5 Chinese wedding taboos your parents would have warned you about

Flora Yeo

As we might have learned in real life or in the latest Singapore film The Big Day, a Chinese wedding ceremony isn’t just about two people celebrating their love for each other. It comes with responsibilities, planning, customs to follow and taboos to avoid.

To minimise the occurrence of bad luck befalling their marriage, most couples gladly abide these “rules” despite knowing that there is no scientific evidence to support them.

In The Big Day, Nuo Yan’s (played by Singaporean actor Desmond Tan) and Shu Yu’s (played by Taiwanese actress Amber An) special day is marred by unexpected gaffes and histrionics on the part of both families.

If you don’t want to end up the same, here are five pantang (superstitious) wedding taboos you should probably take note if you are attending a wedding, or are a bride/groom-to-be!

 

Everyone is gathered at the wedding. (Credit: Golden Village Pictures)

1)    Newlyweds should not attend a funeral wake three months before and after their wedding

It is considered inauspicious for the couple to attend a funeral as anything related to mourning is considered to “clash” with the couple’s good luck and fortune. 

If a parent of the bride or groom has recently passed away, the wedding ceremony has to be held within 100 days of the passing or postponed till three years (1,000 days) later. This is seen as a sign of respect towards the deceased.

It’s really a test of your patience or wedding planning skills!

 

How much will you put in your angbao? (Credit: Zippybot)

2)    Anything with the number “4” is a no-no

In Mandarin, the pronunciation of the number “4” sounds similar to the word “death”, and anything remotely associated with death or the dead is considered inauspicious.

Apart from not choosing wedding dates that fall on the 4th, 14th or 24th, wedding guests tend to not pack red packets with an amount that has “4” in it as well. In some cases, some couples go as far as to skip table numbers. So don’t be too surprised if a wedding banquet you are attending does not have the table number 4 or 14.

On the other hand, the number “8” is seen as a lucky number, so if you are unsure as to how much to pack for the couple, just remember that the number “8” is always encouraged. $888 if your budget allows!

 

Groomsmen playing gatecrash games in The Big Day. (Credit: Golden Village Pictures)

3)    Clash of the zodiac and horoscope signs

It is important in the Chinese culture to hold your wedding on an auspicious date that is compatible with both the bride and groom’s zodiac signs and horoscopes. But it does not stop there. For a long-lasting marriage, the horoscopes of the bridesmaids and groomsmen have to be scrutinised too.

Therefore, even if your best friend whom you have “choped”(reserved) to be your maid of honour or best man years ago, he or she won’t be able to be by your side on your big day if their ba zi (birthdate characters) clashes with yours or your partner’s.

The degree to which the ba zi differ correlates to how much the bridesmaid or groomsman can be involved in the wedding. It ranges from hiding away from a certain activity during the morning ceremony, to not being able to attend the wedding banquet altogether. 

 

Amber An (centre) and her bridesmaids in The Big Day (Credit: Golden Village Pictures)

4)    Three times a bridesmaid and never a bride

For the ladies out there, this is probably the most common old wives’ tale your mom would have warned you about. It is said that an unmarried woman should not be a bridesmaid more than three times or she will be destined to be an “old maid” and never be able to marry the man of her dreams.

The origin of this belief goes all the way back centuries ago when “bridesmaid duty” meant much more. The chosen ladies will be dressed exactly like the bride in order to trick or confuse any evil spirits from ruining the marriage and “attack” the bride. Therefore, if a woman who has been a bridesmaid for more than three times, it is said that she is tainted by this bad luck, or also seen as cursed.

But of course, fewer modern women are following this old superstition these days. If you want to break the “curse”, just remember that you absolutely have to catch the bridal bouquet!

 

Fish is served (Credit: Singapore Brides)

5)    Fish is served whole

At a Chinese wedding banquet, every dish you see on your plate is carefully selected by the families as each food item hold a significance behind it, often symbolising happiness, longevity, prosperity and fertility. There are certain dishes that are essential in a banquet, such as scallops, roast duck and fish.

Fish represents abundance in the couple’s marriage as the Chinese word for “fish” is a homonym for “leftover” (i.e. food is so abundant that there are leftovers). It is important to note that the fish has to be served as a whole with its head and tail intact because it symbolises that the marriage will be complete. So, no fish fillets.

After all has been said, it is ultimately up to the couple to decide if they want to follow these Chinese superstitions on their big day. A wedding is a joyous occasion for all involved, and while some people dream of an extravagant fairytale wedding, there are many who opt for a simple affair instead – like the lead actors of The Big Day Desmond Tan and Amber An, who shared their ideal wedding with us.

Directed by Lee Thean-jeen, this movie marks the first time Tan and An share a silver screen. At the movie’s press conference, director Lee shared that he went as far as to see if the couple’s lips were compatible with each other when selecting his female lead. Are they really MFEO? Check it out for yourself by catching The Big Day!

 

Credits: Golden Village Pictures’ Facebook, Singapore Brides, Zippybot

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