Tag Archives: china wedding gift

Wedding Guests: China vs Europe

Right, so finally it’s time to get back on topic: WEDDINGS! That is after all what this blog is all about, isn’t it? The only excuse I have for not keeping up my writing until after both weddings have happened is that now I have both wedding experiences; the better to compare. This is what I intended all along! *wink wink*

So, this is the first in what I think will be many comparative posts on our two weddings: the wedding guests.

Now, if you’re not already aware, there is a difference between your average Chinese wedding and you average European one (and by average I mean non-celebrity, mere mortals like myself) in terms of the guest list. While in Western media there is an on-going joke about how everyone wants to be invited and how the guest list gets out of hand at a wedding, generally I have found that most weddings of my friends and family have fitted into the reasonable-sized category. Mostly around 40 to 70 guests, I’d say. At our German wedding we only even had 25 guests; and that nothing to do with us wanting to save every Yuan we could and all to do with the fact that we decided to keep it highly exclusive, VVIPs only, you know, like the highly exclusive people we are. (You think they bought it?…No? Damn.)

Now in China, even daring to consider having such a small number of people at your wedding is an irredeemable insult to your ancestors. And you ancestors’ ancestors. And you ancestors’ ancestors’ accountant. Again, it’s all about that face, ‘bout that face, no trouble. Hoping Meghan Trainor won’t throw a copyright lawsuit at me for borrowing her legendary lyrics for inspiration. Anywho, digressing again. At a Chinese wedding, lots of people equals face and so the more people attend the wedding the better. Not only that, there is actually a financial incentive to make it as bloody big as possible.

Let’s have a wedding to make some money!

What on earth, financial incentive?! Yes, indeed. While in the West, we are busy losing hair about whether or not to invite Great Aunt Beryl, because that will mean another 60 or so Euros each to pay for her, and her husband and her two brat kids, in China you’ll be sure as heck hoping that Great Aunt Beryl brings her cousin twice removed and their whole clan. Because of the Chinese tradition of giving red envelopes filled to the brim with cash, rather than another embroidered gold toaster to “start married life together”, a Chinese wedding is seen by many here as a) an opportunity to make rather than spend money and b) earn back the money that they’ve spent on other people’s weddings – as you did with Great Aunt Beryl’s two brats. I have to say, they’re really onto something there and thankfully my mother decided to “go Chinese” in terms of wedding presents in Germany and our 25 exclusive guests generously followed suit. Thank you for that!

Intimate Affair vs. Catwalk Spectacle

Now, if you are more of the type of person who prefers an intimate affair for a wedding with just your closest friends to give it all more weight and meaning, the Chinese way certainly isn’t for you. In China, the parents-in-law will literally invite anyone and their dog (as long as the dog brings its own Hongbao of course), with the big company bosses being particular favourites since they rake in the most money. It means that on average 200 people will show up at your wedding, 90% of which you’ve never met before in your life. Especially from our Western perspective, we can quickly feel like this makes the wedding incredibly impersonal and just doesn’t feel right. Indeed, Mr Li was completely won over by the intimate ceremony idea. To this day he will tell anyone who is willing to listen how he much prefers the intimacy of Western weddings.

On the other hand, if, like me, you enjoy feeling like an A-List celebrity walking down a huge catwalk with 200 pairs of eyes on you, this will probably be one of the best days of your life. Especially considering that people even paid money to look at you, it’s almost like you’re Beyoncé…well, minus the voice of an angel and the sexy dance routine. One thing’s for sure, you’ll never get this much attention again!

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Feeling like Beyoncé – if only I could walk sexy in this dress..
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Tips for Attending a Chinese Wedding

I am very happy to share today’s guest post by the lovely folks at Learn Mandarin Now. If you would like to submit a guest post, feel free to message me at ourcnwedding@outlook.cn.

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!