Chinese Wedding Customs and Traditions

Betrothal Gift Exchange (Guo Da Li)

The items to be exchanged in a Chinese Customary Wedding depend on the dialect group and in some instances, agreements between parents of the bride and groom. It is purely a customary practice and a form of Chinese culture and beliefs. It is not part of Feng Shui or any form of Chinese Metaphysics.

The number of gifts to be exchanged is not restricted/limited to the items listed below and can be substituted, reduced or increased accordingly.

Purpose: This is for the groom to show the bride’s family his financial stability and to reassure their future parents-in-laws that the bride will be well taken care of after marriage. Normally, the bride’s parents will return a portion of the gifts to avoid the impression that they are selling away their daughter.

When & how to do it: 1 week to 1 month before the Customary Wedding. An auspicious date and time will be given to you. On that date and time, the groom will step into the bride’s house with all the bridal gifts.

It includes (but not limited or restricted to) the following items:

  1. Wedding Cakes (to be distributed to relatives as part of the wedding invitation)
  2. 2 bottles of Brandy or any other liquor
  3. 2 pairs of Dragon & Phoenix candles
  4. Even number of oranges (in a wedding basket)
  5. Even number of cans of pork trotters (Cantonese will give the roast pig on AD)
  6. 1 red packet with the “Pin Jin” inside (amount requested by bride’s family)
  7. Even number of packets of peanut candies
  8. Jewellery (4 piece jewellery for Teochew) for the bride
  9. Six types of grains consisting of:
    – Red dates
    – Red beans
    – Green beans
    – Dried longans
    – Lotus seeds
    – Lily bulbs

The Bride’s family will return the following to the groom:

  1. 2 bottles of orange syrup in exchange for the 2 bottles of Brandy/Liquor
  2. 2 Phoenix candles (The Bride’s family will keep the pair of Dragon candles and give back the Phoenix candles).
  3. Even number of portion of gifts.
  4. A red packet for the groom’s parents to buy shoes, towels, etc.
  5. Even number of portion of the “Pin Jin” will returned in a red packet.



Purpose: To bless the newly weds and to symbolize that the bride is mature enough and ready to take on the role of wife and mum.

When to do it: The Dowry set will be given to the bride and future son-in-law by the bride’s family 1 week to 1 month before the Customary Wedding (usually either on the same day as the Guo Da Li, or after).

It includes (but not limited or restricted to) the following items:

  1. 1 tea set for the wedding tea ceremony
  2. A pair of red bedside lamps
  3. 1 baby’s bath tub
  4. Beddings such as pillows, blankets, comforter, bed sheet, etc
  5. 2 pairs of wooden clog
  6. 1 sewing kit (consisting of thread, needles, pincushion, scissors, etc)
  7. 1 ruler
  8. 1 baby prosperity set (plate, mug, potty, basin, toothpaste, toothbrush)
  9. 1 comb
  10. A set of Dragon and Phoenix bowls with 2 pairs of chopsticks and one thermal flask


Setting The Bridal Bed (An Chuang)

Purpose: To symbolize bringing good health and fortune to the couple and bless them with lots of children.

When & how to do it: Usually a few days to 1 week before the customary wedding (in modern days, sometimes this is done up to 1 month or more before the AD). An auspicious date and time needs to be chosen for the An Chuang.

On the auspicious date and time chosen, traditionally a good fortune woman (one whose husband is still alive, has many grandchildren, no major illness and rich) will install the bridal bed and make the bed with a new set of bed sheet (in modern days, most of the time the couple will install the bed themselves). After which, the bed is to be left undisturbed till the Customary Wedding day.

On the Customary Wedding day, when the couple returns to their matrimonial home (after going back to groom’s home for tea ceremony), the couple will put on the bed a plate with the following items:

  1. 2 oranges
  2. Peanuts
  3. Dried red dates
  4. Dried lotus seeds
  5. Dried longans
  6. Sweets
  7. Red beans
  8. Green beans
  9. A twig of pomegranate leaves
  10. 2 red packets

The pair of bedside lamps from the Dowry will then be lit and left lighted all the way till the next morning (or when the couple returns from their hotel stay). Little children are then invited to roll and jump on the bed to bless the couple with lots of children.


Fetch The Bride

Procedures (For eg. FTB timing is 0700hrs – 0859hrs):

The groom will reach the bride’s home about half hour to one hour before 0700hrs for the gate-crashing session. At 0700hrs (or after), the groom will step in to the bride’s home, fetch the bride to the groom’s home, and complete tea ceremony with his parents by 0859hrs. After which, going back to your matrimonial home or to the bride’s home for tea ceremony is not within any auspicious timing.

Conflicting Animal Signs

During the Fetch The Bride session, all the “Conflicting Animal Signs of the Day” will have to “hide” during the gate-crashing session. They are not allowed to see the groom before he steps into the bride’s parent’s house. After the groom steps in, they are allowed to come out and meet him. This procedure is to be repeated when the bride arrives at the groom’s parent’s house.

All the bridesmaid and groomsmen ideally should not be of these animal zodiac signs. The little boy that opens the car door for the groom when he reaches the bride’s home should not be this animal zodiac sign as well.



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