Chinese Wedding Gifts and their Meanings
An envelope has arrived by mail, you open it and it is an invitation to a special friend’s wedding – a traditional Chinese wedding. For many who are not familiar with Chinese traditions, a wedding is more than just a union of two hearts. Every detail is planned and arranged extensively, bearing special meanings. Here are a few tips for great gift ideas, how to present them and their meanings.
The Red Envelope
In lieu of a gift, many wedding guests will give a red envelope. The amount of money should be equivalent to a nice gift you would present at a Western wedding. Keep in mind, the money should be new and crisp, not folded. Do not give coin or cheques as coin isn’t too impressive and cheques are not widely used in Asia.
24 Karat Pure Gold
If the decision is to present a gift to the couple, the most traditional is 24 karat pure gold. The gold pieces may come in many forms such as jewelry (necklaces, earrings and bracelets) or decorative objects for their home.
Not only is the choice of gift important in Chinese culture, but the symbol and how much you spend on it is one to be aware of:
Dragon and Phoenix
The symbol of Dragon – male (yang) and Phoenix – Female (yin) symbolize everlasting love and marital bliss. Many married couples will keep an image of the dragon and phoenix in their home as this represents prosperity, success and blessings for many male offspring.
Mandarin duck jewelry or figurines are a favorite wedding gift. The belief that Mandarin ducks promote love and marriage travels back many centuries and it is said, they stay faithful to their mate throughout their lifetime. Images of Mandarin ducks are very common on wedding and greeting cards of all kinds to express love, faithfulness and best wishes. Gifts representing these famous love ducks are the surest way to express your hopes for the happy couple.
Floral Designs – Lily and Lotus
The lily or lotus flower is often gifted to women on their wedding day. The flower design represents children and long lasting and happy union.
9 Treasures Wedding Box
In early times, a Chinese bride was presented with a dowry of nine auspicious items for her new life. Today, these miniature nine treasures are beautifully boxed and presented on the wedding day to bring blessings for a long lasting marriage. Here is the symbolism of each item:
All-Well Scale: Once used by the groom to draw aside the veil of his bride in traditional wedding, it is now one of nine treasured items gifted by parents to daughter, symbolizing the beginning of a blissful marriage.
Union Mirror: Representing union, perfection and grace of bride, the mirror embodies wishes of a sweet marriage, as well as enduring youth and beauty of the bride.
Happiness Basket: Originally used to store food, Happiness Basket defines wealth and abundance of groom’s family. Bride who is married into the family is expected to live well without worries.
Prosperous Scissor: Scissor is traditionally one of the six essential items in a Chinese marriage, to make clothes for the entire family. Scissors for a bride is a wish that she will lead an abundant and fruitful life with her husband.
Abundance Abacus: Having an abacus indicates that parents hope the newlyweds will be able to plan and manage their finances well thus prosper in their union lives.
Devoting Pairs: Devoted as the name suggests, this pair of embroidery shoes signifies that the couple will stay with each other in good or bad times harmoniously for forever.
Auspicious Comb: The comb plays the role of bonding between a husband and wife, which holds them together with endless love.
Everlasting Ruler: A measuring tool which Chinese people believe would be able to measure happiness in marriage, many generations and blessings for a successful career.
Fortunate Box: The last of the nine treasures, was used to carry a bride’s dowry to the groom’s house, along with the good luck of the bride to her husband’s family.
Presenting the Bride and Groom with gifts for their home is always a lovely gesture. Here are some suggestions to impress…
Ruyi (pronounced roo ee)
Literally translated, means “as you wish”. It is a 24 karat curved decorative object that serves as a ceremonial sceptre in Chinese Buddhism or a talisman symbolizing power and good fortune in Chinese folklore. The additional meaning of Ruyi is that of good luck and protection, as well as helping one find a clear way to the fulfillment of one’s path, or destiny.
Chinese Rice Bowl Set
Presenting Your Gift
Chinese wedding gifts can be wrapped with paper and bows, however some colors should be avoided. Red represents luck, pink and yellow symbolize happiness and gold is for fortune and wealth. Keep the wrapping paper, ribbon, and bows in these colors and you can’t go wrong.
Stay away from white, which is used in funerals and connotes death. Black and blue also symbolize death and should not be used.
Gifts to Avoid
It is important in any culture to know what types of gifts are considered off limits. Although some of the items below would be considered odd, here are the gifts you do not give at a Chinese wedding:
- Sharp objects (that means a new set of cutlery is out of the question)
- Cut flowers
- Gifts in sets of four
- Anything in white or black
As world cultures continue to blend, it is inevitable you will be attending a wedding outside the Western tradition. Being prepared is important, using these tips and gift ideas will surely make you an auspicious guest!