China is a country very rich in history. For over 2000 years, beliefs and traditions continue to be practiced, and weddings are part of their historic culture. A traditional wedding ceremony in China involves the parents of the bride-to-be and the groom, who make the decisions on whether certain conditions have been met before their children are approved for marriage. These conditions are related to the social status and wealth of both parties. If a man belongs to a wealthy family or is of noble status, his parents will not allow him to marry a woman from a poor or lower class family.
There are a few elements that are important in the marriage process. These are the traditional three letters and six etiquettes. The first of the three letters is the Betrothal Letter. This indicates the first part of the marriage process. This document confirms the engagement of the bride to the groom. The second letter is the Gifts Letter, which includes a list of the type and quantity of the gifts to be given at the wedding. This letter would only be sent after both parties agree to the wedding. Lastly, the Wedding Letter is given on the day of the ceremony, confirming the bride being accepted by the family of the groom.
A China traditional wedding includes six etiquettes. Proposing is the first part, where a matchmaker is invited by the parents of the groom to be. If the proposal is successful, it is only at the wedding day itself that the bride and groom will see each other in person. Many match-made weddings in China include the couple not knowing anything about each other. After a successful proposal, the matchmaker is rewarded with gifts as a sign of gratitude from the parents. The second etiquette is the Birthday Matching. Based on the Chinese Zodiac, the woman’s name and birthday will be matched to the man’s and the fortune teller will predict whether the marriage will be a successful one. The third etiquette is Presenting Betrothal Gifts. If the couple’s match is predicted to be favorable, the matchmaker will then bring gifts to the woman’s family to indicate that the wedding process shall continue. Presenting Wedding Gifts is the most magnificent etiquette in the whole process. Plentiful gifts are again presented to the woman’s family, symbolizing respect and kindness, and the capability of the man to provide a good life for the woman. Selecting the Wedding Date is the fifth etiquette, where the man’s family requests a matchmaker to choose the proper date to hold the ceremony, based on the astrological book.
The sixth and final etiquette is the Wedding Ceremony. It starts when the groom and his family meet at the home of the bride. Before the wedding day, the bride’s dowry should have already been presented to the groom. This represents the social status and wealth of the bride, to be displayed in the groom’s house. Scissors, rulers, and vases are the most common dowries that are being used. They represent two butterflies never separating, acres of fields, and wealth, respectively.
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