Chinese wedding is a time for traditions, where it celebrates the union of two individuals through a ceremony that involves their family and friends. These traditions have been present for a long time across different cultures and countries, and it is still prevalent in many weddings today. Continuing traditions on this big day, meant celebrating our origins and gaining a better understanding on the symbolic meanings behind each tradition as well. This article will briefly touch on 5 traditions that are commonly practiced in Singapore Chinese weddings and their symbolic meanings.
Sheltering the bride with a Red Umbrella
When the bride leaves her residence to head over to the groom’s place, she will be sheltered by a Red Umbrella once she is out in the open. This act of sheltering will help to ward off any negative elements. In addition, on the way to the car, relatives will throw rice grains and/or red beans on top of the umbrella for good luck and to provide protection for the bride against any evil spirits that may be watching the house. Especially for Teochew and Hokkien families, the father of the bride or an elder male relative is preferred to hold the Red Umbrella.
Tossing of fan out of the bridal’s car window
The action of tossing the foldable fan out of the bridal’s car window represents the bride throwing all negative aspects of her past life and leaving her ‘bad temper’ behind. Therefore, the couple can progress and look forward to a fresh start on the next chapter of their lives, with a smooth and happy marriage. Once the fan has been tossed out, it can be picked up by any relative.
An auspicious date and timing is chosen to set up the matrimonial bed, and it can be conducted either by a good fortuned lady (who has a husband, children and many grandchildren), the groom or bride’s parents or even the couple themselves. The matrimonial bed will be changed to a brand new set of bed linen in auspicious colours (usually red) and placed on the bed would be auspicious items brought back by the groom from the Betrothal (Guo Da Li) ceremony. Afterwards, a pair of double happiness lamps beside the bed would be lit up until after the third day of the ritual. Upon setting everything in place, the couple and family members who were involved in the ritual will recite phrases to bless the couple with a blissful marriage and tie in the fates granting eternal life together. After the An Chuang ritual has been completed, no one except the couple is allowed to enter the bedroom. Should other people enter the bedroom, it will symbolize a third party in their marriage. Therefore, couples and family members ought to take note of this tradition by informing others beforehand. Moreover, do ensure that the bride does not sleep on the bed after the completed ceremony until before the wedding, as it may lead to poor health in the future.
On the actual day of the wedding, a young child, preferably a young boy whose horoscope does not clash with the groom and bride will be invited to jump and roll on the matrimonial bed. The young boy would also be asked to eat the sweets, which is believed that by doing so, the couple will be blessed with healthy and happy offspring after marriage.
Hair Combing Ritual
This hair combing ritual represents the transitions of the soon-to-be-weds, signifying the change from a girl to a woman, and a boy to a man. This ritual will be conducted in both homes of the bride and groom, where they will begin with washing themselves in pomelo infused water to ward off evil spirits. Subsequently, they will be dressed in a brand new set of PJs and undergarments, before sitting in front of a pair of dragon and phoenix candles, which will help to drive away evil spirits. The combing will commence and each stroke represents a certain meaning and blessing. Thereafter, the couple will proceed to eat glutinous rice balls to symbolize everlasting marriage through good and bad times.
In a Chinese wedding, there is heavy emphasis on the importance of being on time, especially with regards to the auspicious timings. There are ‘Good Timings’ for traditional rituals of a wedding, encompassing the hair combing ritual and tea ceremony. Therefore, if these timings are missed, it will affect the blissfulness of the marriage and bring in ill fortune.