Chinese all around the world practice different customs when it comes to the wedding day. The very traditional Chinese marriage rituals have since been modified according to different countries’ customs especially for the young and modern couples. I would like to take this opportunity to share the Chinese wedding ceremony customs that the modern Malaysian Chinese families typically follow, on the actual wedding day. It was my younger brother’s wedding last weekend and I was happy to witness the whole process that started early in the morning, with both the bride and groom getting ready at their respective houses.
Bride’s father getting ready for prayers
Offerings to the Gods
On the actual wedding day, the bride would get ready with her wedding gown and wait in her room for the groom to ‘collect’ or ‘fetch’ her back to the groom’s house, a process fondly known as ‘Chip San Leong’. While waiting for the groom to arrive, the bride’s parents would set up a table of offerings for the Gods to ensure that the couple has a happy and long-lasting marriage, and to bless them on their wedding day.
Burning joss sticks
According to the auspicious time set by the fortune-teller, the groom and his entourage would arrive, accompanied with loud, blaring car horns along the way, to signify to the rest of the neighbourhood that someone is getting married! The bridal car would be parked outside the house, followed by the groom’s buddies or ‘heng tai’. The groom, however, would have to remain in the car until the bride’s brother opens the door for him.
The groom and his ‘heng tais’
Waiting patiently in the car
The bride’s younger brother (or cousin brother if she has no brother) would then open the groom’s car door, so that the groom could proceed to the house to see the bride.
Out of the car
But it’s not so easy! The house was locked! And all the bridesmaids (chi mui) were blocking the groom’s entourage from entering. In order to enter the house, the groom and heng tais would have to go through several ‘tests’ set up by the bridesmaids. This was done to make the ceremony more fun, and to make the groom overcome some obstacles before getting to the bride.
Bridesmaids blocking the entrance
Some of the games played that day included finishing up a plate of sandwiches. Now they might look very yummy from the outside, but these bridesmaids had put in various ingredients that made the sandwich taste quite horrible. Perhaps this was a test to the groom so that in the future, no matter what his wife cooks, he’ll have to finish it!
Sandwiches for the groom and his brothers
Thick layer of salt! and a slice of lemon among others
After the sandwiches, they were made to drink glasses of weird-looking drinks. True to their spirits, the guys lived up to expectations and finished the gross-looking beverage.
What is this?
Would you drink it?
Wonder how it tasted
The eating and drinking was just the beginning of a series of tests. Soon, the girls prepared a layer of cling film patterned with tomato ketchup on both sides. The task now was for the guys to lick the ketchup clean, on both sides of the film! And they had to do it simultaneously.
Cling film with tomato ketchup
Licking it clean
The guys completed the task well and thought they could enter the house, but no, there was another task in store.
No entry… yet!
Each guy was to put on lipstick on their lips, and make an ‘I <3 U’ sentence by kissing on pieces of paper pasted on the groom’s body.
Kiss the paper
Getting carried away with kissing…
The final product
Soon, all the bridesmaids were inside the house, a sign that they were ready to let the groom enter, but only after a little reward. This was when the groom’s brothers would help to negotiate a price with the bridesmaids, reaching an agreement such that they would be allowed to enter the house.
A red packet for the bridesmaids to open the door
First stage passed!
Little did they know that there were still a couple of challenges awaiting them inside the house, before the bride’s room! The first task was to kiss the word ‘Angie’ on the papers pasted on the wall. Based on their previous experience, the guys were already expert in this!
Teamwork is crucial
Finally, the last task that morning was for the groom to painstakingly peel the skin of some grapes, as a sign that he would do so for the bride in the future – and to be a patient, loving and kind husband.
Peeling the grapes with concentration
While peeling the grapes, the groom was asked to give “20 reasons why I love Angie” and he had to say it loud enough that the bride could hear it from the room. When she was finally satisfied, the door was unlocked.
“I love Angie because…”
Let’s go in!
Kiss the bride
with the bridesmaids and groomsmen
After fetching the bride from the room, they now had to go through the Chinese Tea Ceremony, where they would serve tea to their parents as a sign of getting their blessing.
In return, the parents would usually give something to the newly-weds, usually in the form of jewelry.
Gold ring for the groom
Bracelet for the bride
Tea would also be served to other elder relatives of the bride, with the sequence following their seniority in the family. For relatives younger than the bride, tea would not be served, instead it was a shake of hands or a hug.
Hugs for younger relatives of the family
When the tea ceremony was completed, it was time to go back to the groom’s house, where the groom’s family would be waiting to welcome the new bride home.
Father of the bride holds an umbrella as a sign of protecting the bride
To the groom’s house
In the bridal suite
Over at the groom’s family, the same prayers and rituals were repeated. It was then followed by another Tea Ceremony, for the groom’s family and relatives.
Tea with red dates for a sweet marriage
Tea for the groom’s parents
Look at how happy they were – bottoms up!
Jewelry for the newly-weds
After the tea ceremony was completed, relatives and friends were treated to a light lunch before they left to get ready for the banquet dinner at night. The whole morning was filled with activities that everything seemed to happen so quickly. My brother is now officially married, and I hereby welcome Angie to the family as my new sister-in-law.
Congratulations to my brother and his wife, Angie!