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1. The Betrothal / Guo Da Li

1. The Betrothal /

Guo Da Li

The Betrothal / Guo Da Li (过大礼) is a Chinese wedding custom that requires the groom and his family to deliver a red packet containing the "Pin Jin" (聘金), also known as the betrothal gift money, and a list of items to the bride and her family.


It is usually held 2 or 3 weeks before the actual wedding day on an auspicious date. Upon receipt of the items and the Pin Jin, the bride and her family will return a portion (usually half) to signify that they are willing to "share the joy" and to acknowledge the groom family's generosity.

Before we dive into the list, we would highlight that the items vary between the different dialect groups and may also vary within a specific dialect group. We therefore encourage the bride and groom to discuss and confirm the items and customs with their families.

​List of Items

  • 2 pairs of dragon & phoenix wax candles

  • 12 mandarin oranges with "shuang xi" (囍) stickers to be placed on the traditional wedding tray

  • 2 packets of mixed beans (five different varieties) including: red, green, soy, black and white beans

  • 2 packets of rock sugar

  • 2 packets of the 4 treasures (四京果), i.e. red dates, lily buds, dried longans and lotus seeds

  • 2 pieces of charcoal

  • 2 packets of candied winter melon slices

  • 2 pairs of Hong Cai to be hung over the door frames at the homes of the bride and the groom respectively.


good fortune (龙凤呈祥)

luck (大吉大利)

abundance (五谷丰登)

eternal bliss and sweetness (甜甜蜜蜜)

luck, eternal bliss, fertility (鸿运当头, 百年好合, 早生贵子,连连生子)

prosperity (兴旺发达)

eternal bliss and sweetness (甜甜蜜蜜)

Other Complementary Items

  • Jewelry is commonly given to the bride by the groom's family

  • 2 bottles of wine/hard liquor to be given to the bride's father

  • Pastries to be shared among the bride's family (type dependent on dialect group, see below)

  • Gift basket (design dependent on dialect group, see below)

We have also provide a list of items specific to each of the three largest dialect groups. For other dialect groups, please contact us.


  • Dragon and phoenix wedding pastries set

  • Dried sugar oranges

  • Coconut candies / 1 pair of coconuts

  • Seafood products (e.g. abalone, black moss, seaweed, fish)

  • Roasted pig

  • Normal gift basket (no requirement as to colour)


  • Peanut candy

  • Rice biscuits

  • Sesame biscuits

  • 6/8/12 cans of pig trotters

  • Black and red colour gift basket


  • Dried sugar oranges

  • Sesame crisps

  • Peanut crisps

  • Tau Sar Piah

  • Granny's cake (老妈糕) for bride's grandmothers

  • 4 piece gold jewelry (四点金) including necklace, bracelet, earrings and ring

  • Teochew styled wax candles

  • 6/8/12 cans of pig trotters

  • Weaved straw gift basket

2. The Reciprocity

2. The Reciprocity

The Reciprocity (回礼) involves the dowry (嫁妆) items prepared and sent by the bride's family to the groom and his family.


Some of these items will be used during the actual day/tea ceremony and some of these are items that can be used on a daily basis. We would encourage the couple to invest in better quality items with more modern designs to prevent wastage.


List of Items

  • Wedding tea set (to be used during the Tea Ceremony)

  • 2 wedding bowls, 2 sets of spoons and chopsticks of dragon and phoenix design (to be used during the Tea Ceremony)

  • Wedding bedroom set (to be used during Bed Setting)

  • Prosperity lamps, which are to be kept lit throughout the night of the actual day (signifies prosperity to continue for an eternity, 添丁发财)

  • Sewing kit (signifies the bride's good virtues and her readiness to become a mother/wife, 贤妻良母)

  • Towel, slippers / wooden clogs (signifies eternal bliss and growth, 白头偕老,步步高升)

  • Descendant 5 set (signifies fertility and abundance of descendants, 儿孙满堂)

  • 2 bottles of orange juice (signifies luck, 大吉大利)

  • Descendants' ruler (signifies abundance of descendants)

  • Red packet to groom

  • Huat Kuey (发糕) (signifies prosperity)

3. The Bed Setting

​The Bed Setting (安床) is done by a person of good life (好命人), usually a senior in the family (e.g. parents, grandparents), on the night before the actual day or in the morning of the actual day. Having it done by these individuals bestows good fortune upon the couple and their descendants.

Step 1: Bed setter to set the wedding sheets, linens and pillow cases

Step 2: Bed setter to place the Chinese unity coins at the four corners of the bed and under the pillows and simultaneously utter auspicious phrases.

Step 3: Bed setter to place the wedding tray with the following items on the bed:

  • A packet (each) of red dates, peanuts, longans, lotus seeds, sweets

  • 2 packets of mixed beans (five different varieties) including: red, green, soy, black and white beans

  • 2 mandarin oranges

  • Descendants' ruler

  • Miniature money bucket pail

  • Bed Setting red packet

Do note that after bed setting, the bed should be left untouched until the bride is 'accepted' by the family. We therefore recommend that Bed Setting be done on the actual day so that the bed can still be used by the groom the night before.

After the bride's acceptance into the family (过门),  a young child should be tasked to roll and jump on the bed and this is done to bless the newly weds with fertility.

3. Bed Setting
4. Hair Combing

4. The Hair Combing

This practice is to be conducted the night before the actual wedding day around 11pm in the respective houses of both the bride and groom. The hair combing is best done in a room where the moon is visible through the window. According to tradition, this is to allow the god of marriage (月老) to view the ceremony and bless the couple. The parents will comb the bride's/groom's hair and utter the following 3 sentences with each single comb:

  1. 一梳梳到底

  2. 二梳白发齐眉

  3. 三梳子孙满堂

A piece of red string should be tied on the bride's hair and another piece of string should be kept in the groom's pocket at the end of the ceremony.

Do also note that the hair combing is usually practised by the groom 15 minutes to 1 hour before the bride.

5. the Escort

5. The Escort

Both the bride and groom's families should light up the dragon and phoenix candles simultaneously before the groom leaves for his bride. The groom should remember to prepare at least 3 red packets to be given to the following people:

  • the young boy tasked to open the door of the wedding car upon the groom reaching the bride's home; 

  • the bridesmaids to allow smooth passage through the gatecrash; and

  • the bride's mother to show his gratitude for raising up the bride well.


After the gatecrashing segment (if any) has been completed, the groom will use a traditional weighing rod (秤杆) to lift the veil (盖头) of the bride. This act symbolises that all wishes will come true (称心如意). Subsequently, the couple and their entourage will leave for the groom's house for the tea ceremony. 

As a custom, the bride should be sheltered under a red umbrella in all open areas while making her way to the wedding car. This act is done to shelter the bride from any negativity that she may encounter in her life. The bride is usually sheltered by the bride's father, a male elder or the groom.

It is also common for the bride to bring two traditional Chinese fans (one elaborate and one plain). The elaborate and plain fans represent the bride's good and bad qualities respectively. The elaborate fan will be kept with the bride while the plain one will be left behind after entering the wedding car.

This custom signifies the bride's desire to bring her good qualities over to her new family and the bride family's unwavering willingness to accept the shortcomings of their daughter.


6. Tea Ceremony

Upon the couple's arrival at the groom's residence, the couple should remember to keep their shoes on throughout the entire process to ensure eternal wealth and prosperity. They will first head straight to their matrimonial room while other members of the groom's family will remain out of sight by staying in the other rooms while waiting for the tea ceremony to commence. While in their room, the couple will take turns to feed each other glutinous rice balls and drink longan and red dates tea which symbolises a perfect and full marriage (圆圆满满). Next, a young boy will be invited to roll and jump on the couple's bed, to bestow them with a life blessed with an abundance of children.


Subsequently, the tea ceremony will commence and the couple will now serve and receive tea from the groom's family and receive their blessings. It is also common for the couple to receive presents and red packets from senior relatives and for the couple to give red packets to their younger relatives. The sequence for the tea ceremony is as follows:

  • serve tea to the groom's parents

  • serve tea to the groom's paternal grandparents

  • serve tea to the groom's maternal grandparents

  • serve tea to the groom's paternal relatives according to seniority

  • serve tea to the groom's maternal relatives according to seniority

  • receive tea from all their younger siblings and cousins

We would also highlight that traditionally, the custom of serving and receiving tea is practised with the bride's family 3 days after the wedding, but for convenience, it is now usually done on the actual day usually before the wedding banquet.

6. Tea Ceremony

Frequently Asked Questions

Head on to our FAQs where we attempt to answer the most commonly asked questions on Chinese wedding customs.

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