What Is an Appropriate Gift for a Chinese Wedding?

Updated March 23, 2017

There are numerous customs, traditions and taboos in Chinese culture, and many of them apply to weddings and wedding gifts. This article focuses on what are generally considered to be appropriate gifts for a Chinese wedding. For the benefit of those who may be pondering a purchase, it also includes some items that are classified as inappropriate gifts for a Chinese wedding.

Lucky Money

Money is by far the most appropriate and welcome gift for a Chinese wedding. Ideally, the amount should include the figure "8" which is considered to be auspicious and sounds like "prosperity," but not "4" which is thought to be unlucky and sounds like "death." An ideal gift of money would be £577, but £11, £18, £24, £44, £50, £57 and £63 are all acceptable amounts. Avoid £31 and £37 for their negative connotations. However, do not feel compelled to include "8" in the amount, because all amounts which exclude the negative numbers would be fine. It is customary to place a cash gift or check in a red-coloured lucky money paper envelope called a "laisee" which is purpose-made for gift giving. Some Chinese stores in the United States sell a selection of laisee packets with different designs to signify different events, including weddings, anniversaries, birthdays and the lunar new year.

Jade And Gold

Green jade and gold are prized by the Chinese, and are traditional gifts for weddings and other landmark occasions. Matching jade or gold jewellery for the wedding couple would be appropriate, and so would decorative items, for example, a carved jade or gold ship, which suggests "full steam ahead." Other auspicious symbols are the dragon and phoenix which, stand for the groom and bride respectively, and the fish (usually a carp) which symbolises "plenty." A set of jade or gold rice bowls would be the ultimate gift, because the Chinese traditional round table usually seats 10 people. A rice bowl represents prosperity and plenty, and a pair of jade or gold rice bowls as gifts would be reserved for display rather than everyday use. Two pairs of jade or gold chopsticks would also be a suitable gift.

Inappropriate Gifts

Be aware that certain items would NOT be appropriate gifts for a Chinese wedding because of their negative associations. Clocks and picture frames are considered as unsuitable gifts because they are associated with death. Knives also signify bad luck. Don't choose books as gifts because their Chinese name sounds like "lose," not a suitable start to a marriage. While red is the colour of good fortune in the Chinese tradition, white is used for funerals, and a specific dark blue for mourning, so these are colours to avoid in wedding gift giving. Avoid the colour green too, as it is associated with infidelity.

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About the Author

Based in Northern California, Maureen Katemopoulos has been a freelance writer for more than 25 years. Her articles on travel, the arts, cuisine and history have appeared in publications such as "Stanislaus Magazine," "Orientations," "The Asia Magazine" and "The Peninsula Group Magazine." She holds a Baccalaureate degree in journalism from Stanford University.