Chinese wedding ceremonies are special affairs. Most couples are officially married with a simple ceremony at a local city hall. Religious Chinese may opt to exchange vows at a religious ceremony. However, the Chinese wedding reception is the portion of the Chinese wedding that family and friends attend. The Chinese wedding reception is traditionally paid for by the groom’s family.
The wedding banquet is a lavish affair lasting two or more hours.
Invited guests sign their names in a wedding book or on a large scroll and present their red envelopes to attendants at the entrance of the wedding hall. The envelope is opened and the money is counted while the guest looks on.
The guests’ names and amounts of money given are recorded so that the bride and groom know how much each guest gave toward the wedding. This record is helpful for when the couple attends their guests’ weddings. They are expected to give more money to their guests’ future weddings.
After presenting the red envelope, guests are ushered into a large banquet hall. Guests may either have assigned seats or can sit where ever they want. Once all the guests have arrived, then the wedding party begins. Nearly all Chinese banquets feature an emcee or master of ceremonies who announces the arrival of the bride and groom. The couple’s entrance marks the beginning of the wedding.
After the couple, usually the groom, gives a short welcome speech, guests are served the first of nine courses. Throughout the meal, the bride and groom enter and re-enter the banquet hall, each time wearing different outfits. While the guests eat, the bride and groom are typically busy changing their clothes and attending to their guests’ needs.
The couple typically re-enters the dining hall after the third and sixth courses.
Toward the end of the meal but before dessert is served, the bride and groom toast the guests. The groom’s best friend may also offer up a toast. The bride and groom make their way to each table where the guests stand and simultaneously toast the happy couple. Once the bride and groom have visited each table, they exit the hall while dessert is served.
Once dessert is served, the wedding party promptly ends. Before leaving, guests line up to greet the bride and groom and their families who stand outside the hall in a receiving line. Each guest gets their photo taken with the couple and is often offered sweets by the bride.
After the wedding banquet, close friends and relatives go to the bridal chamber and play tricks on the newlyweds as a way to extend good wishes. The couple then shares a glass of wine and traditionally cut off a lock of hair to symbolize that they are now of one heart.
Three, seven or nine days after the wedding, the bride returns to her maiden home to visit her family. Some couple opt to go on a honeymoon vacation as well.