Chinese Weddings

Category: Social Practices, Rituals and Festive Events

A typical Chinese wedding in Singapore includes numerous traditional rituals that tend to vary according to dialect groups. These rituals are passed down from generation to generation and have a long history. While modernisation has led to the simplification of some rituals, certain traditions, practice and rituals are still practised during Chinese weddings in Singapore.

Tea Ceremony at Chinese WeddingsTea ceremony at Chinese wedding. Source: National Heritage Board (Romance, Hopes and Dreams Exhibition)

An important part of the wedding customs is the practice of ”betrothal gifts” (过大礼), where the groom would deliver a set of gifts to the bride’s home to show his sincerity. This takes place on an auspicious day before the wedding date. As a gesture of goodwill, the bride’s family will return the favour with gifts. The types of gifts will vary according to the dialect groups.

With regards to wedding attire, many couples these days prefer to wear western suits and gowns for their weddings. However, some couples still retain the tradition of wearing traditional Chinese wedding outfits. For the latter, grooms will wear the ma kua (马褂), while the bride would wear the red qun kua (裙褂), as red symbolises good fortune and happiness. The embroidery work on the qun kua often features motifs of dragon, phoenix and flora patterns.

On the wedding day, there is the practice of "fetching the bride" (接新娘) which involves the groom visiting the bride's home to bring her back to the groom's family. A red umbrella is often used to shield the bride against any "negative elements" as she leaves the home. "Gate crashing" activities are common, and involve the groom and his best men surmounting various "challenges" to demonstrate his commitment and sincerity, while adding some fun and humour to the wedding proceedings.

The tea serving ceremony is another important ritual to be performed on the day of the wedding as it is a crucial representation of the bride’s acceptance into the groom’s family. The tea is often brewed with lotus seeds and red dates, ingredients believed to encourage child-bearing. The ceremony is also a way for couples to show their gratitude and filial piety towards their elders.

The main event of the Chinese wedding is the banquet, where families, friends and colleagues of the couple will be invited to attend a banquet which often takes place at a restaurant or a hotel ballroom. An interesting aspect of the banquet is the practice of the yam seng (cheers or drink to victory) toast, where guests would offer a toast and shout “yam seng” for as loud and as long as possible, to congratulate and confer blessings to the new couple. 


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