Y Li – Week 3 – Description of a ritual

I attended my cousin’s wedding last year in China, it has a lot of difference compares to weddings in America, but there are also similarities. At the beginning, the bride and the bridegroom will stand in front of the gate to welcome all the guests, and every guest need to sign on a red long paper with a gold mark pen, and every family would give red packet. ( red paper packet with money in it) After all the guests has arrived and being sited on the table, the bride and the bridegroom will put on their wedding suite and walk through the center of hall to the stage, this part is very similar to American weddings, they bride’s father carry her hand and give to the bridegroom, switching rings and kissing the bride, after that, the couple’s parents will come up stages and sit down on chairs, the bridesmaid will come up with four cups of tea, the bride will knee down, hold the tea cup with two hands and give it to the bridegroom’s father/mother and said:” father/mother, please have the tea. ” the bridegroom’s parents will take the tea, nodding, and each gives the bride a red packet, always a big one with 10000, and the bridegroom will do the same to the bride’s parents. Finally, one elder from bride’s or bridegroom’s family will come up for a speech, every guests will raise their cups, wish the best for the newlyweds. This is the time the guests starts to eat, but not the new couple, they need to put on traditional Chinese’s wedding suite and go to each table to propose a toast, that’s a lot of work because there are always more than 300 people including friends, colleagues and relatives from the newlyweds and their parents, after they finish this work, they will stand in front of the gate again to say goodbye to the guests who are leaving since most guests have done eating.

There are three main differences in Chinese wedding compare to the American one. First, the red packets given by guests to the bride and bridegroom, this is to show blessing to the newlyweds, because new-marriage couple are forming a new family, which need a lot of money to decorate their house or go to the honeymoon, so give red packets is the most useful gift. The money always depend on how many people come within this family, the more you come the more you give, 666 or 888 are most common because 6 and 8 are considered the two lucky numbers in China.

Second, the newlyweds give tea to each other’s parents and call them father and mother, this part is called the reword, from when the bride and the bridegroom start to call each other’s parents father and mother, and the red packets given to them means their parents accept the son in law/ the daughter in law.

Last, the newlyweds need to wear traditional Chinese wedding cloth and toast every one. This part is for the newlyweds to thanks every guests for their time to come and witness their wedding, most of the time, the bride’s or the bridegroom’s friends will try to embarrassed the bridegroom, they will think out many special way for the bridegroom to drink the alcohol, the most common one will be let the bridegroom carry the bride at his back or life the bride at his chest and use his teeth to bite the cup and drink up the alcohol in it. The reason why they do that is to implied that the bridegroom overcome many difficulties to marry the bride, he need to cherishes her for the whole life.

I think the ritual I observed (which is the wedding) should be the rite of passage, the wedding change the status of the man and the woman, they become a couple, more related.

3 thoughts on “Y Li – Week 3 – Description of a ritual

  1. I just attend my friend’s wedding yesterday, and as her bridesmaid, I also attend the pre- ceremony. There are some differences of wedding between the northern and southern part of China. In the most of the southern part, the wedding ceremony is held in evening, which the guests are coming and having dinner during the ceremony. Instead, in northern part of China, the ceremony is held in noon. My friend’s wedding ceremony is held in evening, but we start our pre-ceremony, which is a process to let the groom to pick up his bride before the ceremony, in the morning. In old Chinese tradition, the groom and the bride must be separated before the day they have the wedding ceremony. Actually this pre- ceremony is very interesting, that bridesmaids would set a lot of “roadblocks” to stop the process of groom. Every place would have different process, but everyone who attend to the wedding ceremony, are holding the best wished to the new couple, and hope they have a very beautiful future.

  2. I had attend my sister’s wedding several years ago, the main process I basically the same. No matter for traditional parts or Western parts (exchange rings and witness by each guests) Money pay an important part in whole wedding process. Usually, organized a wedding requires a lot of money, like reservations banquet, book Honeymoon. Even the parents bear a large part of the wedding cost, but this is still a pressure for new couple. Guests always choose money as their wedding gifts on the one hand is the wedding blessing, on the other hand is to thank wedding reception. This helps relieve new couple stress. The amount of money depends on relationship between new couple and guests. The more intimate the relationship, and the more money they will give to new couple. This may hard understand in Western culture, but is exquisite and interesting in Chinese culture.

  3. It is interesting how weddings are different across different regions in China. I think the ritual you described is more of a combination of both traditional Chinese wedding, and western wedding. Most of the symbolic signs as you described are consistent in many parts of China. Such as red packets that symbolize the good luck and wishes from the guests to the bride and groom. Offering tea to the newly wedded couple’s parents is a very traditional Chinese routine in weddings, especially at old times. However this is no longer performed at many places in China. The exchange of rings I would say is a very western tradition. This shows that the ring as a symbolic sign of bonding, has been recognized in many cultures. Besides rites of passage as you mentioned, weddings can also be considered rites of intensification as family members and friends gathered together to witness the happiness of the couple, and also get the chance to bond with the family members.

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