Compared to Malay weddings, attending a Chinese wedding can be a little more complicated as there are certain traditions and superstitions that may come into play
To help you navigate through one without - to put it simply - offending anyone, here are some things to take note of:
Disclaimer: The observance of some traditions and superstitions presented in this article may vary according to each individual family's beliefs and cultural upbringing.
1. A typical Chinese wedding day is divided into two parts - the wedding ceremony during the day, and a wedding banquet in the evening
The wedding ceremony starts very early in the morning when the groom and his entourage arrives at the bride's parents' house to pick up his bride.
Here's where things can get pretty amusing as the bridesmaids try to "prevent" the groom from seeing his bride with a series of light-hearted games. Once the groom has accomplished all the tasks set out for him and/or bought his way in with some "li shi" (lucky money in a red packet) for the bridesmaids, he'll finally get to see his bride!
The bridal couple will then proceed to the groom's house, where ceremonial prayers are performed before commencing with the tea ceremony, an official ritual to formally introduce the newlyweds to each other's family. During the ceremony, the newlyweds serve tea to their senior relatives, hand out "li shi" to the younger ones, and pose for some photos with the guests.
When everything is settled on the groom's side, the bridal entourage will travel back to the bride's side for another tea ceremony with the bride's family. With all the back-and-forth involved, the wedding ceremony can last well into late afternoon.
Note: In some cases, the tea ceremony is done at the bridal residence right after the groom picks up the bride before going over to the groom's.
The wedding ceremony is usually witnessed by family members and close friends. If that is the case, you are only required to attend one the ceremonies depending on which side you are related to, unless you are a part of the bridal convoy.
However, the newlyweds' family will probably welcome any acquaintances who wish to observe the wedding ceremony. Just be sure to inform the newlyweds or the person who gave you the invite before doing so.
2. Most of the time, the wedding invite you receive will most likely just require your presence at the wedding banquet, which usually begins between 7.00pm to 8.00pm and can last for more than 2 hours
In the event that the wedded couple are exchanging their vows in a church, you might be invited to the ceremony as well.
3. Chinese wedding banquets are typically 8-course dinners held in restaurants, hotel ballrooms, country clubs, or community halls where there are limited tables and seats available, so only bring along your partner or family members if it is indicated on the invitation card
For example, if the invitation card only states your name, it is best if you do not bring along any company unless you have cleared it with the host.
Also, do RSVP your attendance alongside your accompanying guests' (if applicable) if it is indicated on the card to prevent any unwanted surprises for the host on the day of the banquet.
4. Dress formally and decently (and make sure it's stretchable enough to allow for easy movement and the inevitable food baby). Avoid wearing white and black as these colours symbolise mourning and death.
For the ladies, evening gowns or cocktail dresses work fine. Guys, a button-down shirt and long trousers with a pair of nice shoes will do, although you go for a suit and tie if you wish. Just don't come in a shabby T-shirt or jeans and sneakers...
Wedding coming up in a few days? Don't worry, you won't have to scour the mall for something to wear when you can shop online at Zalora for great fashion. We have great deals at our SAYS coupon page that allows you to shop to your heart's content!
5. You are expected to bring an angpow as a wedding token for the newlyweds. The amount depends on the "market rate", which differs based on how close you are to the newlyweds and their family, as well as how many people you bring to the reception
The "market rate" also depends on where the dinner reception is held i.e. how fancy the venue is or which area/state it is held in. Currently, the rate stands at an average of RM80 to RM120 per person, but do check with friends and family who are attending the same wedding as you are if you're unsure.
As business-like as this may seem, wedding cash tokens are seen as a way for the newlyweds to cover the cost for their wedding celebrations. Seeing as you are also required to write your name on the angpow, it is said that the newlyweds will use that as a point of reference on how much they give to you when you get married - if you're not married, that is.
6. Come with an empty stomach, as you are expected to at least all 8 dishes during the dinner
However, do bring along some light snacks and a fully-charged power bank as Chinese wedding banquets tend to start later than the stipulated time. #truestory #malaysiantiming
7. Once you've arrived, check in with the guest ushers or, if there aren't any, parents of the newlyweds. Congratulate them on the happy occasion and hand over the angpow while you're doing so.
You will then be asked to take a seat with assurances that the dinner will start soon. If you're not the type who's comfortable with sitting down for a long time, feel free to walk around and mingle with the relatives and friends. Take loads of pictures and fully utilise the photo booth if there is one!
8. Besides a lot of food and a free-flow of drinks, expect to be thoroughly entertained during the dinner. While some may opt for pre-hired bands or performers, most weddings also allocate time slots for dance-offs and impromptu karaoke sessions.
Just don't expect Maroon 5 to make a surprise appearance. :p
9. Follow the Master of Ceremony's lead at all times, especially when he announces the bride's arrival and conducts the toast ('yum seng')
When the bride finally makes her entrance, the MC will tell you when to stand up (just before she enters the hall) and sit back down (when she reaches the main table).
During the toast, which is usually conducted mid-dinner, just follow the MC's lead e.g. standing up and holding up your glass while shouting 'yum seng!' at least 3 times. It can get pretty loud, but it's one of the highlights of the event!
10. You are expected to stay until the end of the dinner a.k.a. after all 8 dishes have been served. It is actually considered impolite to leave in the middle of the reception.
However, if you really, really need to leave, make sure you toast the couple or take a picture with the newlyweds when they make their photo rounds after the 'yum seng' session.
11. Before leaving, make sure to thank and congratulate the newlyweds, who are usually already at the door to bid farewell to their guests along with their parents
BONUS: In the event that you are unable to attend the wedding of a close friend or family member, you are expected to gift a small wedding token (angpow) as a show of support. The amount is entirely up to you.