Chinese weddings are very symbolic. Every step of the Chinese wedding ceremony is peppered with items and gestures to symbolise the bringing of good luck to the couple. Although some traditions have been forgotten in today’s modern times of convenience, one particular Chinese wedding tradition that has carried through the times is the giving of the Ang Pow or Lai See.
Unlike the Westerners who present the bridal couple with wedding gifts, the Chinese believe in giving money in a red packet (Hong Bao) instead as a gesture of good luck. Chinese are very practical people and this gesture of giving money is also meant to contribute towards the wedding expenses the couple has had to bear. While guests usually try to give enough for the couple to cover their reception costs, close friends and relatives will usually give bigger hong baos as a gesture of luck to the couple. In return, the couple gives out ang pows throughout their wedding to their helpers to thank these people and to return some of their good luck. Read below to understand when the ang pow is given during a Chinese wedding ceremony.
Before The Wedding
- The groom’s family often presents the bride’s family with a “dowry” or a sum of money in a red packet as a form of respect to the bride’s parents for having raised her.
- An ang pow is also usually given to the bride’s mother for bringing her up as part of the items brought by the groom’s family.
- The groom usually carries several hong baos in his pocket when he leaves his home to pick the bride.
- The first red packet will go to the younger brother or younger male relative of the bride who is tasked with opening the car door for the groom when he arrives. This is considered to be the first point of “defence” the groom is required to go through!
- The groom and his helpers (or heng tais) will then be stopped at the door by the brides’ friends (or chi muis) and relatives who will demand certain tasks to be performed and sufficient hong baos to be given before he is allowed to enter. Be warned as the ang pows can sometimes shoot through the roof, depending on the negotiation skills of both parties!
Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony
- With the bride safely by his side, the couple will then have the Chinese traditional tea ceremony with the bride’s family before she leaves the home and with the groom’s family when she enters his house.
- Lai see (red packets) or gold items will be given by both families after the tea is served to them. In return, the couple will be required to give ang pows to their younger siblings or relatives who serve them tea as a form of respect.
Wedding Dinner Reception
- Guests who attend the wedding dinner usually bring a red packet of money with them to be presented to the couple. Over time, this has started to be known as a “saman” (or summons) especially when one receives several wedding invitations for that month!
- The couple usually gives their helpers angpows at the end of the day to thank them for their help and to bless them with good luck.
The amounts in the red packets can vary depending on the couple’s financial position and family backgrounds. While it is a practical and charming tradition, unfortunately, over time, this significance of good luck behind the red packet has been somewhat lost as a certain sum is sometimes expected to be received or given in the red packet. Hence, while every little contribution of cash is helpful to the wedding, the blessings and good luck wishes from others as symbolized by the lucky red envelope are just as important!