When a western man meets a woman through an online Asian dating website, it often leads to the next step: marriage. However, because China has a long history steeped in rich culture, the wedding traditions can be quite different from those with which a westerner is familiar. If a couple plans to marry in China, or even follow some of these traditions, it helps to have an idea of what is to come.
Although Asian dating sites have frequently taken the place of traditional matchmaking in China, it still does occur from time to time. Traditionally, the first step in a relationship would be for a family to hire a matchmaker who would, in turn, visit another family’s home to seek a proposal. From that point on, each family would visit a fortune teller who would advise on the compatibility of the couple. If he or she found good results, a marriage deal would ensue. Essentially, this is how Chinese arranged marriages work.
Some families still opt for the arranged marriage, but more often than not, Chinese singles find their own true love and a modern engagement follows. Even in China, many modern men offer an engagement ring to their betrothed.
Betrothal gifts and bridal dowry
Betrothal gifts and a bridal dowry are traditional parts of any Chinese engagement and marriage. Today, the engagement ring is often seen as a betrothal gift, but in the past the groom’s family would send an array of gifts to the bride’s family. In most cases, betrothal gifts were things such as cakes and food. It is important to note that once the bride’s family accepted these special gifts, the wedding could not be called off lightly.
In turn, tradition mandates a bridal dowry. The bride delivers her dowry, or an assortment of gifts, to her husband’s family after they have been wed. In China, when a woman marries, she becomes part of her husband’s family, leaving her family home behind. For the rest of her life, her familial responsibility will lie with her new family. The value of the dowry was often used to determine the bride’s status in her new household.
Fortune teller consultation
Even in these modern times, some traditions still remain. This happens to be the case with the fortune teller consultation with regard to Chinese weddings. Traditionally, before an engagement can be confirmed publicly, each family will consult a fortuneteller who will analyze not only the couple’s names, but also their date, year and time of birth, to determine if they really are compatible.
In the past, if the fortune teller found negative results, then the engagement would not go ahead. If the analysis was favorable, traditional families would confirm the engagement with the practice of ‘three matchmakers and six proofs’. The proofs were a measuring vessel, an abacus, a pair of scissors, a ruler, a set of scales, and a mirror. Today, many modern families still observe this custom as a fun way to respect their tradition and heritage.