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Date [ 2014-04-03, 12:18 ]

The behind-the-scenes activities before the big day.

The Dragon, Phoenix Bridal Cake

(Kuala Lumpur=Koreanpress) Liu Lai Keen =Korean Press here will look at the machinations that constitute a traditional Chinese wedding, which can differ from state to state or even village to village. In Malaysia, much of the ceremonies have been modernized. Here a look is taken at the preparations involved for a traditional wedding.

The traditional Chinese wedding ceremony is said to have begun in the Warring States period.  402-221 B.C. Three venerable texts, The Book of Rites, The Book of Etiquette and Ceremonies, and the Baihu Tong outline the Three Covenants and the Six Rites, that were considered necessary elements of a marriage. However, the full ritual was so complicated that from the beginning there were changes and simplifications.

However the chief objectives remained: the joining of two families and ensuring there were numerous progenitors. Incorporated into the ceremonies were reverence to parents and ancestors, the encouragement of fertility, financial and social obligations contracted by both families at the betrothal, extensive giving of gifts and the bride’s inclusion into the bridegroom’s family.

The Proposal

First the process begins with an elaborate marriage proposal and acceptance. This is usually done by a go-between. The main people who will take part in the negotiations will be the parents of the prospective bride and groom. They, unlike today, will not take any part in it.

When the boy’s parents have identified a prospective bride-to-be, they will send the go-between or a marriage broker to present gifts to the girl’s parents and to test the waters. If the proposal is well-received, the go-between will then obtain the date and hour of the girl’s birth recorded on a formal document, such as a birth certificate.

The groom’s family would then place this document on the ancestral altar for three days. If no inauspicious omens occur, such as quarrels between the boy’s parents or a loss of property, then an astrologer will be asked to confirm that the young woman and their son are a good match. If the boy’s family finds the horoscope to be favorable, they will then give the boy’s date of birth and hour to the go-between to be taken to the girl’s family, who will then double check themselves.

Only after both results are favourable, will the two families arrange to meet where they will evaluate eachother in terms of appearance, education, character and social standing. If both parties are satisfied the next step will be the betrothal.

The Betrothal

First, both sets of parents will exchange family credentials as tokens of intention. Then, after extensive bargaining, the two families will arrive at the amount of money and items that will be presented as gifts to the girl’s family. Next,engagement tokens will be exchanged. Now the bride’s family is asked to choose an auspicious wedding date from the several suggested by the boy’s family and also set a date for presenting the betrothal gifts.

These will be giftsof money and traditional significant items such as tea, bridal cakes signifying the "Dragon (male) and Phoenix (female)”, pairs of male and female poultry, sweetmeats, sugar, wine and tobacco, accompanied by an itemized statement of these gifts. In return, the girl’s family will reciprocate with gifts of food and clothing.

After this, the bride’s family will distribute the bridal cakes to friends and relatives as a formal announcement and invitation to the wedding feast. The number of cakes given to those present will be based on how close they are related to the bride’s family and seniority. Those who received the bridal cakes are expected to present gifts to the girl’s parents.

The groom’s family’s gifts acknowledge the efforts taken by the bride’s parents in raising her, and by accepting their gifts, the bride’s family now formally hand over their daughter to the bridegroom’s family.Note; here that the bride is given to the family and not to the groom alone. At this stage it can be assumed though the groom and bride have yet to meet, the betrothal is considered binding. Only a mutual agreement by both parties of parents can annul the contract.

Several days after the presentation of the betrothal gifts, the bride’s family will send porters with an inventoried list to the groom’s house. These will be practical items, including a chamber pot, filled with fruit and strings of coins. The procession to the groom’s house gives the bride’s family the opportunity to display both their social status and their love for their daughter. Wealthy parents often include serving girls to attend to their daughter in her new home.
Betrothals generally last for a year or two, unlike today which is for a few months or even on the day of the wedding itself.

Preparing for the Wedding Day

Once the wedding has been finalised, the bride-to-be will cease her daily routine and live in seclusion in a separate part of the house with her closest friends. Here she will be sung songs railing against her departure from her family home. A good amount of curses will be heaped on the go-between, on the groom’s family and even the bride’s own parents. The bride will remain here until it is time to come out for the wedding.

Meanwhile the groom has an important matter to attend to. The installation of the bridal bed which will be doneon the day before the wedding. A propitious hour and someone who is considered a fortuitous person, and this can be either a man or woman, with many children will be selected to install the newly purchased bed. Obviously no widows or widowers will be allowed to install the bed. After it is in place, children are invited onto the bed as an omen of fertility, the more, the merrier. For the same reason, the bed is scattered with red dates, oranges, lotus seeds, peanuts, pomegranates and other fruits.

This is when the fun begins with the children scrambling for the fruits.

Next day is the dawn of the wedding day.Korean Press will describe the actual wedding day in a coming issue.


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