BETROTHAL GIFT CEREMONY SUCCESS! with THE CHINESE WEDDING SHOP
I guess it all started with this 🙂
2 weeks before our wedding, we held our Guo Da Li, also known as the Betrothal Gift Ceremony. It is a traditional Chinese custom that used to be a great mystery to both Shawn & myself, but it turned out to be a lot more fun and meaningful than I thought!
As a couple with zero knowledge on traditional marriage customs, we thought it would be wise to turn to full-board package vendors for help. After searching online and visiting a few vendors, we decided on The Chinese Wedding Shop. Basically, it was the shop attendant’s top-notch customer service at the Marine Parade Central outlet that bought us over! She was very patient and provided us with relevant knowledge and recommendations without being pushy at all.
As we’ve learnt, this tradition serves to honor our parents and give recognition to the efforts they have made to raise us. It would also symbolise the sincerity of the groom’s family and give assurance that they would take good care of the bride as she marries into the new family.
Every dialect group has their own distinct style of the Guo Da Li. While I come from a Hokkien background, Shawn’s parents are both Hainanese. That means that the groom’s side has to gift the bride’s side in a Hokkien-customised fashion; while the bride’s side has to do the same for the groom’s in a Hainanese-customised fashion. (Even our parents didn’t know that!) Fortunately, The Chinese Wedding Shop has been in business since 2009 and they have developed a ‘cheat sheet’ for all the various dialect groups in Singapore. It is also good to note that even within the same dialect group, variations do occur. It can be a little confusing at first so it is always good to check with the experts!
What happens during Guo Da Li?
During Guo Da Li, the groom will visit the bride’s family with a matchmaker. According to traditional Chinese customs, the matchmaker should be a lady with the following good fortune:
- Married with a husband (still living)
- Have children
- Have grandchildren
Armed with gifts that was prepared earlier by Shawn’s family and with some extra help from Shawn’s brother, they arrived at my parent’s place with BIG smiles 😀 The gifts signify assurance that Shawn’s family would take care of me as one of their own. As a symbol of goodwill and generosity, my family would return Shawn’s family a portion of the gifts.
Both my parents and his parents would also present to us gifts as part of the Guo Da Li. Shawn’s mum had prepared my Si Dian Jin) , a set of jewelry to represent care and capability of Shawn’s family in taking care of me. On the other hand, my mum had prepared traditional gifts for us, along with Hong Baos for good luck.
List of Guo Da Li Gifts
Getting the items was incredibly fuss-free as The Chinese Wedding Shop has a basic package which we can simply add and remove items from. The shop assistant was also very helpful with her recommendations and experience, advising us on the essential items and the ones we may consider swapping or changing out. So here are the list of items that we got!
Gifts for the bride’s side to prepare (Hainanese version)
So here comes the list of items from my parents. Most of the gifts prepared from the bride’s family are for the new couple.
- Wedding Ceremony Tea Set – 1 set to be used for tea ceremony and to be kept by the couple. We actually upgraded our Tea Set from the basic set in The Chinese Wedding Shop package as I was so in love with the intricate and gorgeous oriental design on the set I choose!
- Wedding Ceremony Bowl, spoon and chopsticks – 2 sets for bride and groom to consume their Tang Yuan from before the tea ceremony. This action represents an abundant life blessed to the new couple.
- Needle box Set – 1 to be displayed at couple’s room for 3 days to represent a virtuous wife.
- Prosperity Lamps – 1 set to be lighted and placed by the left side (when lying down) of married couple’s bed the night before the wedding.
- Mini Wooden Clogs – 2 pairs to be displayed at couple’s room for 3 days to represent career progress. They are really cute!
- Face Towels – 1 pair to be used by new couple the first day in bridal room, to represent growing old together.
- Orange Juice – 2 bottles in exchange for 2 bottles of alcohol and given to groom’s family, to signify prosperity.
- Orange Juice Bags – 2 pieces to carry orange juice in.
- Charcoal – 1 set to be given to groom, to signify wealth and prosperity.
Of course not forgetting the Red Packets from my family 🙂
- Son-in-law Red Packet – To be used for buying a new pair of pants, belt and wallet. Depends on the bride’s family but usually an auspicious amount that is enough to buy the 3 items.
- Sugarcane Red Packet – Given to new couple on wedding day, before going to Groom’s house. Signifies good luck and safety. Usually about $8.
- Happiness Chicken Red Packet – Given to new couple on wedding day, before going to Groom’s house. Signifies happiness. Usually about $8.
We skipped the Baby Prosperity Set as we thought it would be an overkill and we are not too sure about kids yet lol! The set includes a baby bathtub, basin, potty, mug, ruler, prosperity grains, seeds, red dates and longan. This set is to be displayed at couple’s room for 3 days to represent life blessed with children and a life full of assets.
Gifts for the groom’s side to prepare (Hokkien version)
Hokkien Mi Lao Biscuits, Ma Lao Biscuits and Traditional Peanut Sugar – 2 packets each from The Chinese Wedding Shop. These delicious, yummy treats (I ate them! They were so good!) are actually different from the usual ones as they are specially made for Guo Da Li. The difference? They are at least 2 to 3 times bigger in size for auspicious meaning! I do also think they are tastier 😛 To my Brides-to-be, don’t be shy, go on and try your Guo Da Li treats!
Auspicious Wedding Grains – 2 boxes (Contains red dates, lily bulbs, lotus sees, dry logan, rock sugar and candied melon strips.) These will be later used to make the tea for the tea ceremony – how convenient! I love that everything was already packed in portions for us, all our parents had to do was to throw into the thermal flask with hot water. After 2 hours, the tea is ready and at a nice temperature to be served! As Shawn has younger siblings, I got to try the tea too. I must say, it’s a little magical. The tea was refreshingly sweet and warmed my heart. Our relatives enjoyed the tea too!
As part of the The Chinese Wedding Shop betrothal package, 2 boxes (4 cans) of Pig Trotters and 2 pairs of Dragon and Phoenix Candles were included. These candles are to be lighted when groom leaves the house to fetch the bride on the wedding day at both the bride’s and groom’s homes at the same time. However, we do not have any gate crashing and our tea ceremony venue did not allow open fire, thus we decided to do away with the candles. As for the Pig Trotters, my mom requested for it to be changed into fresh fruits instead. To the delight of my mom, my lovely mother-in-law prepared abalone on top of the fruits – you can see how adorably happy my mom was!
In case you are wondering why everything had to be in 2s, it’s because the bride’s family is supposed to return one set of the above gifts back to the groom’s family to symbolise generosity from the bride’s side. How thoughtful!
Our package also includes 2 packets of Destiny Discs (for good luck, given to new couple), 2 sheets of Double Happiness Stickers (To be pasted on the oranges. A minimum of 12 oranges to be gifted to my parents from Shawn’s parents) and a Traditional Wedding Basket (loaned to us by The Chinese Wedding Shop) to carry the Betrothal gifts to the bride’s house. We were also provided 2 Red Bags for Alcohol (To carry 2 bottles of alcohol to be gifted to my parents and to exchanged for orange juice during Guo Da Li.).
On top of the above, the groom’s family also has to prepare a ‘Dragon & Phoenix Tray’ and an ‘Everlasting Red Cloth’. The groom will then place the red cloth on the tray with the Hong Baos when presenting gifts to her parents. The various Hong Baos include:
- Pin Jin Red Packet – A Hong Bao from Shawn’s parents to my parents for the wedding. Our parents actually met up to discuss this openly beforehand. Super modern. While there is no fixed value, a typical amount would be between $1888 to $8888, with a portion to be returned to the groom’s parents. This is to avoid being seen as the bride’s family selling away their daughter.
- Li Ru Red Packet – To show appreciation for bringing up the daughter (kept by bride’s family)
- Open Car Door Red Packet – For the lucky person who opens the car door for the couple (used during wedding day)
In addition, Shawn’s mom also prepared cake vouchers for my side of the family and Si Dian Jing as my wedding gift.
Enjoy the process!
Overwhelmed? Honestly we were like you initially but not to worry! It ended up as simple as checking off boxes! After communicating to The Chinese Wedding Shop what we wanted, everything was nice packed for us by The Chinese Wedding Shop and all Shawn had to do was to pick them up from his preferred location. They had even thoughtfully separated out the bags into ‘Groom’s Family’ and ‘Bride’s Family’ so we honestly didn’t have to open it up until the Betrothal day itself!
Guo Da Li is truly about establishing harmony between 2 families and it was through the preparation where my family got to know Shawn’s family better. At the same time, it’s also important to enjoy the process! We really had fun going through the process and all these wouldn’t have been so fuss-free and enjoyable without the expert advice from The Chinese Wedding Shop. I can’t imagine having to sieve through tons of online content and different advices- I would have ended up in frustration and madness! The whole Guo Da Li experience had brought us closer to our parents, and along with the tea ceremony, cemented the ties between our 2 families.
On the actual day 🙂
I’m truly blessed to have been married into such a kind, loving and generous family. I’ve also gained a new found appreciation and respect for this time-honored tradition, and I wish you’ll have a great experience too!