Chinese Marriage Custom
1. The Proposal.
The process starts with an elaborate marriage and acceptance. This process was placed in the hand of go-between, who acted as a buffer between two parties. The important parties in proposal and betrothal negotiations were the parents of the bride and groom, rather than the bride and the groom.
When the boy’s parents identified a future bride, they would send the go-between to present gifts to the girl’s parents and to express their feelings about the match. If the proposal was well-received, the go-between would obtain the date and hour of the girl’s birth recorded on a formal document.
The groom’s family would place this document on the ancestral altar for three days. If no suspicious omens, e.g. quarrels between the parents or a loss of property, took place within that time, the parents would give the information to an astrological expert to confirm that the young woman and their son would make a good match. If the boy’s family found the horoscope to be favourable, they gave the boy’s birth date and birth hour to the go-between to bring to the girl’s family, who would go through the same process.
Only after both outcomes were favourable, the two families will arrange to meet. Finally after discussion, each family evaluated the other in terms of appearance, education, character, and social status. If both were satisfied they would proceed to the betrothal.
2. The Betrothal.
First both parents exchanged family credentials as tokens of intention. Then, after extensive bargaining, the two families would arrive at the amount of money and goods that would make up the gift to the girl’s family. After presenting engagement tokens, the go-between would ask the bride’s family to choose among several wedding dates suggested by the boy’s family and also set a date for presenting betrothal gifts.
The boy’s family presented betrothal gifts of money and significant items such as tea, "Dragon (male) and Phoenix (female)" bridal cakes, pairs of male and female poultry, sweetmeats and sugar, wine and tobacco, accompanied by an itemized statement of these gifts. Tea was such a primary part of these gifts in some areas that they were known collectively as cha-li, that is, "tea presents." The girl’s family reciprocated with gifts of food and clothing.
It was customary for the girl’s family to distribute the bridal cakes they received from the boy’s family to friends and relatives as a form of announcement and invitation to the wedding feast. The boy’s family’s gifts acknowledged the parents’ efforts in accepting the girl, and by accepting the gifts, the girl’s family pledged her to the boy’s family.
Several days after the presentation of the betrothal gifts, the girl’s family sent porters with an inventoried dowry to the boy’s house. The dowry consisted of practical items, including a chamber pot, filled for the occasion with fruit and strings of coins. This procession gave the girl’s family the opportunity to display both their social status and their love for their daughter, and wealthy parents often included serving girls to attend their daughter in her new home. The betrothal generally lasted for a year or two, although the betrothal would last until the children had grown to marriageable age.
3. Before The Wedding.
In preparation for her departure, the future bride retreated from the ordinary routine and lived in seclusion in a separate part of the house with her closest friends. During this moment, the young women sang and mourning the bride’s separation from her family and vowing in front of the go-between and as well as the groom’s family and the girl’s parents. Since this sleep-over often took place in the cock loft, the bride’s emergence on her wedding day is sometimes referred to as “coming of the cock loft”.
The preparation on the part of the groom involving the installation the bed on the day before the wedding. A man or women with many...
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