Few weeks ago, one of my Hong Kong colleagues got married and I was invited to the celebration. I wanted to share with you some details about some Chinese weddings customs and traditions with the help of another colleague (thanks for your help Phillip!!!).
Date of the wedding
Selecting the date for a wedding is a very important thing to consider in HK. Few “Good dates” are determine with the help of a Fung Shui expert and based on the Chinese Almanacs. It is supposed to help you choose a lucky day for the happiest day of your life and bring joy and luck to your marriage. The year you are getting married in is also very important. The dragon year is a very auspicious year while the year of the cow is not that good.
People also like to pick up their date with the pronunciation of the date.
For example: For 2013 01 04, 13 14, the pronunciation is similar as “forever” in Cantonese. Or for 2013 05 20, 520, the pronunciation is like “I love you” in Mandarin.
Here I have to just add this as Phillip sent it to me as it was really funny! It seems everyone in the office wants me to get married soon so if you are looking at a date in 2013, feel free to check the table below!
“FYI, The below are the good days for 2013, just for your reference in case you will get married in this year :D”
- Pick up the bride – Games
On the day of the wedding, the groom and friends will go to fetch the bride at her home or in a nice hotel. Before he can reach his future wife, he will have to get past her friends. The tradition for the friends of the bride is to make it a bit challenging (and fun) for the guys. It involves questions about the bride, specific tasks such as singing, eat a disgusting mixture prepared by the friends, doing crunches… while the bride is waiting behind a closed door with her hair, make up and dresses with a white western wedding dress. The friends of the groom are supposed to help him satisfy the bunch of girls with all their requests.
- Pick up the bride – Red pocket
After all the games are finished, the last stage is the red pocket to “open the door”. The money will go to the bride’s friends pocket directly and the girls can be very greedy asking for auspicious amount of money such as 8888 or 6688 (The pronunciation of eight in Cantonese is similar to rich).
Once the friends of the bride are happy and rich… the groom is allowed to see his future wife and take her to the wedding location.
- Tea ceremony
On the wedding day, the bride goes to the groom’s house and serves tea to his parents. It is a symbol of the bride becoming part of the groom’s family. If the parents accept, they will drink the tea and give the couple red pockets. (Yeah as you can see red pockets are everywhere in a wedding… it is consider as a blessing, is part of the HK traditions and you won’t be able to make it without it!)
After, the tea will be served to the bride’s parents. A friend of the bride will help make the tea and hand the tea to the newlyweds. In return, the groom’s parents will give them red envelops. The groom will thanks the bride’s parents for raising their daughter and giving him their child.
Some gifts will also be given during this tea ceremony. It will normally include some gold necklaces, bracelets…
The color used in Chinese weddings is the red and called cheongsam. It symbolized love, luck and is supposed to keep away evil spirits. The bride will change at least three times during the dinner, keeping the red dress for the tea ceremony; she will then change to a white western gown for the beginning of the dinner, then to another colorful gown. Plenty of pictures will be done before during and after the wedding ceremony! This part is a bit about showing how many dresses you could afford, don’t forget that the HK traditions is about not losing the face!
In our western culture, it is usual to give a gift to the newly wed as a present. We are often using a “wedding list” to select one present chosen by the bride and the groom. In the Chinese culture, money is more welcome than a gift. The idea is to cover at least the cost of your own meal at the wedding reception but you will be able to find the market price on internet easily.
For a single person with a normal friendship with the couple, here is the market rate depending on the location the wedding is held:
Good Hotel 900-1000 HKD
Hotel 700-800 HKD
Restaurant 500-700 HKD
Invited – don’t attend 300-500 HKD
At the beginning of the reception, you will be able to give your red envelope to the witnesses who are in charge of collecting the money from everyone. You must write your name at the back of the envelope with small greetings for the newlywed if you want.
Beware here as the couple might be choosing his friendship based on the amount found in the red pocket. It is also easy to track you as you have written your name at the back so when you will get married, the couple will use the amount from your red pocket as a reference for your own wedding – red pocket! Again the Chinese/HK traditions are symbolized by the money here… but don’t make easy shortcuts and reduce it to that only!
Chinese dinner banquet is the norm for a HK wedding. The newlyweds will make their big entrance before the dinner is starting. The usual speech given by the groom and the bride are orientated to thanks their family and parents for raising them. Once the speeches are done, the groom and bride, their close family and their witnesses will go from table to table to raise a toast with their guests. It is very important not to come back on your way as this is a symbol of the couple growing up and going forward! This can be a funny moment as the witnesses are cheering up the entire crowd for each toast! Don’t worry the newlyweds are not going to be drunk so easily because the toast is usually a mix with tea and coke to look like a whisky!
During the dinner, the games recorded earlier in the day will be played and some speeches will be made by the friends of the couple. This part looks very similar to our western weddings!
Regarding the food, a 10-dishes dinner is usually served starting with the roasted pig. Crispy chicken and steam fish are also compulsory on the menu. This is a tradition coming from ages ago.
Shark’s fin soup is still on the menu of plenty of wedding menu as it is supposed to be a delicacy in HK and be very good for the skin. (Lots of collagen is found in the shark’s fin). HK environmental companies have already warned locals about the dangers of eating shark’s fin for the environment but as it is a tradition I guess it will take time before it fully disappear of the HK menus!
For desserts, plenty of small cakes will be served as well as oranges.
You will never see a 7 dishes menu for a wedding as it is supposed to be for funeral only. Even when you will have a normal dinner or lunch with your HK colleagues at a Dim sum place, they will rather pick up 6 or 8 dishes than keeping 7 only.
The last funny fact about the food at a wedding is that if there are foods remaining on the table, none will be offended if you take it to bring it back home as take-away. I was quite shocked as a girl keep asking for food in her small plastic boxes at my table but I have been told it is ok to do so…