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If you are learning Mandarin Chinese and working or living in China you are very likely to make a number of Chinese friends—and the chances are that, at some point, you will be invited to a Chinese wedding.
So, what are some of the key things you’ll need to think about after receiving one of those special red wedding invitation envelopes, especially if it’s your first time to go to such an event?
But before we explain further, we at Learn Mandarin Now would, firstly, like to thank Laura for her contribution to our recent guest post about how to read Mandarin Chinese, and also for letting us write this entry.
Red Envelopes: “Hong Bao”
It’s important to know that if you are invited to a Chinese wedding, instead of a wedding present, you are expected to take a monetary gift for the happy couple, in a nicely decorated red envelope, otherwise known as “Hong Bao”（红包）.
A key question for many people though is: how much do I give? The answer? It depends… upon:
(1) How close your relationship is with the people who are getting married: ie, are they a distant colleague, friend or is your relationship closer? The bottom line: the closer you are with that person, the more money you are expected to contribute…
(2) Where the ceremony, is being held: is it a 5 star hotel or a local restaurant? If the venue is quite upmarket, guest will usually pay a little more
(3)How much did they give to you at your wedding? Generally speaking, it is expected you should not give less than what you received from them
So how much?
In first tier cities in China, our experience is as follows:
- For general relationships, colleagues, typical friends: RMB 200-400 seems to be the norm
- For closer friends, relatives etc: RMB 400-600 is a desired range
- For special relationships such as with your best friend, your business partner, someone who is very important to you… then there is no limit!
By the way, if you are taking your husband or wife, then the amounts above should be doubled.
Greetings and etiquette
Whilst there are many different things to remember about Chinese wedding etiquette, some key things to keep in mind:
- Dress Code: it depends on the occasion but, generally speaking, brighter colours are better than darker colours
- If you want to take a gift as well, avoid using white paper to wrap it in as white relates to death and funerals
- If you are a real beginner in learning Chinese, one thing you can say is “恭喜恭喜 (gongxi gongxi)，which generally means “congratulations” and which you can use many times during the night
- Look happy and smile!
However, China is big country and there are lots of local rituals which can be quite different and/or special. So, if you are a little confused about protocols, simply ask a Chinese friend who might be going with you. Chinese people are very friendly and usually will be happy to give you some tips to help you overcome any cultural errors!
If you want to learn Mandarin Chinese, then finding out and understanding something about Chinese culture is an important step to eventually mastering the language. We recently prepared an article about how to learn Chinese and this should be help get you started. Happy reading!