Traditional Chinese Weddings: Traditions and Etiquette

December 09, 2023

A Chinese wedding is a beautiful tapestry of ancient traditions, symbolisms, and a rich cultural heritage. The act of committing to another person is something that is considered a huge step, so nothing is left to chance. Even something as simple as picking a date is not taken lightly; many couples will consult a fortune teller, Chinese monk or Feng Shui master to choose an auspicious date to bring happiness and success to their marriage.

In this post, we will delve into the enchanting world of traditional Chinese weddings, exploring common customs, differences from Western weddings, dos and don'ts for guests, and answering frequently asked questions.

Common Chinese Wedding Traditions

Gatecrashing Games (过门游戏 _Guòmén yóuxì


Also known as the "door games", the gatecrashing games are a lively pre-wedding tradition. As part of the tradition, the groom, with the help of his groomsmen, must overcome challenges set by the bridesmaids to prove the groom's sincerity. These games often include humorous tasks, showcasing the groom's willingness to do anything to marry his bride.

These games are expected to test the groom's knowledge of his bride-to-be, eat something sweet or sour to give him a taste of married life, and even some test of pain is possible. Hopefully, the bridesmaids are fond of the groom, as they are in control. Yikes!

Tea Ceremonies (敬茶仪式 Jìng chá yíshì)

A pivotal element in Chinese weddings, tea ceremonies symbolize respect and gratitude towards the couple's parents and elders. The couple serves tea to their parents, starting with the groom's and then the bride's family. In return, they receive blessings and red envelopes. The tea ceremony can take place at a single chosen location or the homes of the two groups of parents.

Bridal Bed Setting (安床仪式 Ān chuáng yíshì)

Like every other aspect of Chinese wedding traditions, the bridal bed setting takes place on an auspicious time and date, a couple or so days before the wedding day. A selection of items are chosen and placed in the marital bed by a female relative to bring good fortune, happiness, and fertility to the newlyweds.

Red Color and "Double Happiness" (囍 )

It is no surprise the color red holds immense significance in Chinese weddings. Culturally, red symbolizes love, joy, luck, fertility, and prosperity. From the bridal attire to decorations, the prominence of red in a Chinese wedding is a testament to its positive connotations. During weddings, the red is combined with gold to replicate wealth. The two colours are also commonly used for wedding invitations, where the envelopes used are usually red with a golden symbol on it: the Double Happiness character.

The "Double Happiness" character represents the joy and harmony the couple brings to each other's lives. The symbol can be seen all around the wedding venue.


During the wedding banquet, the newlyweds visit each table to toast with guests, expressing gratitude and sharing a moment of celebration with everyone present. The toast is the bride and groom's way of thanking each one of their 100+ guests for joining them on their special day.

Other traditions

While Chinese wedding traditions have modernized and no longer involve a large procession, the journey to pick up the bride is still a relatively lively affair. Setting off firecrackers, playing drums and gongs, or even a lion dance troupe may be part of the process. A less noisy tradition that may occur is the releasing of sky lanterns or doves to symbolize the couple's journey into a harmonious future.

Chinese wedding bride and groom table setting

Differences Between Western and Chinese Weddings

While both celebrate the union of two individuals, Chinese weddings differ from Western weddings in various aspects, including the emphasis on family involvement, the significance of colors, and the inclusion of symbolic rituals like tea ceremonies and gatecrashing games.


In a Western wedding, the soon-to-be-married couple is in control of how they want the day to look. They take suggestions from friends and family, but the final decision lies with them. Chinese parents, on the other hand, get a say because a wedding is a chance for them to parade their children in front of friends and family. Plus, they are paying for the wedding.

Wedding Schedule

The day is quite simple in the West: a reception, vows, dinner, and a night of entertainment, with most people looking forward to the best man's speech - a traditional speech made to embarrass the groom. In contrast, a Chinese wedding is full of different activities spread throughout the day, such as the tea ceremony in the morning, and the speeches given are more to express love and reminisce using old photos of the bride and groom.

Number of guests

Another striking difference is the sheer number of people expected to attend the wedding. It is very rare for a Western wedding to have 100 attendees, but in China, it is not surprising to attend a wedding with 200 guests or more.

Chinese wedding guest table setting

Dos and Don'ts for Chinese Wedding Guests


1. Bring Red Envelopes: It's customary for guests to bring red envelopes containing money as a gift. The amount should be even, as odd numbers are associated with funerals.

2. Dress Conservatively: Choose attire that respects the formality of the occasion. Women should avoid wearing red, as the bride is likely to change into a red dress at some point during the evening, and upstaging her will not go down well with the happy couple.

3. Be Punctual: Arrive on time to show respect for the couple and their families.

4. Participate in Rituals: If invited to participate in tea ceremonies or other rituals, do so with enthusiasm and sincerity.


1. Avoid White or Black Attire: White is associated with funerals, and black is considered inauspicious.

2. Don't Give Clocks or Umbrellas: Clocks symbolize running out of time, and umbrellas are associated with separation. If not sure what gift to bring, then as mentioned above, a red envelope is the perfect gift.

3. Avoid Negativity: Speaking about negative topics or bringing up a sad story is said to bring bad luck. Making sure to stay happy and upbeat throughout the event is a must.

4. Don't Eat Too Much Before The Banquet: The wedding banquet is an absolute feast, and there's plenty of food to go around. Make sure you come with an appetite.

Chinese wedding bride's attire

Common Questions About Chinese Weddings

Which family pays for a Chinese wedding?

Traditionally, the groom's family bears the cost of the wedding, including the banquet. However, modern couples may opt to share expenses.

How many days is a Chinese wedding?

While the wedding day is the main event, celebrations may span several days, including pre-wedding rituals and post-wedding banquets. The bed setting takes place three days before the wedding, and the newlyweds usually spend the day with the bride's family three days after the wedding, totaling six days. Unless you are integral to the wedding party, you are just attending the wedding.

Do couples in China exchange rings during a traditional Chinese wedding?

Yes, they do. The exchanging of the rings takes place in a more private environment with only the family members in attendance. This is the last step before the wedding banquet commences.

When should guests present red envelopes and gifts at a Chinese wedding?

Instead of tangible gifts, it is customary for guests to give red envelopes (hongbao) containing money as a gesture of goodwill. Guests typically present red envelopes during the tea ceremony or at the wedding banquet. It's advisable to check the invitation for specific instructions.

How much money do you give at a Chinese wedding?

The amount varies, but even numbers are preferred. Consider factors like your relationship with the couple and local customs when determining the amount.

Chinese Vocabulary and Greetings for Chinese Weddings

Chinese characters Pinyin English
恭喜 Gōngxǐ Congratulations
新娘 Xīnniáng Bride
新郎 Xīnláng Groom
红包 Hóngbāo Red envelope
喜糖 Xǐtáng Wedding candies
结婚 Jiéhūn To get married


Traditional Chinese weddings are a harmonious blend of cultural richness and symbolism, reflecting the deep-rooted values of respect, love, and family. Nothing is left to chance, whether it is the wedding date or the amount of money given as a gift. By understanding these traditions and etiquette, one can fully appreciate the beauty and significance of this special celebration.
Embracing these customs adds a touch of authenticity to the joyous occasion and helps build a respectful relationship with the parents and relatives on both sides.
Wishing you a lifetime of "Double Happiness"!

About the Author

Mehmet has been a struggler, learner, and maybe one day a solid grasper of the Chinese language and country thanks to his decade-plus spent in the Middle Kingdom.