well, most people (I think). There are still arranged marriages. I am thankful that my parents are open-minded. Appearance, education, and social position aren’t that important anymore, the most important one is character.

The Betrothal
Choosing an auspicious date for distribution of bridal cakes. Check! That’s one of the things that we are doing two days after we land.

I didn’t understand why the cakes were important and why it had to be from the boy. (Now I know. Also, mom says the cakes are delicious … haha.)

The boy’s family’s gifts acknowledged the parents’ efforts in raising the girl, and by accepting the gifts, the girl’s family pledged her to the boy’s. It is interesting to note that the bride was given to the family rather than the groom alone.

…the bride was given to the family rather than the groom alone This is still the case in a lot of families, I think. Especially families where the couple moves in with the in-laws. This is one of the reasons why my grandmother does not move in with her daughters, the only person that she will move in with is my uncle (except for the fact that she doesn’t get along with my aunt-in-law). There is a phrase in Chinese: 嫁出去的女兒,潑出去的水。 (It basically compares married daughter to a bowl of water, once it’s poured out it would not be retrieved.) It is kind of a silly saying because it means the married daughter takes on the husband’s surname and therefore becomes that family (not this). The daughter is basically segregated and distanced, not involved in certain traditions like paying respect to the ancestors (traditionally it’s seen as bad luck if the married daughter returns to be involved in 祭祖 – paying respect to ancestors).

We will have no dowry, no hair dressing and capping rituals. I think this goes wayyy back, I don’t think people even do this anymore. We are not having a wedding, so most of this doesn’t apply to us. Since we are both coming from Canada for these traditions, the groom’s procession and the bride travelling to groom’s house do not apply. If it did, it would be an awful long trip – from Alberta to Ontario and back :P.

The Wedding

In contrast to the elaborate preparations, the wedding ceremony itself was simple. The bride and groom were conducted to the family altar, where they paid 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.

Most people still do this. Especially paying homage to Heaven and Earth, the family ancestors, and the Kitchen God. This is also what we will be doing two days after we land. The lotus seed is good for fertility. There will be red wine involved. I am not entirely sure what will happen on this day but I will find out (and update you).

The Wedding Banquet

Generally, separate wedding feasts were given by the parents of the bride and the groom for their respective friends and families.

Yep that’s going to happen. It is also common to do “make up” banquets. Ex. since my dad couldn’t book time off for this trip, we are going to have the dinner with his side of the family next time we go back to Taiwan. We are having a dinner/banquet-type thing with my mom’s side of the family.

Another important part of the reception/banquet:

For Chinese weddings, cash or a check is always the best gift. In addition to that, some elder relatives might also give gold jewelry. The cash or check should be in a red envelope or red pocket with the givers’ names on it, and it is always given when signing in at the restaurant. In choosing the amount of money to give, givers scrupulously avoid unlucky numbers, such as 4 and favor combinations of lucky numbers, such as 8 and 9. Also, white envelopes are never used to wrap gifts for a wedding or other joyful event, as the color white is associated with death.

Wikipedia: Wedding Reception

These people are doing it like us – although theirs seem simpler. Repas de Mariage

A typical Taiwanese wedding: A Big, Fat, Taiwanese Wedding

I am grateful that my parents are fairly easy-going in terms of our plans. They had a simple ceremony as well: Taipei City Hall, dinner with families. We don’t like to be the centre of attention but we want to share the celebration. This might be the best way to go about it, for us. My great aunt laughed at us and said, “of course you are going to be the centre of attention!”

More Taiwanese wedding:



  1. interesting, all the info about marriages…. I totally get the not wanting to make a big fuss thing, its unnecessary and expensive! Better make it short and sweet, with only a few loved ones. Btw, when IS the date? narf

    • Yeah, it was so complicated back then. I mean I think some really traditional people still go through most of these traditions.

      I am glad that you think like us! 🙂 I feel selfish sometimes, though, because we are not having a wedding. However, I really just want to celebrate with friends in intimate gatherings. We are SO not party people. Relatives in Taiwan kind of understand that but certain traditions are important to them.

      The date? Haha… there are many dates. The ceremony in Taiwan is Feb 20. Ceremonially we will sort of be married in Taiwan. We’re just going to do a civil ceremony in Stratford on a weekday afternoon sometime probably in May. Then we will have a McMaster gathering to celebrate afterwards… sometime.

      You should blog, Narfy!

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