The University of Iowa

Chinese marriage practices

November 7th, 2013

By Siqi Wang for The Daily Iowan

What is love? No matter your nationality or where you live, love is the same for everyone. Most of us more or less have had experience with love up until now. But have you ever fallen in love with a Chinese guy or girl?

In ancient China, marriage is always fixed by your parents. Normally, it takes six etiquettes to become a legal couple.

The first stage is to propose. The boy’s family needs to invite a matchmaker (In Chinese, meipo) to propose the marriage to the girl’s family. Once it’s a successful match, the dual families need to give presents to show their gratitude toward the matchmaker. Before this, the boy and girl have not seen each other.

The second stage is a birthday matching. After reaching the agreement in both families, they will ask the fortune teller to predict the future road of this couple. For example, whether the girl will bring wealth to the boy, whether they are a successful pair, and whether their two families will benefit from each other.

The third stage is betrothal. Once the previous steps have positive outcomes, the matchmaker will bring the presents from the boy’s family to girl’s family in order to show their sincerity for the match.

The fourth stage is wedding gifts. The boy’s family will bring more gifts to girl’s family in order have the wedding date to be scheduled as soon as possible.

The fifth step is a wedding date. After everything is settled down, the matchmaker will discuss with the fortune teller which date is best for this couple to host the wedding ceremony.

The last step is the wedding ceremony. The groom will ride on a horse to take a dowry to the bride’s family. The dowry represents the wealth and social status of the groom’s family. As the bride and the groom arrive at the wedding, they need to kneel three times first to worship the heaven, then to their parents, and finally to each other. After that, the wedding feast begins. That evening, the newly married couple will have their first night together. Can you imagine getting married to someone you just met?

This traditional custom was used for almost 2,000 years in China. But as time went on, young people’s view of love kept changing, and their minds gradually became more open than before. The whole society has changed, and now young adults decide who they want to fall in love with by themselves. Although their parents’ suggestions are still very important, young adults can make the decision about their relationship.

Nowadays, young adults are more concentrated on the “feelings” rather than “facts” (for example, a family’s wealth). They instead focus on who they can get along with, rather than what the fortuneteller has to say.

Furthermore, as the world becomes more international, people have the chance to meet others from many backgrounds.

But remember, love has no barrier. Be brave and love whomever you have the chemistry with.