Chinese wedding traditions are observed slightly differently in Malaysia according to the dialect group.
Before the Wedding
It all begins with the groom’s parents asking the bride’s parents for their daughter’s hand in marriage. This step is known as “tai chan” or the proposal. During the proposal, both parties discuss (how to) choose a favorable date, figure out the details of betrothal gift, bride price, religious ceremony, wedding reception and so on. Many of the traditional practices have been simplified for the convenience modern couples now.
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The groom would present the betrothal gift (“Guo Dai Lai”) to the woman’s family approximately one month before they get married. The significance of the color red in Chinese culture is that it brings luck and prosperity to the happy occasion. Here is an example of some content of the gift (which is mostly red or orange in color) for your reference, it varies with different Chinese dialect in Malaysia:
- A pair of red packets which contain the “ping kam” (money from the groom’s family to the bride)
- Six types of grains which consist of: red dates, lily bulbs, dried longans, lotus seeds, red beans, green beans
- Two bottles of liquor
- A pair of double happiness red Chinese candles
- Six cans of pork trotters or roast pork to signify prosperity
- even numbered tangerines or oranges
- 2 coconuts (for fertility)
- 2 pieces of red cloth (to be hung on the door)
- Tea leaves and tea set
- Wedding biscuits/ cakes (for the bride’s family to distribute to other relatives)
- Bowls and chopsticks (symbolizes the abundance of food)
- Dried seafood: Dried Abalone, Sea Cucumber, Fish Maw, Scallops, Shitake Mushrooms, oysters
- Baskets to contain all the items
Bride’s return gift to show that the groom has been too generous:
- A pair of red packets which contains dowry (or part of the bride money)
- gifts for the groom: trousers, shoes, wallet, socks
- Tea leaves and tea set (for the tea ceremony)
- Wedding biscuits/ cakes
Wedding Biscuit/ cakes
The sweet pastries are usually distributed by the girl’s family to friends/ relatives to share their joy of the happy union. The handing out of bridal biscuits which are received from the boy’s family is also a form of wedding invitation to the wedding feast.
Installing the Bridal Bedroom
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Preparation is done by installing a newly purchased bed and the bridal room with red covers and decorative. Small children are invited to jump on the bed as as omen of fertility. The bed is to be scattered with red dates, lily bulbs lotus seeds, red beans, green beans, oranges for the same reason.
The Wedding Day
Hair Dressing Ritual
On the night before (or at the dawn of her wedding day), a “good luck woman” or the mother of the bride will dress the bride’s hair in the style of a married woman while uttering auspicious words. Instead of styling the hair, a more common practice now is just combing the hair.
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Pick the Bride (“Jip San Leong”)
In the olden days, the procession from the groom’s house to obtain the bride is accompanied by loud firecrackers and gongs. Hence these days, the entourage would drive in front of the bride’s house and honk loudly on the auspicious wedding day chosen by the couple’s families. The groom prepares gifts of cash in red packets to be given to the bride’s maids in exchange for his bride. Before he and his groomsmen are allowed to get the bride, they have to go through some challenges or the door games to show that it is sad to have the daughter separated from the family.
Tea is served as a symbolic gesture of asking for permission and expressing one’s gratitude to their parents for bringing them up. The bride will stand on the left and the groom on the right. The male elder being served will sit facing the bride, the female elder facing the groom. The bride and groom will bow (or kneel) to the elders and address them by their formal titles during the tea ceremony. In return the elders will impart words of marriage wisdom, money in red packets or jewelries to the couple.
To announce the couple’s union to the public, a feast or series of feasts are given by the bride and groom’s families.
After the Wedding
Happens 3 days after the wedding day. A whole roast pig is given to the bride’s family at the bride’s home visit to signify the bride’s virginity and purity.