Chinese marriage became a custom between 402-221 B.C. Despite China’s long history and many different geographical areas, there are basically six rituals, generally known as the three letters and six etiquette.
The marriage is initiated by a series of three letters.
The request letter is sent from the groom’s family to the bride’s family, and formally requests a marriage.
The gift letter accompanies the gifts of the groom’s family to the bride’s family shortly before the wedding.
The wedding letter is given on the day of the wedding, officially accepting the bride into the groom’s family.
Proposal: When an unmarried boy’s parents find a potential daughter-in-law. They then located a matchmaker whose job was to assuage the conflict of interests and general embarrassments on the part of two families largely unknown to each other when discussing the possibility of marriage.
Birthdates: If the potential daughter-in-law’s family did not object to the proposal, the matchmaker would then compare the couples’ birthdates. If according to Chinese astrology the couple is compatible they would then proceed to the next step.
Bride price (Betrothal gifts): At this point the bridegroom‘s family arranges for the matchmaker to present bride price (betrothal gifts), including the betrothal letter, to the bride’s family.
Arranging the wedding: The two families will arrange a wedding day which will bring the most luck to the couple, again based on the Chinese calendar mythology.
Wedding Ceremony: The final ritual is the actual wedding ceremony where bride and groom become a married couple, which consists of many elaborate parts
Wedding Procession: The wedding procession from bride’s home would march to the groom’s home. The procession consists of a traditional band, the bride’s sedan, the maids of
honor’s sedans (if there are maids of honor), and bride’s dowry in the forms other than money.
Welcoming the Bride: The wedding procession of the bride’s family stops at the door of the groom’s home. There are ceremonies to be followed to welcome the bride and her wedding procession into the groom’s home, which varies for locale to locale.
Actual Wedding Ceremonies: Equivalent to exchanging vows in the west, the couple would pay respect to the heaven and earth, paying respect to the groom’s parents, paying respect to each other.
Wedding banquet In Chinese society, the wedding banquet is known as xǐ-jǐu and is sometimes far more important than the wedding itself. There are ceremonies such as bride presenting wines or tea to parents, spouse, and guests.
Before modern times, women were not allowed to choose the person they married. Instead, the family of the bride picked the prospective husband. Marriages were chosen based upon the needs of reproduction and honor, as well as the need of the father and husband.