Along with paying attention to what my elders were saying during the wedding I also asked my parents. Here are some of the customs our family has followed, some may have been left out since assimilation is inevitable.
Horoscopes and the birth dates of the bride and groom are given heavy importance. The grandparents/parents/relative/friend or someone with the knowledge of the Chinese calender can help pick a good wedding date fit for the couple.
The wedding invitation are usually printed on red paper but with the vast selection of haute paper, many derive from the red invitations but still keep the double happiness symbol. As a sign of respect, invitations are hand delivered to immediate relatives along with "bridal" baked goods. Nowadays, many distribute gift certificate from a Chinese bakery so the baked goods are up to the recipient's choice.
My cousin held a rehearsal dinner with the immediate family which had over 60 guest. Traditionally, the bride would stay with the bridesmaids as a "last night" before she is given up to the groom.
The bride bathes in pomelo leaves and dresses in red - usually the water is soaked in the water and drizzle over the body for the symbolic gesture. The pomelo leaves and water is used in other ways to cleanse with a fresh start - a newly released prisoner or cleaning the altar.
My favorite part as a child was the hair combing ritual, I remember my goggling eyes admiring the happy new bride. The hair combing ritual is performed by a "lucky" woman the night before the wedding - someone who has children, grandchildren and a living husband.
The bride-to-be faces a mirror or open window, burns incense for ancestors and celebrates with pink and/or white sticky rice balls [湯圓] representing togetherness and a sweet marriage.
The "lucky" woman will comb the bride-to-be hair three times while saying the lucky phrases; loosely translated to English.
一梳梳到尾，First combing, together until the end
二梳百年好合，Second combing, 100 years of harmony
三梳子孙满堂，Third combing, blessed with children and grandchildren
Firecrackers to announce the arrival of the groom and to celebrate a happy occasion.
The four of us bridesmaids weren't going to let the groom in so easily. We began the red envelope negotiation at $898 and required a few physical endurance. Some of us shouted for the groom to do push ups and jumping jacks while loudly declaring his love for the bride. After a short deliberation we unhooked the chain lock to let the groom into the bride's home.
The groom's entourage paraded with plenty of gifts wrapped in ornate tin boxes - whole steamed chicken, liquor, whole roasted pig, sweet rice, and others each representing a significant meaning. The groom's family symbolically hands over the gifts as the bride's family members and bridesmaids accept the gifts.
The tea ceremony begins with the groom's family, his parents and then the order of the family members eldest to youngest. The groom stands on the right and the bride on the left. The tea ceremony is assisted by a "lucky" woman who hands the tea to the groom first and then to the bride, everyone uses two hands as a sign of respect. The bride and groom receives red envelopes or jewelry as a gift. The lucky woman who assists with the tea ceremony also receives red envelopes.
Please share with me your wedding customs.
To be continue with the Chinese wedding dinner reception...