A bed set up with red double happiness pillows and bed spread

Five Fun Chinese Wedding Traditions You Might Not Know About

What do you think of when you think of wedding traditions? The throwing of the bouquet probably. But how about the throwing of the fan? You know the rule about wearing something old, new, borrowed, and blue — but what about new shoes?

Today, in celebration of wedding season, we’re looking at five fun Chinese wedding traditions.

Setting up the matrimonial bed

While you might think the wedding night is a private affair, in old Chinese tradition, the whole family might get involved.

Called an chuang in Mandarin, the ritual of preparing the marriage bed was thought to ensure fertility for the new husband and wife. A woman considered fortunate — that is, one who was married with a still-living husband and plenty of offspring — was selected to perform it. The lucky lady, usually a female relative of the groom set up the auspiciously red linens while other relatives placed on the bed blessed foods such as red dates, dried lychees, and peanuts in their shells, as well as two red envelopes, or hong bao, with money in multiples of nine.

The final touch? Getting as many children as possible to jump and roll around on the bed for ultimate fertility.

Serve sweets — just not pears

As with Lunar New Year, candy is a must-have at Chinese weddings, whether red wrapped lucky candy or the traditional White Rabbit. Cake and fruit can also play the honeyed role. Just be sure not to serve pears as the Chinese word for it, li, sounds like the word for “to leave,” the last thing you’d want to wish for the new couple.

Throwing the fan

While the western tradition of the bride tossing her bouquet is about passing her good fortune onto others, the fan throwing custom is about casting off bad luck. A newer tradition practiced in countries like Singapore and Malaysia, this ritual requires the bride to fling a folding fan from the wedding car and with it any negative emotions and events from her past, giving her and her betrothed a fresh new start.

Hiding the bride’s shoes

You’d think once pronounced man and wife, the newlyweds could be together. Not so! In addition to other challenges, the groom must find the bride’s shoes which have been hidden by friends and family. Once he does, the couple can finally reunite.

Wearing new shoes

Speaking of shoes, you might know that in some Asian households, people are encouraged to remove them, whether for cleanliness, health, or as a sign of respect. Not so during a Chinese wedding. Tradition calls for the bride and groom to wear brand, spanking new shoes, either in red or yellow with auspicious symbols like the peony or characters such as shuang xi, double happiness and he xie,  harmony. (Xie, by the way, is a homonym of "shoe.")

The happy couple aren't allowed to remove their fortunate footwear for the whole day, even during visits to their respective parents’ homes. It was only when they reached the wedding chamber that they could finally kick them off and relax.

Want to learn more? Check out 10 other Chinese wedding traditions, past and present.
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