The young people in China have been profoundly influenced by western culture and traditions. Pre-arranged marriages are not practiced as much as they were in the past. Young people date, fall in romantic love, and get married according to their own wishes these days. As a sign of respect, couples will frequently ask their parents for permission to marry. Even with these modern changes, Chinese couples still prefer ceremonial ritual and monogamy within their marriage unions.
According to Confucius, marriage was of significant importance and couples were the corner stones of society. Marriages were frequently arranged for political and economic gain and couples throughout China’s history have influenced the country’s international relations and political stability. Within Confucian thought, marriages brought together different surnames to continue the family line. This was why a male child was valued more than a female child.
The mythological origins of Chinese marriage revolve around the couple of Fu Xi and Nüwa, a brother and sister who are believed to have invented the concept of marriage. They loved each other very deeply and wanted to join together. As the legend goes, they went up into the Kunlun Shan mountains to pray to the heavens to seek divine guidance to marry. As a beautiful mist descended over the mountains, they took this as a sign that their prayers had been answered and that their marriage was blessed by the gods. As permission was granted and as the mist covered the mountains, it is said that Nüwa blushed and covered her face with a fan. As the tradition continues today, brides will frequently cover their faces with a fan during traditional wedding ceremonies.
In traditional Chinese weddings, there are six etiquettes. Like in the west, the whole process starts with the proposal. When the young woman accepts the proposal, the couple then has their birth dates matched to predict their future as a married couple and a family. At this point the groom’s family would arrange for a betrothal letter and gifts, which are presented to the bride’s family, followed by the wedding gifts, which might include food, presents, and religious objects. The wedding date is then chosen, which is probably the most important etiquette of all. Dates in Chinese culture have significant meaning and much care is taken to chose a lucky day for the couple. Finally, the actual wedding ceremony is planned where the bride and groom become a married couple.
Many couples today have two ceremonies: A western one with a white wedding dress and a traditional Chinese ceremony with tradition dress and customs. There are four parts to a traditional ceremony. The festivities start with a wedding procession from the bride’s home to the groom’s home. At the bride’s home, her dowry will be on display for the guests to view. When they arrive at the groom’s home, the welcoming of the bride to the groom’s family is ceremoniously celebrated. The wedding party and family then proceed to the actual wedding ceremony. These ceremonies are often small and private with only family members and elders attending. The biggest and most important event is the wedding banquet, where all of the couple’s friends, family, and guests enjoy a five to ten course meal, music, and dancing. The bride usually wears the traditional red garment to this reception. The memories are collected in a wedding album, which unlike the western cultures, is primarily pictures of the bride and groom in different locations and in different costumes.