China is a large country with 56 nationalities. Different nationalities have different marriage customs, but whatever the nationality is, the wedding ceremony is usually very complicated.
The following topic is on the marriage custom practiced by the Han nationality, which comprised 94% of China's population.
The traditional Chinese marriage usually involves 6 necessary procedures, namely: matchmaking, engagement, betrothal presents, meeting the bride, three bows and drinking wedlock wine.
Matchmaking is that the matchmaker will woo the girl on the boy's behalf and asks about the girl's age and year of birth and then goes to a fortune-teller to predict their future.
Engagement is a ceremony involving an exchange of engagement certificate which indicates the year, month, day and hour of each other's birth, each pair consisting of one Heavenly Stem and one Earthly Branch.
Betrothal presents are gifts sent to the girl's family, usually some ladies' wear, ornaments and money. The girl's family may return the man's hat and shoes or stationery in addition to some dowry.
Meeting the bride is when the bridegroom goes to the bride's home to meet her, and the bride is usually veiled and carried with the sound of the bells and drums in a sedan-chair for the wedding.
Three Bows, also called bow to Heaven and Earth, is the most important rite in the ceremony. The new couple need to stand side by side, making three bows. First bow is to heaven, earth and ancestors; second to both parents and the third to each other.
Drinking wedlock wine is the last but probably the most exciting procedure for the marriage. The new couple, after an exchange of toasts and drinks, will soon be ready to rest.
A typical Chinese wedding nowadays goes like this: when a new couple is engaged, what followed is actually a choice of the date of their marriage. Most people would favor a bank holiday or special Chinese festivals because those dates are usually more convenient for their relatives and friends to attend the wedding. However, quite a few others, especially those in the countryside, would probably ask a fortune-teller to choose a special lucky red-letter date (usually an even number) so that their marriage would have " Double Happiness".
On the day of the wedding, the bridal chamber is brightly lit and graciously decorated. The bride and the bridegroom make themselves up to look their best. In rural areas, the bride is veiled and carried in a sedan chair, whereas in urban areas, the bridegroom usually meets the bride in a car.
Upon the arrival of the bride, firecrackers are set off and colorful ribbons and confetti are thrown all over the bride and bridegroom to bring them good luck. Sometimes, very loud traditional music is also played to create a lively atmosphere.
The wedding ceremony is usually presided over by a prestigious figure from either the bride's or the bridegroom's work unit. After a lot of courtesies and formalities, the new couple is required to stand side by side, making three bows.
The wedding ceremony very often ends with a very extravagant banquet. Toasts are made to wish the new couple long life, eternal love and happiness, early birth of a healthy baby and so on. They are also usually given many lovely and useful gifts by their friends and relatives.
Photo Gallery of Chinese Marriage Customs