Chinese weddings are steeped in tradition. While many of these customs are no longer followed today, there are still a few that have survived the centuries and are a part of modern weddings. There is a Chinese saying, "It is natural to get married when you grow up." And so, marriage is very important to the Chinese culture.
The Husband's Family
In America and many other countries, the bride's family handles the expense of the wedding. In addition, it is traditionally thought of as the bride's "day." For the Chinese however, it's the groom's day. The family of the groom might handle the festivities and when the Happy Couple marries, the bride becomes a part of the groom's family. Years ago, the bride might expect never to see her family again. Before the wedding the bride would go into seclusion for a few days with her friends in order to say goodbye. Of course, in this day and age, most couples take care of the wedding expenses themselves and the bride isn't expect to favor one side of the family over another.
Choosing the Date
For the Chinese couple, choosing a date is not as simple as saying, "hey I'm free that weekend, why don't we do it then?" Everything has to be in their favor. The day has to be a lucky one. The numbers of the month and days have to be lucky and the moon and stars have to be properly aligned. Most Chinese families choose their wedding date according to the lunar calendar.
The color red plays an integral part of the wedding festivities. From the red wedding invitations, to the red gift envelopes, to the bride's red wedding dress, you can be sure to be surrounded in this bold and lucky color if you're attending a Chinese wedding.
The Bridal Bed
Traditionally, the parents of the groom will provide the Happy Couple with a new bed complete with all the necessary components. Comforters, pillow cases, sheets and anything else that goes with making the bed warm and comfortable are part of this gift. The parents of the groom will make the bed, and the groom will sleep on this bed the night before the wedding. A young nephew will bounce on the bed in hopes the Happy Couple will be fertile and produce an heir.
The symbol for "Double Happiness" is prominent on Chinese wedding invitations, red money envelopes, and other traditional Chinese wedding accessories and decorations.
On the day of the wedding the Happy Couple will serve tea to the parents of the bride and groom and other esteemed wedding guests, in order of seniority. In return, the guests will present the couple with gold jewelry and money in red envelopes.
Traditionally the Chinese bride will wear three wedding dresses. The first is a traditional white dress with veil. This is worn during the wedding ceremony. The second wedding dress, a traditional Chinese wedding dress is worn throughout the banquet. The third is the bride's going away dress. She changes into this just before leaving the banquet.
The Wedding Banquet
The wedding banquet, or feast, is probably the most important part of the Chinese wedding. The banquet is important to the families of the bride and groom because it allows them to save "face" with their friends and relatives. They consider it a return of all of the kindnesses paid to them throughout the years. In fact, for traditional Chinese families, the banquet is more for the parents of the bride and groom, than the Happy Couple themselves. Most wedding banquets will serve a twelve course meal consisting of delicacies such as abalone, shark fin soup, roast pig and fried rice. While there traditionally isn't a champagne toast or an open bar, guests at a Chinese wedding banquet can expect to drink a glass of fine cognac with the Happy Couple.