Money Week

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Common Practice
Bride price

Bride price also known as bride wealth is an amount of money or property or wealth paid to the parents of a woman for the right to marry their daughter. (Compare dowry, which is paid to the groom, or used by the bride to help establish the new household, and dower, which is property settled on the bride herself by the groom at the time of marriage.) In the anthropological literature bride price has often been explained in market terms, as payment made in exchange for the bride's family's loss of her labor and fertility within her kin group. Compare this affinal practice with brideservice, which does not rely on a compensatory exchange idiom for ethnological interpretation.

The same culture may simultaneously practice both dowry and bride price.

In traditional Chinese culture, an auspicious date is selected to Ti Qin (literally meaning "propose marriage"), where both families will meet to discuss the amount of the bride price demanded, among other things. A couple of weeks before the actual wedding, the ritual of Guo Da Li (literally meaning "performing the rites") takes place (on an auspicious date of course). The groom and a matchmaker will visit the bride's family bearing gifts like wedding cakes, sweetmeats and jewelry as well as the bride price. On the actual wedding day, the bride's family will return a portion of the bride price (sometimes in the form of dowry) as a goodwill gesture.


A dowry (also known as trousseau) is the money, goods, or estate that a woman brings to her husband in marriage.

The opposite direction, property given to the bride by the groom, is called dower or mahr. Normally the bride would be entitled to her dowry in event of her widowhood, prior to the evolution of her dower rights; so common was this that the terms "dowry" and "dower" are sometimes confused.

The dowry should not be confused with a bride price, money or goods paid by the prospective groom to the bride's parents in exchange for her hand in marriage.

Wedding Reception

In Chinese society, the wedding reception is known as xǐ-jǐu (喜酒, literally joyful wine), and is far more important than the wedding itself which tends to be a brief civil ceremony. The timing and the characteristics of the reception vary strongly from locale to locale. They are often extremely elaborate and expensive, often costing several years' salary of the groom's family. However, because cash in the form of red envelopes and jewelry (particularly gold) are given as wedding presents, and because the wedding hosts keep very careful track of the cost of the gifts (jewelry is given with a receipt which indicates the actual cost of the gift), the cost of the reception is effectively split among the wedding guests. Wedding receptions also build local community solidarity. As each couple weds, their wedding reception is in effect financed with gifts from the other members of the community with the expectation that the new couple and their family will give gifts in future wedding receptions within the village.

Tea drinking customs

To connect large families on wedding days: The tea ceremony during weddings also serves as a means for both parties in the wedding to meet with members of the other family. As Chinese families can be rather extended, one or two hundred people, it is entirely possible during a courtship to not have been introduced to someone. This was particularly true in older generations where the patriarch may have had more than one wife and not all family members were always on good terms. As such, during the tea ceremony, the couple would serve tea to all family members and call them by their official title. Drinking the tea symbolized acceptance into the family. Refusal to drink would symbolize opposition to the wedding and is quite unheard of since it would result in a loss of "face". Older relations so introduced would give a red envelope to the matrimonial couple while the couple would be expected to give a red envelope to younger, unmarried relations.

Red Packet

In Chinese society, a red envelope or red packet (Known as Hong Bao in Mandarin, Ang Pao in Hokkien and Lai See in Cantonese) is a monetary gift which is given during holidays or special occasions.

Red envelopes are mainly presented at social and family gatherings such as Chinese weddings or on holidays such as the Chinese New Year. The red color of the envelope symbolizes good luck and is supposed to ward off evil spirits.

The amount of money contained in the envelope usually ends with an even digit, for instance 88, 168 are both lucky numbers, as odd numbered money gifts are traditionally associated with funerals. At weddings, the amount offered is usually intended to cover the cost of the attendees as well as a goodwill to the newly weds.

Red Eggs
In some families, eggs dyed red would be distributed to all guests. The eggs are a symbol of fertility and can be distributed to anyone.
Red Double Happiness sign

Red, being the auspicious colour for the Chinese, will feature strongly in Chinese weddings. The homes of the bride and groom will be decorated in red. The red double happiness Chinese character will be pasted on doors and sometimes embroidered on pillow cases and blankets. 

Taboos in a Chinese wedding

The following are considered taboos and highly inauspicious acts:

  • Pregnant ladies may not participate in a Chinese wedding. This applies to Chinese guests and varies among families.
  • Those with a recently-deceased family member will also not participate in the wedding and do not even touch the clothes of the newly-weds and items in the new home. Again, this custom varies among different families. Usually, however, Chinese people who have experienced death in the family recently would not be invited to attend weddings, out of respect for the mourning period.
  • If a relative passes away before the wedding, the wedding will be postponed for at least a year, which is generally respected as the mourning period. It is considered bad luck to hold a wedding during the mourning period. The mourning period, however, does vary these days. It can range from one month to one year.
Auspicious and inauspicious gifts
  • Cash gifts are acceptable but they must be given in even number amounts, for example, $20, $60, $80, etc. Odd number amounts are to be avoided.
  • Amounts with the number `4’ should also be avoided as the Chinese word for the number `4’ sounds like death.
  • It is best to put the cash gifts in a red packet (hongbao) as red is considered an auspicious colour.
  • Avoid giving clocks or other time pieces. These represent the ticking of time and the inevitable. 
  • Avoid giving knives, scissors or other sharp-edged items as they are considered bad luck.
  • Avoid giving gifts in a set of four as the number `4’ sounds like `death’ and bad luck in Chinese
  • Avoid wearing black, blue and grey to a Chinese wedding.
  • Gifts with a fish motif are considered auspicious as the fish is a symbol of abundance and prosperity.
  • Gifts with dragon and phoenix motifs are also welcome as they signify the universal balance between yin and yang forces, which is highly valued among Taoists. 
  1. red wedding dress brings good luck. Red wedding invitation is also a sign of good luck
  2. new bed and sheets and all related items means a bow to fertility and hopes that the couple will have many children
  3. kids jumping on the new bed appeases the fertility gods