8 things you need to know before going to a Chinese wedding

Photo: Shutterstock

Everyone knows that wearing white can be one of the biggest mistakes when attending a wedding.

But as it turns out, there are more things to consider than the dress code when attending a Chinese wedding.

Whether it be what gifts are preferred, choice of colour and what foods to expect, there are certain Chinese customs which still hold true and are highly regarded even when taking place in a Western setting.

We’ve rounded up a list of 8 things you need to know before attending any Chinese wedding.

It’s common to give cash as a gift rather than bring presents.

Photo: Shutterstock

It is typical for guests of the wedding to bring gifts in the form of “red envelopes”— a cash gift otherwise known as li shi.

If you’re not sure about the amount to put inside, China Simplified suggests not going lower than your share of the dinner or what you received from the bride or groom at your own wedding.

Gifts you should avoid include fans (they are pronounced the same way as “disperse” in Chinese which could imply separation), clocks, books, shoes, daisies or chysanthemums (flowers typically given at funerals or given to ancestral graves) and anything in sets of four.

If you’re still confused, money will be your safest bet.

The Chinese are big on auspicious numbers — so avoid the number four.

It is uncommon for Chinese weddings to be held on the fourth as the word in Chinese sounds similar to “death”. The wedding is usually planned with regard to the Lunar calendar and the couple’s astrological charts.

Even when gifting things such as dinnerware, avoid sets of four and even cash gifts with the number four. The Chinese are very superstitious, in general, and it can be seen as a huge sign of disrespect if you’re not mindful of it.

It’s acceptable to wear any colour — except black or white. Or red.

Wearing black or white is considered one of the biggest fashion faux pas for a traditional Chinese wedding as both colours are symbolic of death and mourning (although black and white accents or accessories are okay).

Avoid wearing red since the bride will most likely be wearing red at some stage of the wedding and it will make you seem like you are trying to take the attention away from her.

You will see red — a lot of it.

Red is considered one of the luckiest colors in traditional Chinese culture as it symbolises happiness, joy and prosperity, which explains why so many Chinese weddings are set against a red backdrop.

A traditional Chinese wedding will often see the bride wearing a red dress in one of her outfit changes during the wedding or throughout the tea ceremony.

Other common colours will include gold (a symbol of wealth and fortune), silver (purity and fulfillment) and pink (love and romance).

Pregnant women may be discouraged from attending.

This may sound strange or confusing for some, but the Chinese people believe in something called qi which is a life force strong in both pregnant women and newlyweds. It is said that the luck arising from the pregnancy could “clash” with the luck from the newlyweds and potentially harm the unborn baby of the newlyweds.

While this belief may vary across weddings depending on how traditional the bride and groom are, it is often believed that there should only be one auspicious event at a time so that they don’t cancel each other out.

Don’t attend if you’re in a period of mourning.

The Chinese are also equally conscious of those who have recently experienced a loss in their family and are in a period of mourning.

It is believed that if you attend a wedding within 100 days of a passing, it is disrespectful to the deceased and may also bring bad luck to the newlyweds.

Expect an extravagant and traditional 8-course dinner lasting two or more hours.

Chinese wedding banquets are usually lavish affairs held in the evening with the bride and groom booking out the entire section of a traditional Chinese restaurant for an 8-course dinner (although this can sometimes be more). Typical foods will include fish, which symbolises wealth, roast suckling pig served whole, which represents virginity, shark fin soup, pigeon and lobster.

Many places in Australia are already beginning to offer tailored menus for a Chinese wedding which feature all the must-haves as well as red bean soup for dessert, which is meant to signify the sweetness of life and happiness.

And finally, make sure you say “Gan Bei” when you toast

“Gan Bei” — meaning “dry glass”– is the Chinese equivalent to “Cheers” in English so it’s important to say this before making a toast or when raising your glass. It is often considered polite to stand up and toast with the married couple when they approach your table.

And remember, don’t start drinking until someone offers the toast “Gan Bei”!

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