Cos there are so many traditions and practices for a good marriage.
I realized I haven't written much about my wedding. I did a post previously on the costs of weddings vs my own... but never really mentioned anything about my own.
Cos... we didn't do anything. I mean... I didn't think about writing anything cos we didn't do anything. Like it's easy to think about and write about stuff you did. But it entirely slipped my mind to write about wedding practices cos we didn't do any of it.
Like during weddings, we always have some form of traditional customs. Like gate crashing, or buying stuff to put on the wedding bed, or eating some "tang yuan", or bringing certain gifts during the "guo da li 过大礼" or choosing an auspicious date, amongst other practices.
Picture taken from The Chinese Wedding Shop
WHAT IS GUO DA LI (过大礼)?
Guo Da Li (过大礼), or the Chinese betrothal ceremony, marks the important formal meeting between both families and symbolises the groom’s sincerity towards marrying the bride and his assurance that she will be well taken care of after marriage. It is part of the traditional Chinese wedding rituals known as the Three Letters, Six Etiquettes (三书六礼), which includes the selection of an auspicious wedding date.
Guo Da Li usually takes place any time between two to four weeks before the wedding. During the betrothal ceremony, the groom and a matchmaker, or an elder female relative with good fortune, will present the bride’s family with a variety of gifts that represent fertility and prosperity. The items used for the Guo Da Li should always come in pairs as a representation of good fortune.
A Guo Da Li set usually has:
A betrothal basket
One pair each of dragon and phoenix candles
A red packet bearing the bride price, or ping jin
A can of pig trotters or a platter of roast pork
Hard liquor or wine
Traditional wedding cakes (喜饼)
Jewellery for the bride (四点金)
Double happiness stickers
A red banner to hang over the door
Different dialect groups will have different items for the Guo Da Li ceremony. The items gifted have to correspond to the bride’s family dialect group.
HUI LI (回礼), OR RETURNING OF GIFTS
To show their acceptance of the marriage and gratitude for the over-generosity of the groom’s family, the bride’s family will reciprocate his generous gesture and share the good fortune by returning a portion of the gifts. This is otherwise known as Hui Li (回礼), the returning of gifts. The bride’s dowry (嫁妆) will also be presented during the Hui Li to the groom’s family as a symbol of the wealth and prosperity of the bride’s family, and to bless the couple’s marriage with happiness and prosperity.
The dowry includes items such as:
A tea set for the wedding tea ceremony at the groom’s house
A five-piece descendant pail set (baby bathtub, potty, washbasin, tray and mug)
New bedsheets and duvet for the bridal bed
A set of bed-side lamps
A dining set consisting of a pair of chopsticks, spoons, bowls and plates
Two pairs of red wooden clogs, wedding slippers or bedroom slippers
A sewing basket with an even numbered rolls of colourful thread, a set of needles, pincushion and scissors
A set of gold jewellery given by the bride’s parents
We never had any of the above.
No 过大礼. There was never any discussion between our parents. The first and only time they have met was on the wedding day. We didn't have any stuff to put on our beds, we didn't eat any tang yuan that day. There was no gate crash, I did not arrive at my in-laws home with my car horns blazing.
I'll give a run through of our plans and what we did.
We planned our wedding ourselves. No interaction or any input from any of our parents, somehow we managed to control all aspects of the wedding.
We found a solemnizer from the Registry of Marriages (ROM), who was staying near our parents.
We bought rings. She has 2, I have 1.
The ring is a very questionable item. Personally, I do not believe in it. But I think another way to look at it is a sign of respect. As the ring gives her something to show her friends. It's an unfortunate situation but the reality of it is that girls have friends and they do compare. There probably IS some sort of face which she needs to uphold with her friends. This was discussed between the both of us and we agreed to spend some funds on this.
--- quote taken from my previous post
So on the day, we woke up in the morning. I forgot the time. It was our usual waking up time, 8am or later. Something like that. I don't know what happened at her place. I wasn't there. There was no make up artist, no "sisters", no "brothers". We (probably just me) didn't want a gate crash,
(I'm not begging for my wife to marry me and I'm not a clown for the "sisters" to make fun of. So NO.)
and she didn't like the idea of waking up at 3am to do her make up.
So we woke up at a normal time. I drove over with my parents, our parents live near each other. Picked up my wife and her side of the family, then drove over to the solemnizer's house...
YES. We did our solemnization at the solemnizer's house.
We reached there, took our vows, exchanged rings, signed the papers, etc.
Then I sent my wife's side of the family back, then went back to my parents place to rest for the rest of the day until dinner.
At around 3pm or so, I forgot again... The make up artist came and did her make up. It was $135. It was a once off application, as in the make up artist doesn't stay around to touch up during the rest of the day.
Went to the wedding venue at 5pm or so. It was at a restaurant. We had booked 7 tables at $1500 each. We had upgraded the menu as the dinner was only for very close relatives and friends.
(This is highly NOT recommended. As the attendees will usually check websites for the ang pow to give. They will not expect you to upgrade the menu so they will give you based on the lowest wedding dinner table price.)
So we went into the restaurant and hung around the tables and greeted the guests as they arrived. Ang pows were collected by our parents and passed directly to us for keeping. There was no reception table or ang pow box. My brother-in-law was nice enough to run around taking pictures as our unofficial photographer.
By 7pm+, all the guests arrived. I waved to the banquet manager and gave the thumbs up. The food started rolling in. No speech was made, no march in, no change of clothes. During the evening, in between the courses, we walked around the tables and chatted with our friends and family. As the new dishes arrived, we went back to our tables and enjoyed our food, then went around again thoroughly enjoying ourselves.
By around 10pm, things finished up. We went back to my parent's place and went back to our daily lives.
It was truly a really pleasant and memorable day. Not hectic and not particularly tiring.
Maybe we were just lucky that our parents were not involved in our wedding and that we could get away without doing so many things. Or maybe I was just lucky that my wife was ok with doing away with so many things. Or maybe even both.
We had discussed this previously. We both knew of folks who went through the whole parade of customs, chose the most auspicious date of the year. Some of my friends had to plan everything around a particular date and jump through hoops to accede to parent requests. And even after all that, some have had rocky marriages or even divorced. We've spoken to many couples and the bunch of closer friends tend to tell us to keep it simple. Cos it's not worth the cost and it's not worth bothering about all the other funky stuff you do during the day. What's important is after the marriage how you work things out and work with each other to make the union work.
However, keeping it simple isn't as easy as it sounds. What typically happens is that the couple might be caught up in the spur of the moment. One thing leads to another and it ends up becoming a big event with lots of additives. I have a friend who wanted a simple event. It started out simply enough, but as the planning went on, she added "small" ideas, or received some advice or parent requests, eventually, it ended up as a full blown wedding very much like all the others we are used to.
Well, that's our wedding. It's probably super extreme by most standards. I suspect one of my cousins got inspiration from us cos her wedding was almost as simple as ours. They out-did us cos they had 5 tables so I'm a bit jealous.
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