Chinese Traditional Wedding: Must-haves for Bride and Groom

Dreaming of a truly individual, fun yet elegant wedding that you will never forget? Who doesn't? Nowadays more and more young people in China put on the white bridal gown and suite like what the Westerns do on their weddings, yet still keep many Chinese wedding traditions and customs which are deeply rooted in Chinese culture.

Some Chinese newlyweds even dust off the old favorites, and seize the opportunity to have a unique and unforgettable wedding by practicing the traditions and customs of a real Chinese wedding, including betrothal, installation of the bridal bed, hair combing ceremony, tea ceremony, wearing a traditional Chinese ensemble for wedding ceremony, etc.

There are a few things that bride and groom must have for a Chinese traditional wedding:

1. Traditional Chinese Wedding Dress

The traditional Chinese bridal dress has a long history of development for over thousands of years and has changed in the long process of passing on. Chinese wedding dress originated in Zhou Dynasty and come into being the “traditional Chinese wedding dress” we know today in Ming and Qing dynasties.

Chinese bride’s wedding dress is typically red and features an embroidered phoenix, a divine bird in Chinese ancient legend and a traditional symbol for bride. Then she needs a phoenix crown and a red veil to cover her face. In Chinese culture, red color symbolizes good luck, happiness, and prosperity.

For the bride in North China, the wedding dress is traditionally a qipao or cheongsam with Manchu origin. This elegant one-piece form-fitting dress highlights feminine curves and is still preferred by many brides today.

Brides in South China wear Qun Kwa (裙褂), also known as Dragon and Phoenix Gua (Long Feng Gua, 龙凤褂) becuase dragon and phoenix are often embroidered on. Qun Kwa is a two-piece gown consisting of a jacket and a long skirt with highly elabroate embroideries with gold and silver threads.

Traditional Chinese Wedding Dress

Traditional Chinese Bridal Veil

Bride in Chinese traditional wedding also wears a veil, but in red color. Traditionally it features a red silk cloth to veil the bride's face when she is transferred from her parents’ home to her husband's. And the groom will finally uncover the bride’s veil.

Traditional Chinese Wedding Shoes

The bride and groom should wear brand new shoes on the wedding day. Bridal shoes are usually in red, golden or champagne color to match with the dress and embroidered with moutan peony, koi fish, mandarin duck, etc. symbolizing happiness and harmony after marriage.

2. Traditional Chinese Groom's Attire

For a traditional Chinese wedding, the groom usually wears a red “Number One Scholar” robe, matched with a black gauze cap. What does the groom wear for a traditional Chinese wedding nowadays? It’s usually based on what the bride is wearing. If the bride wears a qipao, the groom can wear a cheongsam or Chinese tunic suit. If the bride wears a Qun Kwa, the groom can choose to wear the traditional Ma Gua (马褂). But it’s also very common to see grooms in western suits no matter what brides wear.


(Chinese Celebrities' Wedding Outifts: Qun Kua and modified Ma Gua)

3. Traditional Chinese Wedding Sedan Chair

On Chinese traditional wedding, the sedan chair carries the bride to the groom’s home. It is covered with a red curtain embroidered with dragon and phoenix. They are sedans carried by 4 people or 8 people.

For most people in Chinese, it’s more convenient now to use sedan cars instead of chairs as wedding car convoy. And here are some tips for your reference:

  • If the leading car is white, so should the last, which symbolizing the couple grow old together until their hair turns white.
  • The numbers of wedding motorcade should be even numbers like six or eight, and avoid odd numbers except nine (homonym of longevity in Chinese).

  • Chinese Wedding Sedan Chair and Car

    4. Chinese Marital Bed

    For modern Chinese people, a traditional Chinese marital bed is more like a piece of art. The material and workmanship are matchless. In the past times, it took about three years to finish a perfect marital bed. Today, many boutique hotels in China still have this kind of bed in their featured rooms. However, nowadays Chinese people still follow the traditional customs for preparing the wedding bed.

    A woman considered fortunate (married with a still-living husband, have many children and grandchildren) is the ideal person to set up the matrimonial bed to pass good luck and fertility to the couple. This lady is usually a female relative of the bridegroom.

    The bedding set for traditional Chinese wedding must be in red color with dragon and phoenix, or moutan peony embroidery. Then put lucky foods red dates, peanuts, longan and lotus seeds (homonymous early birth of a child) one the bed and two red envelopes with money in multiples of number nine on the pillows. The final touch? Ask children especially boys to jump and roll around on the bed to bless the newlyweds with fertility.

    Note:

  • Do not put sharp tools and scissors on the bed. Because from the Feng Shui perspective, they symbolize the newlyweds will hold a grudge against each other and the marriage affection will change.
  • Do not let anyone sit or lie on the marital bed before the wedding day is finished, including the newlyweds.
  • Chinese Wedding

    5. Traditional Chinese Wedding Candles

    Pairs of red candles are lit in the hall and the bedroom of the newlyweds at the wedding night. In the old times, discerning people use a pair of red candles emblazoned with dragon and phoenix on each candle respectively to symbolize prosperity and carrying on the family name.

    Some people also use red candles carved out the "Double Happiness’" character as wedding candles. Double Happiness (囍, shuang xi in Chinese) is a treasured traditional Chinese symbol composed of two copies of the Chinese character 喜 (xi in Chinese), which literally means joy and happiness. This symbol is commonly used on celebratory occasions like weddings and birthdays. 

    Chinese Wedding Candles

    6. “Double Happiness” Paper Cuts

    It is a long-standing marriage custom in China to post red “Double Happiness” characters paper cuts for happy marriage. Let’s see the taboos and precautions of pasting happy characters for wedding.

    The “Double Happiness” characters are usually posted in the morning before the wedding both indoor and outdoor. The bridegroom’s family should post the characters from the outside to the house, while the bride’s family the opposite. For indoor decoration of the newlywed’s house, the characters can be posted on doors, windows, mirrors, dressing tables, and furniture.

    The “Double Happiness” characters must be in pairs. If there is a single door or single window, the characters should be pasted on the front and back of the door or window. It is also advisable to use even numbers for the decoration of the characters.

    Notes:

  • Do not post the “Double Happiness” characters upside down. Keep them in a horizontal position.
  • Do not remove the “Double Happiness” characters on doors and windows after the wedding. Let them fall off naturally, or clean them after a year of marriage. The characters on furniture, mirrors, home appliances, etc. can be removed the next day of the wedding.
  • Double Happiness Paper Cuts for Chinese Wedding

    7. Chinese Wedding Firecrackers

    Firecrackers are another must have for any Chinese wedding to drive away evil spirits. The firecrackers are crackling and spluttering in celebration.

    - First, set off firecrackers when the bridegroom departs to the bride’s home.

    - Firecrackers on arrival at the bride’s home.

    - Set off more firecrackers to mark departure from the bride’s home to the bridegroom’s home.

    - Firecrackers from time to time along the way to the hotel for wedding ceremony and dinner.

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