A few days ago I wrote about this blog collaboration from around the world, and now the time has come for our posts to appear! We could be writing anything about our culture’s food, customs, holiday, clothes… and I chose to go with a Chinese wedding in Southeast Asia. 🎎
Why? Well, it was a pretty interesting time for me (back in 2015), and while I’m glad I don’t have to do any more wedding planning stuff, I do look back at the memories fondly. And I thought it would be interesting for others too. 😀
Disclaimer: I’m writing more on Chinese weddings in Southeast Asia, where I’m at, so this might not apply to all Chinese weddings! And it might not be as detailed as how some could be (since we didn’t follow all the traditions). 😅
Note: Because my wall of text for this collaboration is super long, I decided to split it into two posts! Part #2 will be out about 12 hours after this, though Part #1 is pretty long by itself, I suggest getting a cup of tea or coffee and relax while you read. ☕🍵
The topic split is as follows:
- #1: The engagement, registration, pre-wedding photoshoot, bonus: if you’re attending a Chinese wedding banquet, and a surprise section ⬅ You are here!
- #2: The wedding ceremony, wedding banquet, and a surprise section #2 😛
In ancient China, arranged marriages were the way to go, so often matchmakers were hired to select a suitable partner with a good social standing, and fortune tellers were consulted to determine if the couple were compatible (using birth dates, time, etc). The formal proposal is accepted only if the couple were compatible and have good social standing!
Nowadays, though, couples marry for love rather than going for arranged marriage, so as long as the couple agree and both sets of parents are fine with it, the engagement is good to go! The stuff you see in TV dramas (i.e. a couple love each other but their parents oppose their intention to marry because the partner-to-be is of a different social standing) don’t usually apply to us ordinary folk. 😆
Chinese wedding proposals didn’t originally include rings (jewellery come at a later step), but even these were influenced by western cultures and De Beer’s diamond advertisement in the 20th century, so now most couples propose with diamond rings and have a separate wedding ring later. 💍
In my case, my husband and I had “the talk” about getting married in the months leading up to the engagement, in which I told him not to get me a diamond ring or even an ordinary engagement one. I felt (and still feel) it wasn’t practical to have 2 rings (engagement and wedding), so why not save the money from the engagement ring to spend on, say, the wedding ring?
Interestingly, when my husband proposed to me while we were holidaying out of town, he did so with his late grandmother’s diamond ring! I remember staring at him at the time and he said, “Well, technically I didn’t buy a diamond ring!” 😆
Selection of Wedding Date
Back then, this was a pretty big affair. A couple would need to visit a fortune teller (sounds like a lucrative job, huh?) to pick an auspicious date and time to hold the wedding, and typically we avoid the 7th lunar month (typically around August / September) because of the Hungry Ghost Festival. 👻
Nowadays, though? One can still hire a fortune teller to pick the date, though there are a lot of Chinese calendars come with notes like “good day for marriage” or “bad day for renovation works” and stuff, or better yet, just ask Uncle Google! That’s what I did in a “Well, since Uncle Google says this, this and that date is good, let’s just pick this (random) date!” way. 😆
A few weeks before the wedding ceremony, as a sign of honouring his promise to marry the bride, the groom (or back then, the groom and/or the matchmaker) would offer betrothal gifts to the bride’s family, usually food and cakes in a basket / box to symbolise prosperity and good wealth. The items differ according to which dialect group the couples are from (for example, the Hokkien would have a different set of items compared to the Cantonese) and are usually in even numbers to symbolise the couple. The groom’s parents would also give the bride price (or bride wealth) – which is money in a red packet (or angpow) – to the bride’s parents, and gold jewellery to the bride to show their acceptance of her into the family. 🎎
Here’s the interesting part; the bride’s family would return a portion of the betrothal gifts and bride price to show that the groom’s family is overly generous, that the bride’s family is not greedy, and that both family can share the good luck! At the same time the bride’s parents will give the dowry to the bride, which includes household items like mirror, comb, bedsheets, basin, etc, kind of like a newlyweds’ home stuff starter set. 🎁
Complicated, huh? 😛
Registration of Marriage (ROM)
Of course, back in ancient China couples didn’t have to visit the government and fill up forms to get married, so a couple is considered married after the wedding ceremony. The same societal thinking still applies now – a couple isn’t considered married even after registering their marriage legally unless the ceremony is done – but that doesn’t stop couples from celebrating their ROM. There are many ways to get registered, though all of them require the same legal paperwork. 📝
ROM via a Buddhist Temple
Many temples have their own registrar of marriages who can perform legal marriages (or they may hire one), so Buddhist couples could arrange a Buddhist ritual and have their ROM done on the spot! A cousin of mine did this and invited the whole family for the ritual, followed by lunch. 🍛
ROM via a Church
Chinese Christians can do the same via a church and get married by a priest! I can’t describe more as I’ve never attended one at a church (plus I’m not a Christian), but my understanding is; usually the ROM ceremony is held in the morning inside the church, then an outdoor lunch on the church grounds. 🙂
ROM via a Bridal House
Bridal house are a big thing here (there’s a street near in town that has like 15 of them 😅) and their service includes the pre-wedding photoshoot and other wedding-related stuff (more on that later). Some of them even offer a ROM package, which includes rental of wedding dress and coat, a photographer, a registrar of marriages and organising a small party! 🎊🎉🎈
While any reason is a good reason to celebrate, some couples choose to have a ROM party because they don’t plan to have the Chinese wedding ceremony anytime soon (like 1 – 2 years kind of anytime soon), commonly to save money for the wedding. I’ve had a colleague who did this. 🙂
ROM via, well, the Government
Of course, nothing’s stopping a couple from just submitting the paperwork, bring witnesses and get married by a government officer! (It’s way cheaper too; all you need is the fee for the forms and a meal / drink for your witnesses. 🍶)
This is what my husband and I did; we booked an appointment slot with the government (we were really lucky, because 14 Feb 2015 is a Saturday and a really popular date!), went in with our witnesses (just our immediate family), swore an oath with the official, signed the form and then went out to a nice lunch. 🍱🍲🍛
This certainly isn’t part of ancient tradition, though I thought I’d throw it in since it’s expected now! A pre-wedding photoshoot is as it sounds – a professional photoshoot of the couple in wedding attire at different locations, done before the wedding – and the end results are usually a large picture frame, a customised photo album, a guestbook customised with the couple’s pictures, and some even provide a hundred or so copies of cards with a photo inside!
Sounds expensive, eh? That’s why most bridal houses offer several services in a package:
- Pre-wedding photoshoot: The photoshoot service, rental of a few dresses and coats for the photos, makeup, the photoshoot products mentioned above
- Actual wedding day: Rental of a few dresses and coats for the wedding, makeup, wedding car floral decoration
But why have a pre-wedding photoshoot? I’m not sure how this part came about in the first place (I suspect it’s to show how happy and compatible the couple are to the clan), though really, how many of us would fork out the time and money for a professional photoshoot in our lives? Having these beautiful albums and picture frame reminds me of those fond days (of course, minus all the planning stress 😆).
I decided to throw in this section here since I’m sure some of you would be thinking we get married (and have photoshoots) in traditional Chinese attire. But not necessarily! The Chinese culture has been influenced by western traditions too, so while some brides still wear the qipao (or cheongsam), many wear the standard white or coloured wedding gown and suit like in western weddings (including myself! 👗).
Traditionally, red in Chinese culture symbolises good fortune and joy, while yellow (and gold) symbolises good luck and is the prestigious colour of the emperor, so usually you’d see a lot of these colours during a wedding (and festive events like Chinese New Year). While white is considered a colour of mourning and black a colour of bad luck, suffering and sadness (both worn at funerals), both are becoming increasingly common during weddings due to western cultural influence. 🙂
Bonus: If You’re Attending a Chinese Wedding Banquet
Make sure to RSVP to the couple on-time, or better yet, early! This is because each table is actually allocated to those attending, so if you don’t RSVP but attending anyway, you might not get a seat. 😶
As long as you look neat and well-dressed (no torn or dirty clothes, please), you can wear jeans with a nice top, or a party dress. Or if you’d like it a bit more formal, you could wear a long-sleeved top and pants, like what people usually wear to corporate offices! Do try and wear red (Chinese colour for good fortune and joy) or yellow (prestigious colour of the emperor). Though if you’re worried, you can ask the couple what to wear for the wedding!
There was once I accidentally told a colleague (my ex-boss, actually) to wear formal; actually I meant what he normally wears for work will do, but he actually came in a full super formal attire, with a tuxedo, a bowtie and everything! He gave me that half-smiley half-WTH look (he’s a pretty jolly guy) and said, “Nicolle! I thought you said formal wear!” And I was like, “Hey, you look good! But, uh, oops?” 😆
Red Packet (Angpow) / Wedding Gift
Usually in a Chinese wedding, it’s not required to give a gift (though you could if you want to, like another colleague who gave me a good book on marriage!). Instead, a red packet with money inside (a.k.a. angpow) should be given, as a sign of wishing the couple prosperity and to help them with the wedding costs. 💵
And yes, you’ll have to procure the red packets yourself! Usually you can find red packets in a Chinese store, possibly one in a predominantly Chinese area (like China Town), and Uncle Google says you can find them online too. Though if you happen to be in a Chinese area during Chinese New Year, well, you’re in luck, because these red packets are usually given away for free by various banks and departmental stores! (Because free advertising. 😆)
How much money should one put inside the red envelope? It varies, though you could always refer to this funky and humourous yet workable formula:
In the end, though, the best gift you could give the couple is your heartfelt wish for their happiness. ❤
Surprise, Some Photos of Me!
Yep, I’m posting some photos of myself for the first time since I started Stories of a Highly Sensitive Introvert! And yep, this was the “surprise” I mention earlier. Well, surprise! 🎊🎉🎈🎊🎉🎈
When I first started blogging here, I never thought I’d ever post any pictures of me, but ever since I revealed my online pseudonyms in this post, I’ve gotten nothing but positive and supporting words! It made me feel good enough that I’m comfortable sharing some pictures of me (and my husband, with his permission). 🖼
Of course, since these are wedding photos from my wedding in 2015 and I had a professional make-up artist then (that was my one and only time having eyelash extensions!), I don’t usually look like that in my daily life – I don’t really do make-up and I prefer to walk around in T-shirt and leggings, plus I wear glasses all the time unless I’m sleeping. And no, I’m not wearing contact lenses in these pictures, because I had a hard time putting them on and just decided to go without my glasses. (I can see pretty well, I just can’t tell who is who in the distance. 😆)
Still, I hope it gives you an idea of what I look like. 😀
Yep, we had an all day photoshoot session (on Christmas eve!), starting from the morning until night! Unlike some people who actually travel for a multi-day photoshoot, we chose to take pictures at the bridal house (which is actually very well decorated compared to many we’ve seen!) and take a 15-minutes’ drive to a nearby beach for the outdoor shoot. Looks like we went to many places, eh? 😆
Why didn’t I choose to wear a qipao? I’m not a fan of wearing body-hugging clothes (or all my flab will show!), and I love the grand look of the wedding gowns! These gowns may look a little typical, but they’re not something I could wear outside of a wedding so I really enjoyed looking pretty in them. 😀
My ROM was a simple affair at the government office with just close family members as witnesses! Yep, I like my things simple. 😆
The dress I’m wearing is actually something I bought from a departmental store; it’s kind of a mix between a qipao and a party dress, though what I love the most about this dress is how it flares when I walk! The front is knee length, and the hem slowly extends downwards to the back where it becomes ankle length. The flare definitely makes me feel like a dynamite! 🔥
And by the way, that’s me without makeup; I had just a lipstick on. 😛
Hope you enjoyed this and my first bunch of photos on this blog! Do head here for the Part #2 post as well. 😀
A Short Self-Compassionate Letter
Wow, I’m so proud of you for posting your pictures on here! You’ve come a long way from being the shy, timid blogger when you first started. ❤
Read More on Collaboration with a Purpose: Diversity
(Links will be added when they’re up!)
- Barb Caffrey @ Barb Caffrey’s Blog: Not Just for Breakfast Anymore…
- Divyang Shah: Diversity
- Ipuna Black: Kindness, Love and Respect
- Jane Love @ Harmonious Joy: Everyone is Unique
- Jothish Joseph @ TheJothishJosephBlog: How Diverse is Diversity?
- Mylene C. Orillo: How I Found Diversity in Writing
- Sonyo Estavillo @ ‘Lil Pick Me Up: Why Writers and Readers Should Diversify Their Reading List