According to traditional Chinese wedding customs, there are six pre-ceremony steps:
The above six-step wedding ritual started from Zhou Dynasty (1045B.C - 256B.C.). These are the full steps and are regarded as being very formal. In later dynasties, in ordinary family's weddings some of the steps are reduced.
The Chinese wedding ceremony includes five steps:
Groom and bride worship the shrine together. This is also called "worshiping the heaven and earth". This is to pay respect to gods and ancestors. Nowadays, three kowtowings are to be done by the couple. The first one is to kowtow to heaven and earth; the second one is to kowtow to parents; the third one is to kowtow to each other.
Before the start in Chinese wedding banquet, the groom and bride are served with water for washing hand. In the ancient Chinese book "The Ritual Book", it says,"A young person holds a plate while an elderly person takes a water container to pour water. The groom and bride are asked to wash their hands. After washing, a towel is provided."
The drinking of wine is for the couple to drink wine using two cups connected with five-colour threads. Nowadays, the ritual is implemented by letting the couple drink a little wine in each one's cup first, then exchange the cups and finish drinking the rest at once.
In traditional Chinese wedding customs, the bride's head is covered by a piece of red cloth from the moment of leaving her parent' home until the cloth is removed by the groom in the bedroom of the new couple. It is often the case that the groom and the bride has never seen each other before this moment. So modern people may be difficult to imagine the kind of feeling of ancient couples when they firstly see each other.
Chinese wedding ceremonies in different areas may have a little variations, but all Han tribe Chinese wedding customs are more or less the same.
Nowadays, wedding ceremonies are mostly a big festive banquet in people's mind. What the groom and bride think most are the expenses in the wedding ceremony. People tend to forget about the essential meaning of these wedding ceremony rituals.
The essential meaning of these rituals is to make the marriage be witnessed and recognized by heaven and earth, parents, relatives and friends. All these rituals are to make the marriage a formal process so that it will strengthen the loyalty between the husband and wife and keep the marriage relationship stable and permanent. This essential point is the same as in western wedding ceremonies, where the rituals are held in church.
Actually the traditional Chinese wedding process in which the matching is decided by parents has mostly been abandoned in modern China. Such change in wedding customs started from a century ago in China.
People nowadays prefer the free self-decided matching process. In modern people's point of view, the traditional parents-decided matching process was unaccpetable or is regarded as being absurd because traditional Chinese culture has been totally damaged in China and Chinese people have forgotten the real meaning of traditinal Chinese wedding customs.
With a rational analysis, the modern self-decided marriage matching and traditional parents-decided matching can be compared as follows:
|Matching Custom||Communication||Decided By||Elements Considered||Divorce rate|
|Modern matching||The man and woman being matched communicate directly.||Self||The man and woman mostly make their matching decisions basing upon appearance, and instinct of desire.||high|
|Traditional matching||The man and women being matched communicate through matchmaker.||Parents||The parents, family members and matchmakers consider comprehensive background including appearance, character, ability, family, horoscope compatibility etc.||very low|
Please see my another page on the origin of Chinese wedding traditions.
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