For English weddings, the bride and groom typically have a list of wedding gifts but for Chinese, we are more practical. All we want is money, partially to pay for the wedding costs and partially to pay your mother-in-law!
In Chinese culture, traditionally the man has to foot the bill for the whole wedding including the wedding dinner, which is different to English culture where traditionally the bride’s parents pays for the wedding dinner. The Chinese mother-in-law would request for 5 or more bride’s tables. So any wedding gifts (money) given from the bride’s tables would go to the bride’s mother. The rest of the wedding gifts from the groom’s tables would be given to the groom to foot the wedding dinner bill. During my sister’s wedding, my mum stood next to the wedding gift box and she would pocket any gifts from my mother’s relatives or friends.
So if you attend any Chinese weddings in Chinese restaurants as a friend or relative, they would expect you to come with a big fat red packet (ang bao) to help cover their dinner costs.
What to get for the wedded couple?
From a Relative/Friend:
Money! Do make sure it is enough to cover your own dinner costs. How to calculate how much to give? Check out the hotel rating beforehand. If it is a buffet, you can give less. If it’s in a posh hotel, then you should give more. Also give amounts in even numbers.
Chinese love the number 8. They would be happy to get 28, 38, 88 etc. but avoid the number four such as 40. Number four sounds like death in Chinese. So this is not an auspicious number. Also remember to write your name on the back of the red packet. The bride and groom will want to keep a record. So next time, if you get married, they will try to give you back the same amount of ang bao.
Avoid buying presents unless it is requested by the bride and groom. If you would still prefer to give a present, the best choice would be gold. It can be in any form like necklace, earrings etc.
From the Groom’s Family to Bride:
In Teochew traditions, they have to give four pieces of jewellery including a gold necklace, a pendant, a pair of earrings and a bangle.
Mr V kindly shared this photo below with us. This is the type of jewellery they gave to his wife 30 years ago.
In Cantonese traditions, bride will received a pair of dragon and phoenix gold bangles from mother-in-law. This is to symbolise a blissful union.
From the Bride’s Family to Bride:
Now that their daughter is going to be moving away from home, instead of money, they would give their daughter gold jewellery. The reason is simple – if the bride receives money, they would expect to share with their husband in their joint account. To protect their daughter, they give gold jewellery for their daughter to wear/keep. So this jewellery won’t be shared with the husband. Also the bride/wife should not tell the husband where she keeps it so that she has emergency funds if required.
So don’t feel offended if asked to give money (ang bao) at a Chinese wedding! What did you receive on your wedding?