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13 Authentic Cantonese Wedding Traditions

April 28, 2022
One of the grandest wedding ceremonies that you'll see is the Chinese wedding. So today, why not learn about important Cantonese wedding traditions?

One of the grandest wedding ceremonies that you'll see is the Chinese wedding. So today, why not learn about important Cantonese wedding traditions?

Weddings are one of the happiest moments in a couple's life, in this case, for Chinese couples. In traditional Chinese culture, weddings are far from what you usually see in western weddings. You cannot just wear anything that pleases you. You cannot just go to Vegas and have an on-the-spot wedding ceremony. Chinese wedding traditions are more complicated than that.

Today, we will learn about different Cantonese wedding traditions that you need to know. If you're planning to marry a Hong Konger, here are some things you should know about their wedding traditions.

 

Cantonese Chinese Wedding Traditions

When you think about Chinese weddings, the primary thing that comes into your mind is that they are lively, full of color, and course, full of Chinese wedding customs. It is a ceremony defined by rituals and traditions, focusing on blessings of prosperity, abundance, and happiness for the marriage from both friends and family members.

Hong Kong's culture is in line with the Chinese culture in mainland China. Some people observe these traditional Chinese weddings, but nowadays, many prefer to have modern Chinese weddings, limiting the Chinese wedding customs that people practice.

The Proposal

The Proposal - Cantonese Wedding Traditions

I'm sure you have watched or witnessed a marriage proposal a couple of times but have you witnessed a marriage proposal in Cantonese Chinese culture? If you haven't witnessed it yet, prepare yourself to be amazed because it's not what we usually see on international TV.

In the traditional Chinese culture, grooms are required to pay a formal visit to the bride's home to beg for her hand in marriage. It is done by seeking an auspicious date to visit the bride's family to formally ask for their approval for their wedding.

In doing this Chinese/ Cantonese wedding tradition, the seventh month of the Lunar calendar is being avoided because it is considered inauspicious in Chinese education. Being late on the agreed time when visiting the bride's house is also a big no. It will say so much about your the groom's manners.

When the day comes, both the bride and groom should be dressed appropriately. It is an important wedding tradition because it shows respect for each other and their family. The groom and groom's parents must also bring gifts like cakes, fruits or bottles of liquor. It is an act of sincerity and good manners.

Of course, when you are asking for the bride's hand, the groom should be sincere, respectful, and courteous. Avoiding confrontation is to maintain a peaceful discussion. You'll be discussing the wedding date, venue, attendees, and more, so being respectful starts a happy and harmonious marriage.

Picking An Auspicious Date Of The Wedding

Picking An Auspicious Date Of The Wedding  - Cantonese Wedding Traditions

After getting the bride's approval, they pick the wedding date. Choosing a wedding date isn't something done simply. Couples go to consult with a fortune teller, Feng Shui master, or a Chinese monk to choose an auspicious date that will bring success to their marriage.

The Chinese zodiac sign of the couple and their birthday details will play a huge influence in determining the best day for them. But, the bride's birthday is preferred over the groom's birthday.

Betrothal Gifts And Dowry

Betrothal Gifts And Dowry - Cantonese Wedding Traditions

The groom will present betrothal gifts to the bride's parents as a formal proposal in their culture. It happens about three months before the actual wedding. These gifts can be gold jewelry, phoenix, wax candles, dragons, tea leaves, sesame seeds, wine, brandy, and so on. The groom also gives the Laisee (red envelope) with betrothal gift money or bride price, which is a contribution made by the groom and his family to the bride's parents.

  • Two pairs of Double Happiness candles
  • Hard liquor or red/white wine (Gift for bride's father)
  • Roast Pork (Gift for Bride's mother)
  • Jewelry (Gift for the Bride)
  • Traditional wedding cakes (For the bride's family and relatives)
  • 4, 6, or 8 kinds of dried seafood
  • Fruits

The bride's parents formally accept the proposal and agree to put their daughter in the groom's care after receiving the presents. During this ceremony, the bride's parents also bestow a dowry on her, which signifies she receives property from her parents to begin her new life as a married lady. Here is the dowry that the bride's family will give to the groom's family:

  • Pillow covers and bed sheet (linen)
  • Bucket and Ruler
  • Tea set and pillows (for the tea ceremony)
  • Two pairs of Chopstick
  • 1 Red umbrella
  • One pair of Bedside Lamp
  • Clothing and jewelry for the bride

Later on, people will use these gifts during the ceremony. The bride's parents will then return half of the gifts as a sign of acceptance of the proposal and a desire to maintain a positive relationship with the groom's family. Here are the gifts that the bride's family should return:

  • A portion of the bride price is received from the groom (Usually half will be returned)
  • Belt, watches, cufflinks, or wallet with Laisee inserted (Gift For the groom)
  • Fruits
  • Pants
  • Chinese cakes

Chinese Wedding Colors

Chinese Wedding Colors - Cantonese Wedding Traditions

If you have seen Chinese weddings, there are two auspicious colors that you'll see - red and gold. These are the two colors most commonly used in Chinese wedding color palettes. The color red is one of the most significant colors in Chinese tradition and culture. It is used on all major occasions, not just at Chinese weddings.

The bride's wedding dress is red because this color is linked to several positive characteristics, including success, loyalty, honor, fertility, and love. This color is also believed that it can divert negative energy away. Since the bride wears red on the wedding day, the guests should not wear this color to honor the bride and groom.

Chinese Wedding Dress - Cantonese Wedding Traditions

In today's weddings, modern brides are required to wear a white bridal gown and a third ball gown during the evening. Many modern brides now change into a fourth gown to send off their guests at the end of the ceremony.

On the other hand, the color gold is also commonly seen in different celebrations in Chinese culture. At Chinese weddings, gold is usually used as an accent color. Gold symbolizes wealth and fortune, which are essential in Chinese culture.

If you are attending a Chinese wedding ceremony, try o wear pinks, purples, or warm tones. Do not wear black or white at a Chinese wedding because these colors are meant for funerals. It is considered bad luck if you do so.

Auspicious Symbols

Auspicious Symbols - Cantonese Wedding Traditions

The primary auspicious symbol in a Chinese wedding is the Double Happiness Symbol. Auspicious means showing or suggesting that future success is likelypropitious, attended by good fortune, or prosperous. All Chinese weddings have the Double Happiness sign, which comprises two similar Chinese characters that mean joy. 

It can take the form of traditional décors, such as a wall hanging made of fresh red roses for the tea ceremony or neon signage for an after-party.

Other auspicious symbols in Chinese wedding traditions are phoenixes, dragons, and the Mandarin duck, which symbolize happiness and loyalty. The bride is also gifted with a 24-karat gold pig necklace, an emblem of fertility. It will be part of her wedding jewelry that she needs to wear immediately.

Guests Invitations

Guests Invitations - Cantonese Wedding Traditions

Have you seen a Chinese wedding invitation? The typical Chinese invitation is also in the color red with gold vertical wording read from right to left. People will first see the groom's information, followed by the bride's information. It is also placed in a red envelope with the double happiness symbol.

Some important information included in the initiations is the dates for the wedding banquet, the order of birth and names of the bride and groom, the parents' names, the dinner venue, cocktail reception time, and time for the dinner.

Preparing The Bridal Bed

eparing The Bridal Bed - Cantonese Wedding Traditions

The bridal bed will be installed in the bridal room by a man of good fortune–one with a live husband, children, and grandchildren at another auspicious date. It is typically 2-3 days before the actual wedding.

A woman of good fortune will cover the bed with new, red linen and lay a plate on top of the bed with dried longans, lotus seeds, red dates, persimmons, and a sprig of pomegranate leaves, as well as two red money packets.

The tradition dates back to ancient Chinese marriages when the couple was escorted to the bridal chamber after the ceremony and sat on the bed together. The couple's room is frequently painted with red and gold to add a spark to the bedroom and marriage, making it easier for them to conceive. They utilize lamps on occasion.

Chinese Tea Ceremony

Chinese Tea Ceremony - Cantonese Wedding Traditions

A Chinese wedding wouldn't be complete without the Chinese tea ceremony. It is the most important wedding tradition because this is when the bride and groom honor their parents and express their thanks for the many years they have spent under their care.

The tea ceremony is conducted by the couple serving tea to the bride's parents, followed by the bride's other family and relatives. After this, they do the same with the groom's family members.

Hair Combing Ceremony

Hair Combing Ceremony - Cantonese Wedding Traditions

One of the unique Chinese wedding traditions done in Chinese weddings is the hair combing ceremony. A tradition signifies both the bride and groom's coming of age and entry into adulthood. In this ceremony, the bride's mother brushes the bride's hair on the morning of the wedding.

The groom's mother brushes the groom's hair before the ceremony.
The hair combing ceremony is usually held the night before the wedding and in the bride and groom's homes. It guarantees that they look their best before the wedding. But, today, not all the couples that are getting married are doing this tradition. It depends on how traditional their families are.

Picking Of The Bride, Door Games, And Gate Crashing

Picking Of The Bride, Door Games, And Gate Crashing - Cantonese Wedding Traditions

Picking the bride on the wedding day is also one of the most important Chinese wedding traditions. To the bride's house, the groom leads a raucous procession. This procession plays loud musical instruments while lighting firecrackers. 

This tradition demonstrates how delighted the groom's family is to have a new wife. The groom's wish to have children is symbolized by a child walking in front of him.

The groom must first get the approval of the bride's friends and family before he can take his new wife away. Before he can take the bride's hand, a man worthy of her hand needs to pass various "tests" (at today's wedding, these are symbolized by the games). The origins of door games can be traced back to ancient customs implying that a bride is a cherished daughter. 

Her family does not want her to marry off lightly.

Together with his groomsmen, the groom must haggle with the bride's friends when he arrives at the bride's house. They force her to perform stunts and refuse to let him through until he offers them red money packets.

When the husband sees his bride for the first time, they bow before the bride's parents. Before returning to the groom's house, this symbolizes respect and benediction. The bride's family serves them a bowl of mee sua with hard-cooked eggs, a symbol of longevity.

When the gatecrash activities have ended, the groom has successfully rejoined the bride. A bridesmaid holds a red umbrella over the bride's head to protect her from evil spirits. She exits the room and walks to the automobile. Rice is sprayed over the umbrella and the bridal car to provide good luck.

Grand Chinese Wedding Banquet

Grand Chinese Wedding Banquet - Cantonese Wedding Traditions

Grand, expensive, colorful, and meaningful. These might be a few of the best words to describe traditional Chinese wedding banquets. It is a particularly great and typically costly event. 

To deliver their gifts, guests will sign their names in a book or scroll. The bride then changes into a traditional red Chinese wedding gown once the banquet begins. The bride and groom's parents would have separate wedding feasts in traditional Chinese culture.

Of course, banquets will never be complete without food. There is a lot of food that is served. There are five to ten courses of food that are beings served during this special event. These are not ordinary food, but they are significant to the Chinese culture like the following:

  • whole fish- abundance
  • abalone - good luck and prosperity
  • sweet lotus seeds for dessert - fertility

Speeches are also delivered at the banquet honoring the parents and grandparents. There are also occasions when songs are performed or a slideshow is shown.

On the wedding night, a candle of a dragon and a phoenix will be lit in the newlyweds' room, and the new pair will sip wine from two cups tied together with crimson rope. The candle denotes good luck on the couple's first night as husband and wife.

The Day After The Wedding

The Day After The Wedding - Cantonese Wedding Traditions

If you think that after the day of the wedding, everything is over, then you couldn't be more wrong because there are important wedding traditions that the Chinese do.

On this day, the bride is in the groom's home, and she is introduced to the entire family. The bride usually arranges a meal for both families the day after the wedding. All of the guests give her gifts or money in exchange.

The groom's parents will also offer her a title based on the seniority of her spouse in the household. Her title is how her extended family refers to her.

Third-Day Celebrations

Third-Day Celebrations - Cantonese Wedding Traditions

The bride and groom visit the bride's family three days after the wedding. The bride is no longer considered a member of the family, although she is still welcomed as a visitor. It is also a way of ensuring that she is in good hands and well-taken care of by the groom's family.

In this tradition, the groom must give a roasted pig to the rest of the family and share a meal with them. The roasted baby pig symbolizes purity. The bride and groom also bring gifts to their parents and other family members.

The wedding traditions above are for traditional Chinese weddings, which means these traditions are done from the old times. Because of globalization and industrialization, modern Chinese weddings do not practice all of these.

Modern weddings are now more practical but still meaningful. Chinese traditions are still there but not in a full-blown state. What's important is you'll have your wedding marrying the person you love.

 

Cantonese Vocabulary Related To Wedding Ceremony

CantoneseJyutping RomanizationEnglish Translation
婚禮fan1 lai5Wedding
花束faa1 cuk1Bouquet
新娘san1 noeng4Bride
伴娘bun6 noeng2Bridesmaid
新郎san1 long4Groom
度蜜月dou6 mat6 jyut6Honeymoon
求婚kau4 fan1Proposal
乾杯gon1 bui1Toast
結婚蛋糕git3 fan1 daan6 gou1Wedding Cake
婚約fan1 joek3Wedding Contract
婚紗fan1 saa1Wedding Dress
面紗min6 saa1Wedding veil
結婚禮物git3 fan1 lai5 mat6Wedding Gift
婚禮請柬fan1 lai5 cing2 gaan2Wedding Invitation
結婚戒指git3 fan1 gaai3 zi2Wedding Ring
已婚ji5 fan1Married
夫婦fu1 fu5Married couple
配偶pui3 ngau5Spouse
女婿neoi5 sai3Son-in-law
新抱san1 pou5Daughter-in-law
老爺lou5 je4Father-in-law (husband’s father)
外父ngoi6 fu2Father-in-law (wife’s father)
奶奶naai4 naai2Mother-in-law (husband’s mother)
外母ngoi6 mou2Mother-in-law (wife’s mother)
婚紗相fan1 saa1 soeng2pre-wedding photos
請飲ceng2 jam2to invite someone to their wedding banquet
我結婚喇ngo5 git3 fan1 laa3.I’m getting married.

 

Culture And Language Always Comes Together

The Chinese wedding tradition is interesting to learn, but this will be more meaningful if you know how to express your feelings in the Cantonese language. 

Not only you could tell the person you love how much you love them, but you can also communicate properly with each other, family, friends, and other people. For me, that's another kind of love. So, if you wanna learn Cantonese, why not start learning with Ling App?

Everything from vocabulary, grammar, listening, speaking, writing, and reading down to practicing dialogues, Ling App has already got it covered. You can also read many blog posts like this to learn more about Cantonese Culture.

There's nothing you can lose if you learn the Cantonese language. There are lots of advantages when you start learning. So, take your time worth it and start learning Cantonese with Ling App now.

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