What to Know about Chinese Wedding Gifts

Going to a Chinese Wedding? Here's What Gift to Bring

Red Envelope
Red envelopes are given out during Chinese weddings, Chinese New Year, and other holidays. Lauren Mack / About.com

So you're going to a Chinese wedding, but you're not sure what's expected when it comes to Chinese wedding gifts? Don't worry! Learning about the customs of other cultures can seem overwhelming, but with these tips, you'll know just what gift to bring.

Red Envelopes: The Standard Gift

Picking out a gift for a Chinese wedding is actually pretty simple. That's because, in lieu of gifts, Chinese wedding guests give a red envelope called hóngbāo ( 紅包 ). If you go to a wedding, the money in the red envelope should be equivalent to a nice gift that would be given at a Western wedding. It should be enough money to cover the guest’s expense at the wedding. For example, if the wedding dinner costs the newlyweds $75 per person, then the money in the envelope should be at least $75. However, you would want to give your gift in the currency that the couple actually uses, for example, the Thai Bhat.

Selecting the right amount of money to give is not as simple as learning how much the wedding venue charges per plate, however. Customarily, the amount of money gifted is relative to your relationship to the recipient. The closer your relationship to the bride and groom, the more money that is expected. Immediate family, such as parents and siblings, should give more money than casual friends. In addition, it is not uncommon for business partners to be invited to weddings, and business partners often put more money in the envelope to strengthen the business relationship.

Other Gift Options

As Chinese weddings become infused with Western traditions, traditional Western wedding gifts are becoming more acceptable than before though. But unlike Western weddings, couples will rarely have a registry or release a list of wanted gifts. That means unless you know exactly what the couple needs or wants, sticking to a red envelope might be your best bet. Be careful when selecting a gift, as there are certain gifts to avoid in the Chinese culture. While many would make odd wedding gifts in any culture, it can be helpful to at least be aware and avoid a faux pas. Off-limits gifts include: 

  • Clocks
  • Handkerchiefs
  • Towels
  • Umbrellas
  • Sharp objects (that means a new set of cutlery is out of the question)
  • Cut flowers
  • Gifts in sets of four
  • Shoes
  • Green hats
  • Anything in white or black

Now that you're all set with a wedding gift, check out these other helpful resources more information about Chinese weddings and the art of gift giving for all occasions: