Comprehensive Guide to the Chinese Betrothal Ceremony: Process, Wedding Rituals, Taboos, and Checklist!

The journey of a couple, from mutual affection to the union of their souls, is a momentous event in both ancient and modern times. It all begins with the betrothal ceremony (Guo Da Li), which holds deep symbolism and blessings for the newlyweds. In this article, we guide you through the preparation process, provide a list of essential items, and offer valuable insights to help you grasp the significance of this ceremonious wedding tradition. Explore and understand this meaningful wedding custom with us.

Introduction to Traditional Wedding Rituals: Guo Da Li

The Chinese betrothal ceremony holds significant historical importance in weddings. Nowadays, it typically occurs approximately one month prior to the wedding day. During this ceremony, the groom's family carefully chooses an auspicious date and time to present the cash gift and betrothal gifts to the bride's family. This act symbolizes the groom's lifelong commitment to care for and support the bride.

Preparations for the betrothal ceremony

  • Selecting an auspicious date and time
    The groom's family should choose an auspicious date. Guo Da Li generally occurs about a month before the wedding.
  • The groom's family prepares betrothal gifts and a cash gift
    In the traditional betrothal ceremony, the betrothal gifts and cash gift represent the groom's family's financial power and sincerity. Therefore, after selecting the date, the groom's family can start preparing. The amount of cash gift should be discussed with the bride's family in advance and should be an auspicious number. The betrothal gifts should always be in pairs.
  • Dress code for the betrothal ceremony
    The couple usually dresses in traditional formal wedding attire for the entire ceremony. Although there are no special dress code requirements, it's better to go for formal, elegant attire. The couple should avoid wearing shorts, inappropriate shoes, and clothing in dark colours, as these actions may be regarded as inauspicious by the elders.

Betrothal ceremony's gift list

The betrothal gift list for Guo Da Li consists of as many as 20 categories and more than 100 individual items. Here, the Kee Wah blog lists the absolute essentials:

  • Cash Gift
  • 2 pairs of Dragon and Phoenix Candles (龍鳳燭)
  • 2 pairs of Dragon and Phoenix Wedding Cakes (龍鳳對餅)
  • 8 or more Chinese Bride Cakes (禮餅)
  • 4 or 5 Gold Jewellery
  • Chicken, pork and fish: 2 pairs of chickens (one rooster, one hen), 3 to 5 pounds of pork, and 4 fishes
  • Dried seafood and ingredients
  • Betrothal wedding hamper
  • 2 Red Ropes
  • Box (as known as cash gift box): containing lotus seeds, lilies, red beans, green beans, jujubes, ritual book, red rope, red packets, cash gift, and gold jewellery
  • 4 bottles of wine
  • 2 pairs each of Coconuts and Betel Nuts
  • Dried fruits and nuts: Dried longan, dried lychee, dried walnuts, peanuts in the shell
  • Tea leaves and sesame
  • All-inclusive Red Envelope

What is an “All-inclusive Red Envelope”?

In traditional betrothal gift items, complicated gifts such as coconuts, betel nuts, dried seafood, fruits, tea leaves, and more are required. However, as times have changed, many modern couples are unable to spend the time preparing all the required wedding gifts. As a compromise, people have started replacing some of the betrothal items with cash gift, gradually evolving into a simplified version known as the 'All-inclusive Red Envelope.' This envelope, named for its inclusiveness of all items replaced by money, is also annotated with the gifts it represents.

The procedure on the day of the Chinese Betrothal Ceremony

  1. The bride, her parents, and close friends wait in the bride's home; the bride stays in her room.
  2. The groom and his friends transport the bridal gifts to the bride's home by car.
  3. The bride's parents go outside to receive the betrothal gifts: the groom waits downstairs at the bride's house. After accepting the cash gift, the bride's parents invite the groom and his friends inside.
  4. The groom's friends present each betrothal gift one by one while uttering auspicious phrases and the symbolic meaning of each gift.
  5. The groom enters the bride's house.
  6. The bride's family reciprocates by returning a portion of the return gifts, which are sent to the groom's home.
  7. The ceremony concludes.

What are the returning of gifts from the bride's family?

The bride's family reciprocates by returning half of the gifts received during the betrothal ceremony. These gifts include:

  • Dragon and Phoenix Wedding Cakes (龍鳳對餅)
  • Gift vouchers
  • Dowry for the groom's clothing:
    The mother-in-law should additionally purchase a suit, a pair of shoes, two pairs of socks, a belt, trousers, a wallet, and several congratulatory handkerchiefs, or these can be replaced with the 'Dowry Money Red Envelope'
  • Return tea gift:
    Large tea, large cakes, loose cakes, sesame balls
  • Auspicious plants:
    Lotus root, pomegranate, Four Seasons Orange, taro, taro leaves, ginger, baby ginger, cypress leaves, etc.

Points to remember and taboos of the betrothal ceremony

Betrothal ceremony is a festive wedding event, and there are some taboos to be aware of, such as:

  • The number of friends from the bride and groom's families should not be odd, but rather paired
  • The bridal money amount should not contain the number 4
  • The couple should avoid the ceremony. The bride stays in her room, and the bride and groom avoid meeting each other on the day of the ceremony
  • Gifts or fruits whose names contain inauspicious words
    • Oranges: homophonic with 'cruel'
    • Pears: homophonic with 'depart'
  • Reinserting incense sticks that were not straight during the offering, as this signifies remarriage
  • Discarding the Guo Da Li gift items or Bridal Cakes
  • The bride eating her own Bridal Cake, as these represent her own luck

Kee Wah Bridal Cakes

The Bridal Cake is an indispensable gift for the Chinese Betrothal Ceremony, and Kee Wah Bakery offers a variety of Bridal Cakes and gift vouchers.

Kee Wah Bridal Cakes (For details, please download the Kee Wah Bridal Cakes and Cake Cards Brochure)

  • 'Chinese Century Egg Pastry' symbolizes a prosperous family
  • 'Assorted Nuts Pastry' symbolizes a lifelong marriage
  • 'Mung Bean Paste Pastry' symbolizes a home filled with gold and silver
  • 'Lotus Seed Paste Pastry' symbolizes great luck
  • 'Walnut Cookies' symbolizes marital harmony
  • 'Chinese Sponge Cake' symbolizes continuous promotions

Kee Wah Wedding Coupon

With over 80 years of expertise as a renowned expert Hong Kong bridal bakery, Kee Wah Bakery is dedicated to crafting exquisite wedding cakes with unparalleled baking skills. Now, with every purchase of Bridal Cakes amounting to HKD $1,000, customers can borrow two gift boxes with a deposit of $1,000 and one bridal money box with a deposit of $300. The deposits will be refunded upon the return of the boxes. Feel free to inquire and place orders at all Kee Wah Bakery branches.