How to Plan a Traditional Chinese Wedding

4 Steps to the Perfect Chinese Wedding

Chinese Wedding Pictures
A couple take wedding pictures in front of Tiananmen Gate Sept. 8, 2009 in Beijing, China. Feng Li / Getty Images

While Chinese weddings have become infused with Western wedding traditions, most Chinese weddings maintain some traditional cultural elements. Do you want to know how to plan a traditional Chinese wedding? From the engagement to the ceremony, here's what you should know.

1. Plan the Perfect Engagement

As in Western culture, before a wedding, there must first be an engagement. In the past, most Chinese families relied on arranged marriages, but today, the majority of couples find their own match and marry for love.

However, some elements of a traditional Chinese wedding engagement remain intact. For example, the groom's family will typically send a "betrothal gift" to the bride's family, which typically includes food and cakes. These gifts help seal the engagement.

In addition to betrothal gifts, both the bride and groom's family will consult a fortune teller whose role is to help the family determine if the couple is compatible for marriage. The fortune teller will use various things such as names, birth dates, and time of birth to analyze compatibility. If all goes well, the couple will set a date for their marriage.

2. Choose the Right Dress

For many Chinese women, picking the perfect wedding gown actually means picking three dresses. The typical traditional dress is called a qipao, which has been worn in China since the 17th century. Most women will wear one red qipao, a white Western-style gown, and a third ball gown throughout the night.

The dresses are changed throughout the reception after courses are served. Some brides will even opt for a fourth dress, which they wear as they are saying their goodbyes as guests depart the wedding.

3. Invite Guests

Traditional Chinese wedding invitations are typically red and placed within a red envelope.

Unlike the red envelopes used to give gifts of money, wedding invitation envelopes are typically wider and longer. The text is usually written in gold, which is a symbol of wealth in Chinese culture. Like in Western culture, the invitation features important information about the celebration. However, invitations are sometimes only mailed or hand presented several weeks or days before the wedding, as opposed to many months. The double happiness character, shuāngxǐ (雙喜) is often written somewhere on the invitation.

4. Choose Decor

Decorations at a typical Chinese wedding are usually provided by the reception venue. The Chinese character for happiness is often hung upside down as a symbol for the arrival of happiness. In addition to Chinese symbols, decor may include lights, candles, and flowers similar to those you'd find at a typical Western wedding. Venues will often have a stage where the bridge and groom stands before the reception begins and while toasts are being made. Guests are not invited to the exchanging of vows, so the reception is the first time they see the couple.

Check out these other helpful resources for more about traditional Chinese weddings:

​​​Chinese Wedding Flowers

Chinese Wedding Favors

Chinese Wedding Pictures

Chinese Wedding Gifts

Symbolic Chinese Wedding Food

Chinese Wedding Toasts