Everything you ought to know about the Chinese Betrothal Ceremony…
Often, I was asked to help pick a good date for the Chinese Betrothal Ceremony. So, today I thought of writing a quick article on this.
In traditional Chinese culture, the Betrothal Ceremony (过大礼), also known as ‘Na Cai’ (纳彩) to some, is an important event and a formality performed by the groom to officially delivers wedding gifts to the bride’s family on a chosen auspicious day to show his sincerity in marrying their daughter.
As part of a goodwill, the bride’s family will also return the favor with gifts as well. This exchange is a form of blessing which symbolizes prosperity and good luck.
Typical Steps In Contemporary Chinese Betrothal Ceremony
1) Traditionally, the betrothal ceremony is done two to three months prior to the wedding day where a senior relative or matchmaker will accompany the groom to present the dowry (聘金) and the pre-agreed betrothal gifts to the bride’s family.
Nowadays this is usually done two to three weeks before the wedding day and an auspicious date is usually selected to perform this activity.
2) Other than dowry, the betrothal gifts to be presented to the bride’s family may include gold jewelry and auspicious food items such as oranges, wedding cakes, alcohol, traditional biscuits and candy, grains such as red dates （早生贵子）, longan （圆圆满满）, lotus seeds （连连生子）, lily bulbs （百年好合）, winter melon sweets（白头到老）and rock sugar（甜甜蜜蜜）, and many others.
Please also take note that this guide is for reference purpose and is not absolute, the items listed need not be followed exactly.
After all, in Singapore, due to our diverse dialect groups, different betrothal items are used by the different dialect groups for ceremony. Every family might have a different perspective towards their heritage.
So, be sure to discuss between your partner’s and your own family to see if there are any other items that they would like to add on or to remove.
3) After receiving the gifts, the bride’s family may return a portion of the dowry and betrothal items, in addition to another set of return gifts, as a gesture of goodwill and to share the good fortune between the two families.
4) Traditionally, the wedding invitations should be sent after the betrothal ceremony. This is because the bride’s family have to receive the betrothal gifts first, to accept this marriage proposal.
It is also customary for the bride’s family to distribute the bridal cakes they received from the groom’s family to friends and relatives as a form of announcement and invitation to the wedding feast.
Traditionally, couples would have to follow through with everything. However, today, most families are a lot less traditional and superstitious.
Hence, many of the monetary and jewelry gifts can be negotiated upon and discussed between both families and the process streamlined with done-for-you betrothal gift sets made available.
The betrothal ceremony should be a joyous and meaningful one. Therefore, soon to wed couples should not be overly stressed out over this and should decide what to leave out and what to include. What matters most is that everyone is happy.