The Chinese Wedding Feast

Chinese wedding feast decorations. Chinese wedding feast decorations. Photo courtesy Flickr.

 

The Chinese wedding feast is perhaps the most important aspect of the Chinese wedding day. Typically, the parents of the bride and groom hold separate feasts. The bride's family holds the feast ahead of the wedding. The groom's family hosts the feast that follows the ceremony.

 

The Nuptial Chamber

Prior to joining their guests at the wedding feast, a Chinese bride and groom retreat to their nuptial chamber. For these first few moments alone as husband and wife, the couple sits on their bed together.

In some regions, it is customary for the couple to drink wine from goblets tied together by a red string. After a sufficient time has passed, the couple make their first entrance into the banquet hall.

 

A Chinese Wedding Feast

While the bride and groom enjoy their moments alone, their wedding guests file into the banqueting hall. On entering, they sign the wedding scroll (or guest book) and hand red envelopes filled with cash to wedding attendants.

In front of the guest offering the envelope, the attendant opens it and counts the cash. They write the amount down so the couple will know how much to offer at the guest's future wedding. It is customary for the couple to offer a sum greater than what was given.

Once everyone assembles and finds their seat, the wedding emcee announces the first entrance of the bride and groom. Typically, the groom offers a welcome speech which begins the service of a nine-course meal.

While the guests eat, the bride and groom visit tables, greet their guests, and then retire to their rooms to change clothes. They return in new outfits after the third course, and again after the sixth course.

Sometime just before dessert is served, the bride and groom offer a toast to their guests. The best man might also offer a toast at this time. Next the bride and groom visit each table. Each group of guests rises and drinks a toast to the couple. After visiting each table, the bride and groom leave the banquet hall once again.

The couple changes their clothing once more, as the guests finish dessert. As soon as the dessert plates are cleared, the Chinese wedding feast ends. The bride and groom, as well as their close family members, assemble in the foyer outside the hall. One by one, the guests file out, shaking hands with the couple and their families. In addition, each guest has a photo taken with the couple, and the bride may hand out sweet treats.

 

After the Feast

One final ritual takes place on the evening of a Chinese wedding. At the end of the night, friends and family fill the bedroom. The youngest guests are encouraged to jump on the bed. Encouraged to make as much noise as possible, this bedlam discourages evil spirits from roosting in the room.

Older friends play tricks on the couple, enjoying one final opportunity to keep the party going. The couple then shares another glass of wine. In some regions, the groom drinks of the 'flesh cup,' after which he holds the wine in his mouth. He then passes the wine from his mouth to his wife's, who swallows it for both of them.

Staying as long as possible, the couple's friends tell ribald jokes, share stories, and enjoy ribbing the couple as much as possible. The couple finally cuts a lock of each others' hair, symbolizing the unity of their hearts. Eventually, their guests leave.

The next morning, the bride awakens early to pay honor to her new family ancestors at the altar. Afterwards, she is introduced formally to her new family members. Each person offers her a small gift, and her husband's parents anoint her with a new title that places her in their family's ancestral hierarchy.

Three days after a Chinese wedding, the bride and groom visit the bride's family home for dinner. From this visit onward, she is treated as a guest by her family.