Chinese wedding ceremony from a best buddy perspective


My friend of over 20 years just got married on Sunday and I was slated to be one of the “best buddy” for the groom entourage. It’s a HK tradition where the bride is barricaded (willingly, of course) inside her house along with her group of (all female) friends. This group is known as the zhi mui (sisters) while the groom team, consisting of me and a couple of others are known as the heng tai (brothers).

wedding car

The mission is to get into the bride’s bedroom in her house from the groom’s house. We started arriving early in the morning to Ting Chuan’s house where the wedding preparations has already been set up the night before. The groom team is meeting up at the groom’s house before the fleet of cars led by the wedding car drives to the bride’s house.

My first question upon seeing this old friend of mine:
ting chuan
HB: Eh, bro, it’s your big day. Why haven’t you shaved?
TC: I did! I shaved at 12 am last night so there’ll be a stubble. It looks more manly.


Naturally, being the opportunistic person that I am, I talked to Celeste who works at Ta Ann. She was the only female in our entourage.

me celeste

I got an XX Chromosome post out of it too, it’s a bit out of place in this post, but hey, someone told me weddings are the best place to meet new people. :p


Anyway, we departed for the bride’s house in several cars and arrived without the customary mass honking (which I was told was only done after the bride has been secured and transported back to the groom’s house).


There are a lot of traditions to be followed in a Chinese wedding ceremony – a piece of cloth is laid upon the wedding car and the car is reversed so it’s facing out. Lanterns (representing the future offspring) are also tied to both of the side mirrors.


The groom’s entourage (us) sat down for a meal of longevity noodles with chicken soup.

tc egg

My friend (the groom) was presented with an egg each by the father and mother of the bride.

same table

We ate at the table together – this is the meal to energize us for the task up ahead…securing the bride.

Our heng tai (brothers) entourage is expected to pass three stages before getting to the bride’s bedroom. The bottleneck is the staircase up, which is manned (womanned?) by a representative from the zhi mui (sisters), the friends of the bride.

ang pow

Ang pow (red packets containing money) are expected to be given out at every stage and one of the sisters has even prepared some in advance just in case the groom didn’t have enough. Heh!

stages drink

I kinda like how this one was done – the representative said that there are four stages in a married couple’s life and the groom is expected to “go through” each one metaphorically and literally in advance. The sour stage represents the arguments that will inevitably occur in every relationship and the groom has to drink a bottle of calamansi lime juice to pass that.


There are also questions posed at every stage, with “punishments” rendered out if the groom can’t answer the questions. Ting Chuan couldn’t remember the exact day, month, and year he met his bride-to-be and had to eat a wasabi spiked kampua. The groom has the option of asking his buddies to take the punishment for him, since there’s a lot meted out.


He passed the wasabi noodles to me and as the brother (“best buddy”), I took one for the team. It tasted quite delicious actually, but the first bite made my eyes water. They were really serious in putting the wasabi (horse radish) into the noodles. The sisters took pity on me and told me I didn’t actually have to finish it, but I did and it tasted delicious. I even asked for the recipe from them after the event. πŸ˜‰

final stage

The salty stage involves the groom drinking salt water and the bitter stage is represented by bitter gourd extract. There were a lot of questions during the various stages, which he luckily got right, since they had an arsenal of wasabi laced kampua noodles up there. Thus, after the mass handing out of ang pows (red packets) to the sisters, we finally got to the final stage.

This is the sweet stage – it’s orange juice that the groom has to drink. Sour, salty, bitter, sweet. I love the imagery behind this custom. The last gauntlet was to call out for the bride and asking her for permission to enter.


The sisters finally granted access, and the door was opened.

the bride

I present – Siew Ling, the bride! πŸ™‚


Ting Chuan has to propose formally to her and the fun isn’t quite over yet as the sisters made them kiss for 10 minutes.

It was finally negotiated down to 10 seconds, but unfortunately, I didn’t get the footage coz I was changing memory cards. It was very sweet actually, and that was the catalyst that made me want to get married.

father bride

The father of the bride escorted her down the stairs…


…and officially “handed over” his daughter.


Chinese custom has a form of ancestral worship that is widely practiced over here and the newlyweds have to bow three times to the late grandparents of the bride for blessings.

parents bow

Respect is also rendered to the parents of the bride by bowing three times, upon which the mother of the bride clasps a gold necklace around the groom’s neck. This is foreign to me and I don’t know what it symbolizes.


The newlyweds proceeded out of the bride’s house…

pose group

…to pose for a group photo with relatives of the bride.


Thus, our entourage escorted the bride with a red umbrella into the car for the return trip to the groom’s house.


The wedding car drove out and reversed three (3) times before stopping for the mother of the bride to present a key to the bride. I don’t know what the accelerating and backing up of the wedding car symbolizes but the key to the bride is a token reminder for her to return home every Chinese New Year on the second day, and also taken to mean that she is welcome home at any time, even though she’s now “married out” and part of the groom’s family.


Our entourage arrived back to the groom’s residence where firecrackers were lit for the celebration.

The bride and groom have to wait until the firecrackers end before alighting from the car.

ti gong

The newlyweds are the first to step into the house with their shoes on (while everyone else takes off their shoes) and bow three times into thin air. This was related to me as a request for the blessing of their matrimony by “ti gong” (a saint/god of sorts).

wedding bed

That being done, the bride and groom goes into their room and sits down on the marriage bed. I think this is to represent the consummating of the marriage. πŸ˜‰


The exchanging of rings is done at the groom’s house…


…and the newlyweds kneel down on cushions to serve tea to the parents of the groom as a token of respect and to seek their blessing on the marriage.


The bride and groom are given a sweet soup (tong sui) to drink to mark their new journey in life together.

wedding group photo

It was a fun experience and it really made me want to settle down and get married too. Congratulations to Siaw Ting Chuan and Wong Siew Ling on their union. Cheers bro! πŸ™‚

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37 thoughts on “Chinese wedding ceremony from a best buddy perspective”

  1. Wow, congrats to your buddy! I saw these kind of customs from (where else?) Honk Kong dramas. But unfortunately, my computer sooooo slow like a tortoise, I cannot watch the video. I’ll try to load it when I’m free.

  2. congrat!!!
    It was a fun experience and it really made me want to settle down and get married too. quick-quick go find one and make sure I’m invited to the reception πŸ˜› I haven’t been to one real Chinese customs wedding. Would love to attend yours πŸ™‚

  3. Wong Siew Ling is such a common name. I have one friend with the same name and surname staying in Sibu too.
    After reading, I regret that my ‘sisters’ are so nice to hubby on my wedding day. He didn’t go through all that stages.

  4. Wong Siew Ling is such a common name. I have one friend with the same name and surname staying in Sibu too.
    After reading, I regret that my ‘sisters’ are so nice to hubby on my wedding day. He didn’t go through all that stages.

  5. It wonderful to read of a Malaysian Chinese wedding. The customs is very different from the States. The bride’s friends and groom’s friends now that something Taiwan have also. It funny there is so many weddings going and my sister and her friend also getting marry been planning wedding. I am a designer have dress also ready now working on veil. It a San Francisco style design.
    Here we throw uncooked rice at bride and groom when they said their vows and leave chapel not sure in Asia. It surpose to be good luck. NOW that a sign saying it soon your turn to marry. Friends always follow friends in doing things.

  6. Interesting of friends push bride and groom apart then later together. It must be Fuchow custom or not? States is quiet wedding and banquest. Now it too costly so many young couple not able to have wedding just say vow at city hall and that it. Parents can’nt afford it also for children too . My friends would love to a wedding like your friend but not able to afford so just party in apt with some friends.
    Not all parents are rich and could spend that kind of money so wonderful to couples that have beautiful weddings

  7. Those pictures are so happy. My sister could’nt have a fancy wedding at all due to lost our father 2 years before. We were not rich so mother was sad she did not have money for a fancy wedding for her only daughter. It made mother feel ashamed not from important family for my sister. We just have some friends over and some foods and her friend who was very good baker made a wedding cake for her.
    My sister other friend who sew wanted to make a wedding dress since she learning designing in college created a very fancy bridal grown for her. Other did flowers too. Groom family can’t say much but wedding party just friends but wonderful friends.

  8. After reading two stories of couples not having a wedding is sad but wedding not really that important due to cost. Many couples rather save money for life together. Yes sometime bride’s parents are not rich or have money for that grand event in all daughters life. There are some parents who are up nose of no wedding but that the way it goes.
    It hard for a widow to give her daughter a wedding with not enough money and groom family up nose and look down on bride and mother. The way I see it that couple life together that matter. I just saying many Chinese think it so important of a wedding but not really.

  9. I am Jason Siaw’s friend and he is not and never in drug rehab. He didn’t even take drug. He is working now as we speak now
    Anyway, nice post. I went through exactly the same process for my marriage last year

  10. I know we’ve all grown up, but in my mind i guess i will always remember you guys as the cherubic kids in green uniform shorts and knobbly knees!!! LOL

  11. ST: Yeah, I think that’s where it originated from. It’s being emulated by people over here too. The trendy thing to do. πŸ™‚
    janel: I’ll definately invite you since I want mass blogger coverage. πŸ˜‰
    It’s so hard to get you out though. :p
    Choonie: Yeah, Wong is a common surname over here. We have a lot of Foochow people. Heh! Well, some of the sisters go over the top a bit, but this wedding was fun. πŸ™‚
    rednails: I’ll know when it comes. πŸ˜‰
    I’ll not be doing the Chinese traditional wedding though, I want a church wedding, even though I am admittedly not a very devoted Christian.
    e: Heh! Nice one, buddy! I watched it. Nice boxers.
    eugene: You were there too? I didn’t see anyone else there, place was quite empty.
    Alex: He was there. Both of the brothers were there.
    Shelly: It’s not a Malaysian custom per se. The sister/brother custom comes from Hong Kong. You’re a designer? That’s nice, I wish I had the talent for arts and design. Good luck!
    Yeah, we throw confetti at the bride and groom in church weddings here too. I hope I find the one soon, since I’m 27 and not getting any younger. πŸ˜‰
    jessy: It’s a chicken drumstick. πŸ™‚
    Erica: It’s a ritual from HK. It’s Cantonese in origin, I believe. I think whatever pleases the couple would be the best, if they want a small wedding, then whatever makes them happy. I’m still undecided if I want a grand one or just a small private gettogether.
    Anyway, over here the newlyweds can subsidize some of the costs from gifts (usually gold) and red packets containing money. It still takes a lot of money to organize a wedding though and this one was no gifts accepted.
    Jason: Yeah, I know. I wanted to get married when I saw them too. It’s not important to have a grand wedding, the most imporant thing is, as you mentioned, the friends and family part. That is the soul of the wedding.
    Michale: Yeah, sometimes it is better to have a smaller scale affair but traditionally the concept of “face” is important to older generation Chinese folks so they go for the grand affair.
    Wuching: I like it too. Beemer. πŸ˜‰
    Borneo Falcon: Yeah, don’t worry about that guy. He’s been talking shit about everyone and anyone. He doesn’t even know what he’s talking about half the time. I delete all comments from him.
    kutucat: I’ve been reading your blog and trying to figure out who you are. You’re my sister’s classmate but from the details in your blog you seem to be a couple of years older than her.
    cynthia: Yeah, it’s the HK influence…a little bit rowdy, but fun too, if not done to excess. πŸ™‚
    Eric Y: Cheers mate! πŸ™‚

  12. LOL… No HB! Your sister was a coupla years my senior. I suppose it’s a good thing you don’t remember me anyway. I used to tease you quite badly a few times. Still feel guilty about it till now. Sorry bout that.

  13. cc: Yeah, I thought that was pretty cool too. Four stages of life, four different flavors of drinks.
    Meaningful, eh?
    ront: I don’t know. I can ask for you. I don’t know anyone from the sisters entourage, I’m with the groom.
    eugene: Oh, I remember a table beside us. You were there with your gf? Your gf was waiting outside the toilet coz I went to the female toilet accidentally. You were waiting outside then. You took a couple of photos too (with flash) of you.
    Are you the one on that table? I was a little bit blur…and er, some of the conversation I had (which were quite loud, no doubt) must have been overhead from your table. In particular the parts about our respective complicated relationships.
    Er…we keep it under wraps okay? πŸ˜‰
    What was mentioned at Enjoy remains at Enjoy.
    kutucat: WTF? That doesn’t compute. You said 20 years AFTER Primary 5. That’s 20 + 11 whic makes you 31 right now. My sister is 29 and I’m 27.
    I don’t remember being teased in high school, but if you feel so guilty about it, I’m sure we can think of something to make you feel less guilty. πŸ˜‰

  14. Eyew! All that hoo-hah! Just a church wedding and a banquet would be just nice. The car going forward and reversing 3 times, got some brother or sister ‘pulling’ it back, to show they loved her so much, reluctant to let her go! P.S. U didnt take pic of my house? LOL!

  15. Holy Cow….that is one hell of a ritual (Or Rituals I guess)…..I refused all that stuff when we were back in Kuching for our Reception dinner…..except maybe the tea ceremony….to show respects or something.

  16. I wish to have a beautiful wedding but not going to happen. Lost both parents years ago and been on my own ever since then. Met someone nice and Chinese and I am also. Sadly his family I feel look down on me as not of important background. I am now engage to him but heard his mother hope I could have a big wedding but with no family memebers at all and money there no way.
    He does not care for wedding it marriage life that count. But his mother and sisters sort of said why he can someone better?

  17. Yes, after reading Mary story it is sad with no family at all and future husband’s family mother and sisters that is cruel and cold. They just to want to brag of wedding to their friends just show off type of people. Many couple does not care for wedding just marriage life. It their life not parents or friends. One thing for sure don’t live with his family if they so cold.
    It like a Chinese tv serial a daughter inlaw suffer with mother inlaw and sisters inlaws in home. They might treat her badly if that how they are before married.

  18. suituapui: Oh, so that’s the reason behind the car reversing three times thing. It’s to show the family being reluctant to let her go and missing her. Interesting. Cheers for that, buddy! How’s your flu?
    Skwermy: Yeah, I won’t be doing all of this during my wedding too. My sister is getting married over here and she’s not doing it too. The wedding was a chapel wedding in NZ and there’s only two receptions here (KL and Sibu) with no gifts accepted.
    julian: I love the symbolism behind the four stages and the four drinks too. I found it to be very pragmatic. πŸ™‚
    Mary: Don’t be bothered by all that. Just be yourself and if your husband to be loves you that’s all that matters. You’re marrying him, not his family. I hope it works out for you, Mary.
    Good luck!
    Sandra: Yeah, unfortunately a lot of the older generation Chinese are this way. Which is why a reseach found out that the best way to stay married is to move out and live in your own place and have kids. It reduces the divorce rates. πŸ™‚


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