Planning a traditional Chinese wedding ceremony

Petaling Street, Wedding

Planning a wedding is never an easy task to do. There are many small details that needed to be taken care off when it comes to planning a wedding. More so when it comes to traditional Chinese wedding involving older generations that can be particular for the wedding to be carried out in a proper manner.

For the best result,  a wedding should be planned at least about 9 months in advance. This is mainly due to difficulty to secure a preferred venue to host the wedding banquet.

To reduce the ‘kelam kabut-ness’ when it comes to planning, here are some tips, which hopefully can help.

Planning a Traditional Chinese wedding in Malaysia

1. Decision to get married

First, the couple would of course have made the decision to get married. Hopefully the couple have the blessing from the families from both sides. The couple would then inform their respective families accordingly of their plan to get married.

Next it would involve setting the wedding date and a formal discussion between both families. Some families set the wedding date first before discussion and some discuss first before setting the date. It depends on preference.

2. Setting the wedding date

In traditional Chinese custom, it is important to set a proper date for all major events especially wedding. This is to ensure the date does not clash or become infavourable to the couple or their parents.

My advise is to follow tradition and get consultation on a proper date. Of course there are no guarantees in life but we still have to do our due diligence. We do not want to be blamed if anything bad happens before, during or after the wedding to anyone.

Popular consultations are:

  • Loh Tit Pat/ Loh Tat Pit (罗铁笔 ) located near Petaling Street (Address: No. 63D, 1st Floor, Jalan Sultan, 50000 Kuala Lumpur (Tel: 03-2070 0917 / 017-2825 666) or
  • Tien Hou temple.

Loh Tit Pat would require:

  • the date of birth of both the guy and girl
  • the year of birth of the parents of both the guy and girl

The amount is RM250 for sms consultation (he actually sent back a long message in Whatapps in Mandarin- not sure if English is available) and RM300 for face to face consultation.

Do provide him an approximate range of the marriage date (ie end of the year, etc) and he would provide a few dates and reply via Whatapps (high tech rite).

Once the wedding date is decided, the family or couple may want to consult Loh Tit Pat again for timings like when to install the marital bed (you need to buy a new bed and no one could sleep on the bed before the wedding date),  ‘comb the hair’ (night before wedding day) and timing to invite the bride to the bridegroom’s home.

3. Formal discussion of wedding plans

This is done by the guy’s parents or guardian who would make a formal trip to the girl’s family to discuss matters pertaining of the wedding. It is quite similar to the ‘merisik’ ceremony.

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A century ago, most bride and groom only meet on their wedding day. Whereas nowadays both the bride and groom’s families would have already known each other for sometime so everyone would sort of know if the couple are planning to get married.

For the Chinese wedding, the discussion would cover on matters related to wedding such as the confirmation of the wedding date, how much ‘lai kam’ (wang hantaran kahwin) that needs to be paid to the girl’s family. Now, we are not talking about selling off girls but you know… these are just formalities. Often, the girl’s parents would return back with an extravagant gift.

They would also discuss on matters such as how many tables the girl’s side require, what other things (like ‘kah lui’ biscuits for the girl’s parents to distribute together with the wedding invitation card to invite friends and families), expectations after marriage (eg where the couple would be staying), etc.

3. Sourcing for venues of wedding venue for the wedding banquet

Popular places that served delicious and reasonably priced food have to be booked in advance. Often, reputation really preceeds – if the place serves lousy food, everyone would know and it is the same for delicious food.

Now these restaurants would be out to make a big buck, cashing out on once in a lifetime event. In 2018, a ‘reasonable’ table for 10 persons would cost at least RM1200 onwards. Most come with minimal orders of 25 tables. Their packages are often fixed price and non negotiable.

If you are getting married on common auspicious date during around CNY or year end (September till December), the best is to book at least a year in advance as most popular dates would be quickly snapped up.

Do note that once you place a booking, your deposit is non refundable. Meaning if the date has to be changed or the event canceled, the deposit (often minimum RM5k) will be burnt.  If the restaurant has the date that you want, at most they would allow you about a week to consider, failing which they would release out the date.

The less time you have, the less choices you have. However, do go around to a few places to get the quotation and the type of offers that it provides. Important info that you need to ask:

  • is the price per table inclusive of GST and service charge?
  • how about liquor and beer- some places may provide free wine and some does not allow you to bring beer from outside. Some give a free barrel of beer
  • any minimum table offer?
  • how about setup and decoration?
  • any other extra charges you need to pay?
  • do they provide complimentary wedding invitation cards (as such wedding cards would contain map, name, address and telephone number of the wedding venue).
  • what is their cancellation policy? OK, sometimes we never know…. there may be certain unforseen event that resulted the wedding need to be postponed or canceled. I have seen in a pamplet from a place that if the wedding is canceled less than certain time, the person must pay half the agreed amount. So read the fine print carefully before you sign on the booking deposit.
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4. Who to invite for the wedding

Of course, this is one of the most important factor when it comes to the wedding. A list needs to be drawn out by both side so that it can be determined if the minimum amount of tables could be met.

The bride and groom and the parents of both sides would have their own individual lists. Even though it is the couple’s weddings, it is also an event where proud parents get the chance to inform all their friends and relatives. Hence, often during yam seng session on the wedding day, the bride and broom would have no idea who they are toasting to as the people would be invited by their parents.

It would be helpful to first list down the core listing of people who you know you would definitely need to invite. Now, not everyone would be able to show up to your wedding. Then expand to a second listing (example long long distance relatives who you do not know well or long time friends).

If you are planning your wedding well in advance, you have the luxury of checking with those who are attending how many seats they wish to be allocated and if they could not make it, then only expand to a second list. It would be offensive if you only invite some people very last minute (like two or three months before the wedding) just because you have lots of empty seats because everyone knows that a Chinese wedding is often planned well ahead (especially to book the restaurant).

Do get all their contact details and then RSVP to see if they can attend and if yes, how many pax. Especially to remember to remind closer to the wedding date or else the place and food would go to waste.

5. Sourcing for bridal studios

There are a lot of options available to book a place to have the wedding photos taken. It can be based on recommendation from friends or based on online ratings of past customers.

The bride and groom would need to determine how many costumes and what type of costume do they need? A white wedding dress with a ‘kwa’ (traditional Chinese red wedding costume) and Western evening gown? The price varies accordingly to how many dresses, how many photos and whether there would be outdoor photo shoots.

Usually the bridal shop would allow more choices of wedding dresses to be taken during photo shoot but on the big day itself- the more dresses, the more you need to pay. And also do you need to rent their car or use your own car.

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At the moment these packages from a reputable studio would cost from RM5000 and above.

6. Catering

Usually, both sides would have an informal gathering on the night before the wedding. And also on the wedding day, the bride’s family would need to prepare some food for the bridesmaids and bridegroom’s friends as well as family members.

The groom should have some food catering for family members who are coming for the tea ceremony and friends as well as the bridesmaids. Tea ceremony is usually in the late morning and would complete around lunch and by the time everyone would be tired and hungry. Sometimes, they would proceed to a nearby restaurant (already booked before hand) to have food or else it would be via catering in the bridegroom’s home.

7. Photographer and videographer 

Photos and videos would need to be shot during the wedding day. These photos consists of shots taken during the bride invitation, tea ceremony, dinner and various candid shots.

The best is to engage a photographer who is reputable and come under recommendation.

8. ‘Tai kam’ auntie and make up artist and hairdresser

A ‘tai kam’ auntie is a lady who would accompany the bride and would say all sorts of nice and auspicious things. She would also be the one guiding the event as most people may be clueless or nervous at what to do during a wedding. For example she would guide during the tea ceremony like when to pour tea and to do in which chronology. As in all, it is best that they come under recommendation from someone who have used the services and is happy with it.

The bride who require special bridal makeup that needs the help of a professional make up artist. The bride may decide if she wants to use back the same artists who did her makeup during bridal shoot if she is comfortable in the make up style.

It would be best if the bride would need to have prior experience working with the make-up artist. I have seen in the past the make-up being overdone which is not to the bride’s taste.

Usually the package would not cover make up for the bridesmaids unless additional price are being paid. Sometimes the bride may have a friend who would offer to help with the makeup of the bridesmaids.

Conclusion

There are many more fine details that this article would not be able to address.

Traditional Chinese weddings in Asia are not a simple feat that can be taken care by a wedding planner. Most often the couple would need to get really involved in the planning of the wedding.

Note: I discovered a blog that provides very detailed sharing on a Chinese wedding, from the writer’s own experience. If you wish to read a detailed step by step on preparations and ceremonies related to the wedding  itself, please visit this awesome blog: https://jjme.wordpress.com/traditions/a-chinese-wedding/

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