Chinese Wedding Customs FAQ

Guo Da Li and the Reciprocity (Dowry)

My spouse and I are from different dialect groups, which Guo Da Li and Dowry guide should we follow?


As the Guo Da Li items are prepared by the groom's side, we tend to see couples adhering to the items required of the groom's dialect group although it is also not uncommon to see families adhering to the bride's dialect group out of respect. That said, couples can compromise by using a combination of items specific to their respective dialects (since the majority part of the list is the same for all dialects). We strongly encourage the bride and groom to discuss and confirm the items and customs with their families.




Who delivers the Guo Da Li items to the bride's family?


Traditionally, the groom delivers the Guo Da Li items with a match-maker. But in the modern context, the match-maker role has since been replaced by an aunt of the groom and with some close friends. Additionally, the groom's parents are not required to go although they are not restricted from going.




Who pays for the Guo Dai Li and Dowry Set?


Back in the day, it was common for the parents of the groom and the bride to prepare and pay for the Guo Da Li and Dowry items respectively. This is because couples often marry at a much younger age than today and couples back then often do not have much wealth. Nowadays, we see most couples paying for these items themselves although some parents prefer to follow the tradition and pay for these items.




How much Pin Jin (聘金) should the groom's family give and who pays for it?


The Pin Jin, which is part of the Guo Da Li, is a show of appreciation and respect for the bride's family. It is often pegged to the financial means of the groom's family. Sometimes, it is also common for the families to discuss internally beforehand. The amounts given tend to consist of numbers with the auspicious number '8' and commonly range between $888 to $8,888.




When should the bride's family prepare and deliver the Dowry items to the groom's family?


The Dowry items are usually prepared before the Guo Da Li ceremony and will be passed to the groom during Guo Da Li. Do note that it is common for a portion of the Guo Da Li items to be returned to the groom's family as well.




What Guo Da Li items are returned to the groom's family?


Upon receipt of the Guo Da Li items and the Pin Jin, the bride and her family will return a portion (usually about half of the items) to signify that they are willing to "share the joy". Apart from the aforementioned, do note that the following items are to be returned to the groom's family: 1. A pair of dragon and phoenix candles (to be lit by the groom's family on the actual day when the groom sets off to escort the bride). 2. A portion of the four treasures (四京果), i.e. red dates; lily buds; dried longans; and lotus seeds. These are to be used to make tea during the Tea Ceremony.





Bed Setting

Where does the Bed Setting take place?


The Bed Setting, should take place in the matrimonial room of the couple, i.e. where the couple will stay after the wedding (couple's own residence or at either of their parents' house). However, we would point out that the practice is usually performed at the groom's place during the Tea Ceremony or the bride's place during the Escort as part of the actual day's flow of events.




Can we perform the Bed Setting custom again when we move to our own home?


As some couples do not have their own place at the time of their wedding, it is common for such couples to perform the Bed Setting ritual again when they move into their new home.




Is there anything else to take note of in relation to the Bed Setting?


Do note that after the Bed Setting, the bed should be left untouched until the bride is 'accepted' by the family, i.e. escorted to the groom's place for the Tea Ceremony. 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.

Only after the couple arrives at the groom's place for the Tea Ceremony can the Bed Setting items be removed for the couple to eat the glutinous rice balls and drink the longan & red dates tea.




When should the boy jump on the bed?


A young boy will usually be invited to roll and jump on the couple's bed, to bestow them with a life blessed with an abundance of children.

This is usually performed before the actual Tea Ceremony and after the Bed Setting items are removed and the couple has consumed the glutinous riceballs and tea. Sometimes, this act is performed twice (once more during the Bed Setting).




What if we do not have a boy from the groom's family to jump on the bed?


Do note that the young boy does not have to be from the groom's family. The boy can be from the bride's family or even a friend's son.





The Escort

My spouse and I are from different dialect groups, which Guo Da Li and Dowry guide should we follow?


As the Guo Da Li items are prepared by the groom's side, we tend to see couples adhering to the items required of the groom's dialect group although it is also not uncommon to see families adhering to the bride's dialect group out of respect. That said, couples can compromise by using a combination of items specific to their respective dialects (since the majority part of the list is the same for all dialects). We strongly encourage the bride and groom to discuss and confirm the items and customs with their families.




Who delivers the Guo Da Li items to the bride's family?


Traditionally, the groom delivers the Guo Da Li items with a match-maker. But in the modern context, the match-maker role has since been replaced by an aunt of the groom and with some close friends. Additionally, the groom's parents are not required to go although they are not restricted from going.




Who pays for the Guo Dai Li and Dowry Set?


Back in the day, it was common for the parents of the groom and the bride to prepare and pay for the Guo Da Li and Dowry items respectively. This is because couples often marry at a much younger age than today and couples back then often do not have much wealth. Nowadays, we see most couples paying for these items themselves although some parents prefer to follow the tradition and pay for these items.




How much Pin Jin (聘金) should the groom's family give and who pays for it?


The Pin Jin, which is part of the Guo Da Li, is a show of appreciation and respect for the bride's family. It is often pegged to the financial means of the groom's family. Sometimes, it is also common for the families to discuss internally beforehand. The amounts given tend to consist of numbers with the auspicious number '8' and commonly range between $888 to $8,888.




When should the bride's family prepare and deliver the Dowry items to the groom's family?


The Dowry items are usually prepared before the Guo Da Li ceremony and will be passed to the groom during Guo Da Li. Do note that it is common for a portion of the Guo Da Li items to be returned to the groom's family as well.




What Guo Da Li items are returned to the groom's family?


Upon receipt of the Guo Da Li items and the Pin Jin, the bride and her family will return a portion (usually about half of the items) to signify that they are willing to "share the joy". Apart from the aforementioned, do note that the following items are to be returned to the groom's family: 1. A pair of dragon and phoenix candles (to be lit by the groom's family on the actual day when the groom sets off to escort the bride). 2. A portion of the four treasures (四京果), i.e. red dates; lily buds; dried longans; and lotus seeds. These are to be used to make tea during the Tea Ceremony.





Tea Ceremony

Do we need a boy to open the car door when we reach the groom's home for the Tea Ceremony?


There is no requirement that a boy opens the car door upon reaching the groom's home for the Tea Ceremony. That said, we do see this custom being practised. If it is indeed practised, remember that the groom's side of the door is to be opened first to allow for the groom to get off the bridal car to open the door for his bride.




Briefly, what are the steps in the entire Tea Ceremony process?


Upon reaching the groom's home, the couple will proceed to their bedroom to eat the glutinuous riceballs and drink tea. This is followed by the little boy's ritual of jumping and rolling on the bed. Lastly, the Tea Ceremony will take place.




Can we prepare any type of tea for the Tea Ceremony?


The groom's family should prepare tea using the items given back during the Reciprocity (回礼) i.e. rock sugar and the four treasures (四京果) (which includes, red dates, lily buds, dried longans and lotus seeds).




What is the Tea Ceremony's serving order?


The rule of thumb to remember is to always serve tea to your relatives according to seniority with the most senior relatives served first. Generally, the serving order is as follows: 1. serve tea to the groom's parents 2. serve tea to the groom's paternal grandparents 3. serve tea to the groom's paternal relatives according to seniority 4. serve tea to the groom's maternal grandparents 5. serve tea to the groom's maternal relatives according to seniority 6. receive tea from all their younger siblings and cousins Do also note that it is common for the couple to kneel when serving tea to the groom's parents and grandparents (optional). When serving tea to relatives of higher seniority, the couple should remain standing. The couple should remain seated when receiving tea from the younger relatives.




When do we perform the Tea Ceremony for the bride's family?


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 after the Tea Ceremony which was held at the groom's place and before the wedding banquet. But do check with the elders in both families on the preferred arrangement.




Can we perform the Tea Ceremony at the hotel instead?


Yes you can. It is fairly common for the Tea Ceremony to be performed at the hotel if you have a wedding banquet on the actual day. Do contact your hotel banquet team to arrange in advance.