When I think about Chinese weddings, there are really tons of things that come to my mind. Let’s start with the color red!
As you know, we Chinese love the color red. It’s not because of the revolution; we’ve loved this color for a really long time. You can see lots of red in The Forbidden City, and we think the color red can bring us luck and and make us rich. ( In my opinion, that’s why Coca Cola sells better than Pepsi in China — because of the red color).
The hope for luck, wealth and health are the reasons for all the red things in a Chinese wedding. I know western women would not wear a red wedding dress, but in China, a red wedding dress is traditional; it’s the most common color. The bride also wears red shoes and a red veil.
If you’re invited to attend a Chinese wedding, don’t forget to bring the Hongbao, the red envelope with money. How much should you put in? Good question. It depends on how close you are to the family. Usually, it’s from 200 to 1000 Yuan. But remember, put the money in a red envelope, not a white one. if you bring a white one, it will stand out among all those red envelopes, and I’m sure it will be the first white envelope in traditional Chinese wedding history.
In northern China, the wedding ceremony starts in the morning. The bride has to get up very early — about 4 AM — and she will dress and wait in her parent’s home. The groom comes to pick her up at 9:18, 10:18 or 11:18 AM. Why 18? Because, all Chinese love 18 very much. It means you will get rich. Most grooms arrive at 9:18 AM. It’s not because they want to see the bride so much; it’s because it’s not easy to enter the door, because the bridesmaids and other friends make it very difficult for the groom to get in and see the bride! They want to remind the groom how hard he has worked to get his wife, and so he should treat her well.
After lots of torment, finally the groom comes in. Then, a happy world is waiting for him. Everyone smiles, and he suddenly turns into a king. Then the Xinren – the new couple – tradition occurs, in which the new couple feed each other dumplings with red chopsticks. Sometimes, the red chopsticks are even tied by a red rope, meaning that the couple will stay together forever.
Of course, there are other complicated ceremonies which all mean good luck. Then the groom takes his bride to their new house, which is usually a gift from the groom’s parents. There are four different kinds of things in their bed: dates, peanuts, longans and lotus seeds. Are these for eating? No, they all have special meanings. We call these four things dazao, huasheng, guiyuan and lianzi, all together called Zaoshengguizi. They mean you will have a baby soon. Actually, in the old days, the baby in the phrase was boy because people loved boys so much.
The bride sits in the bed for a while, and then it is time to go to the restaurant. Most of their friends will be waiting for the Xinren there. If you attend a Chinese wedding, you’ll be there, too. In the restaurant, all the tables are round. It signifies unity, people working together, loving each other and helping each other. There will be 8 or 10 people at one table, never 9 because we don’t like odd numbers, they’re not lucky (please remember).
After a 40-to-60-minute wedding ceremony, the Xinren start to toast everybody at the wedding. It could be 100 people, even 200. Can the groom really drink that much? No, he will toast you with water in the bottle of white wine which we call Baijiu. I got blamed when I was the best man for my best friend because I accidentally served him white wine instead of water. I still remember his strange face when he said to me: “It was baijiu, John!” I’d like to forgave myself because there so many people to toast, but I still feel even more sorry for the guests who drank a cup of water instead of wine during the wedding toast after paying 200 Yuan!
Now it’s almost finished; people eat and wait for the toast, people take photos with the Xinren and finally leave. The Xinren may have another small dinner at night for only close friends. This is a Chinese wedding. I hope you get to attend one soon.