Chinese Wedding Rituals

Background: The informant is my mother, a Chinese immigrant who immigrated to the US after graduating college. She was born and raised on a small island off the coast of China.

A: On the day of the wedding the man knocks on the woman’s door, bringing gifts and money. The woman’s parents can…make demands. Their goal is to test his honesty…well, not honesty, maybe sincerity…they are testing his true love and his character. This can take a very long time, which also tests his patience. They ask to see if he’s willing to pay money….well, the money isn’t actually so important, but it represents that he can take care of her. He shares many candies with the children, symbolizing sweetness and feeling loved.

When the parents agree, I believe the groom carries the bride all the way to the car to express how much he truly loves her. Maybe Americans do something similar. It is a symbol for taking care of the bride in the future, like the gifts and money too.

At the wedding the bride and groom kneel in front of the bride’s parents, “磕头 (ke tou)” …this means their head must touch the ground, as an expression of gratitude.

On the third day of marriage, the woman must go home and make lots and lots of food to thank her parents. Because when the woman is married, she’s considered the man’s family and no longer a family member of her original family, so they must thank her family profusely. Traditionally she’s supposed to live with the man and his parents, but that’s different now…normally couples will live on their own.

The husband’s family makes a lot of food too, they will bring a basket of food to the wife’s house. Back in the old days, when they didn’t have cars, they would carry it all the way there on a long stick of bamboo on their shoulders and baskets are placed on either side. 

Me: Which if any of these traditions did you do when you got married?

A: We were married in America, so we didn’t do any of this. We just went back to China for a bit and took our wedding photos. Your dad visited my family for a while, and we invited everyone – friends, family – out to dinner. When my aunts and cousins would get married this is how the weddings were, but after I left home when I was 18 I didn’t keep with the traditions as much and people don’t do them as much anymore.

Context: This was told to me during a recorded phone call. Much of the transcription has been translated from Mandarin.