Traditional dress at a chinese wedding

Written by ilana boyum
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Traditional dress at a chinese wedding
It is customary to wear red at a Chinese wedding. (happy wedding image by chinatiger from Fotolia.com)

Weddings from most cultures are rich in tradition and Chinese weddings are no exception. Though many modern Chinese couples have adopted more Western traditions and only incorporate certain aspects of a traditional Chinese wedding into their nuptials, there are still those that wish to dress in traditional Chinese bridal fashion.

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Colour

One area in which Chinese weddings really stand apart from Western weddings is the colour of the dress. In a typical western wedding, the bride dons a dress of white to symbolise her purity. In Chinese culture, it is customary for the bride to wear a dress that is a vibrant red and that is embroidered with silver and gold thread. The Chinese Historical and Cultural Project notes that red is thought to bring good luck, so cloaking a bride in vestments of red is considered lucky. Additionally, the bride's face is hidden behind a veil of red.

The groom also wears red in his costume. China Bridal details traditional groomswear as consisting of a long, dark blue gown, with dragons embroidered on it, black silk coat, red shoes and red sash with a ball on the shoulder. Additionally, the groom wears a hat with red tassels.

Meaning

More than just being colourful and embroidered, there is meaning to a traditional Chinese wedding dress. The embroidery on the bride's dress is very specific. It is the dragon and phoenix which is symbolic of man and woman. According to China Bridal, having a gown embroidered with these two symbols, symbolises the balance of power between masculine and feminine, which is how a marriage is meant to be.

The ball on the groom's shoulder is removed prior to the wedding ceremony, by his parents, as he kneels at the family altar. This symbolises his entry into his adult life according to Jim Down, a writer who covers Chinese cultural traditions.

Types

Not surprisingly, there are different styles of wedding dress that are popular in different areas of China. According to China Bridal, in Northern China, brides typically wear a one piece wedding gown, known as a Qi Pao or Cheongsam, depending upon the dialect. Though historically, a Qi Pao is referred to a woman's gown and a Cheongsam is referred to a man's dress, the two terms are now used almost interchangeably. In Southern China, the dress is more often a two-piece outfit.

For men, there is very little variation, though in more modern times, many grooms have eschewed the overcoat, opting instead for a single gown of blue.

Accessories

Not unlike many other culture's wedding attire, traditional wedding attire goes beyond just the dress. Chinese brides traditionally wear a phoenix headpiece with either a red veil or a curtain of red beads hanging in front of their faces. As per research from the Chinese Historical and Cultural Project, this practice stems from the old custom of Chinese couples not seeing one another's faces until the actual wedding.

Both the bride and the groom wear red shoes, which are again meant to impart good luck to the young couple.

The groom wears a black cap with red tassels, which plays a pivotal role in the wedding ceremony, as the groom is "capped" at his family's altar prior to the actual wedding ceremony.

Modern Twists

In more recent times, it is fairly common for a Chinese bride to have as many as three different dresses. She may have her red Qi Pao, for the Chinese wedding ceremony, a typical white Western wedding dress for the civil ceremony and a more casual red dress for the reception.

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