What can we imagine Chinese wedding? Bride and bridegroom are dressed in kimonos, some of guests are dressed like a dragon, musicians are playing exotic instruments, tables are placed according to the rules of feng shui, guests are eating sushi and hundreds of Chinese lanterns are uprushing to sky.
Actually, it’s not like that. Chinese wedding traditions are so numerous that it would take us too long to name and rather difficult to list them all. We don’t know anything at all about most of them. Anyway what are the old and the new Chinese wedding traditions?
You can hardly find the other country in which fate of the future newlyweds would depend on divination. Anteriorly Chinese groom’s family sent a special card with his date of birth and personal data to bride’s family. These numbers were used for divination — in case of positive result the bride’s family sent the same card to the groom’s family. This procedure repeated again. Wedding could be held only in the case of mutual compatibility.
During the divination process a lot of different circumstances could be taken into account: from Chinese horoscope symbols to compatibility of elements. In some cases birth dates of the potential bride and groom were falsified in order to reach acceptable compatibility.
In case if consent was achieved, the groom’s family sent to the bride’s family presents named small agreement. It could be gold, different jewelry, gems, earrings, bracelets or red fabric (red was considered to be lucky color). At the same time families stipulated the amount of bride price and contracted a marriage. Wedding could be typically assigned for the end of year — the time when chores have been finished. However, this point also could not go without divination.
Along with the note which contained the date of future wedding the groom’s family sent to the bride’s family her wedding outfit and the next portion of gifts. There were special flatbreads which served as the invitations. These flatbreads were given to the relatives and friends by bride’s family — such actions pointed to the fact of impending wedding.
The House Preparation
Bride moved into the groom’s house on the day of wedding, so her stuff had to be transported to his apartment three days before. At the same time her room was set up. The general cleaning and renovation had to be made at the house. Only those relatives who had been happily married and had children could take part in this procedure. After the newlyweds’ room was set up, the bride’s or the groom’s younger brother had to sleep in their bed — it was believed that the bed should not be empty.
The Bride’s Make-Up and Outfit
Wedding preparation began the day before event. Bride had to pluck all the hair on her face. Then her skin was covered with a thick layer of powder — that is why her face looked unnaturally pale. The brightly painted lips looked like a bloodstain against white background.
The Chinese bride wedding dress was a sort of red vest with dragons embroidered on it. Her headwear was also quite specific— it was a wire frame decorated with feathers, silk pompons and medallions. The bride’s look was typically finished with red or black vail. The legend said that it had to hide bride’s shame and sorrow which she felt because of leaving her home and family.
While wedding procession went to a groom’s house a bride had to travel in a palanquin — it was necessary, because she could bring the dirt on her shoes walking on foot. Their trip was typically accompanied with fireworks and petard explosions in order to drive away evil spirits.
Meeting of a bride in a groom’s house was noisy. This process was accompanied with ancient rites. A small table had to be in the center of yard — it served as altar. Newlyweds had to come to the table and to worship the gods of sun, sky, Earth and moon. It was necessary to notify heavenly powers about the birth of a new family.
Throughout the wedding the bride had to keep silence. According to the legend this had to promote the birth of children. She was not also allowed to eat during the solemn ceremony, so in fact she was presented at the wedding as a speechless statue.
These traditions are not kept out to the full at contemporary Chinese weddings, because they are overelaborated. However, Chinese people are still true to many of them. Thus «lucky» red color is present in the newlyweds’ outfits. Traditional white wedding gown may be worn with red shoes. However a lot of brides prefer red vest or red dress, but not the European version of bridal outfit.
Wedding cortege also includes red cars. At the same time the ceremony can be completed with more contemporary traditions. For example: a cake is the main dish of the festive table at Chinese wedding — guests should be impressed by its size.