Thursday, July 01, 2010

Weddings of the World: Hong Kong

The first guest post about weddings around the world comes from the wonderful wife of long time reader Eddie. In this post she writes about weddings in Hong Kong. If you are interested in writing a guest post about weddings in your country, culture, or subculture just contact us via e-mail at catholicgauze [at] gmail [dot] com.

Hong Kong wedding traditions can vary at points (especially pertaining to the ceremonies themselves) due to families having different customs relating to their origins from particular provinces in China. One exceedingly common tradition is for parents to consult a fortune teller in order to divine the best date (i.e. the luckiest date... a wedding on this day would be long-lasting and graced with good fortune). The fortune teller uses the birthdays of both parents and the couple to arrive at this “best day” .For at least more than a hundred years in Hong Kong, almanacs have been published that are utilized by the fortune tellers in designating this date.

Often, both parents' homes are visited on the wedding day with the groom first visiting the bride's parents (and assorted family) and presenting a gift of tea to them to show respect to them and join their family as he calls upon the residence to pick up his soon to be wife. Responding to him, the bride's family will give money or accessories (i.e. gold jewelry) to the couple. The bride repeats this in a visit to the groom's parents' residence. During this time where the bride is outside in transit, an open red umbrella is held over the bride at all times in order to ensure her good fortune in the marriage.
Unique impositions on the wedding plans of couples in Hong Kong include the problem of near-future high expenses (especially concerns about housing costs) to worry over in addition to the not-insignificant financial burden of holding a traditionally elaborate wedding reception/banquet. All of this cost is covered by the groom and his family as the centerpiece gift given to the bride's family, though delicate negotiations can unfold over the groom's efforts to restrain extravagant guest lists proposed by the bride's family. The banquet enjoys a prominent role in today's weddings because it is the longstanding tradition most likely to be maintained over others that may have been dropped or simplified and reduced in recent years because of cost or a perception they have become archaic.
A few random notes about Hong Kong weddings to share include the experience of the bride, who has to change into anywhere from 3-5 dresses for different events during the wedding day. The night before the festivities, the bride’s mother will invite a woman who enjoys a happy marriage with many children to brush her daughter’s hair while bestowing blessings of good fortune and joy upon the bride. Also, during the night ceremony/banquet, it is not uncommon for all gifts (normally cash with a minimum of $500 HKD (more than $50US) given by invited guests to the couple to be handed by the bride to her mother.
Lastly, for the prospective cultural and social geographers, an interesting trend worth studying in greater detail is how in recent years, the trendy popularity of some Christian symbols for use in weddings, most notably the church as the backdrop (seen as romantic and charming), has led to a further diversification of Hong Kong's already considerable array of wedding traits.


Dan tdaxp said...

This is a very interesting post.

One thing I admire about Hong Kong is how its development has allowed it to grow while remaining connected to the past. Hong Kong is in many ways both more developed and more traditional than the mainland, and these wedding customs reflect both those aspects.

Eddie said...

Thank you!
Your comment makes me curious about what Singapore's weddings are like in the Chinese community there. I imagine the Malay community would also have some greater degree of modernity involved than the Malays in Malaysia, but I could be wrong.