From the Chinese wedding dress to the food, there is a symbolic meaning behind every element in a traditional Chinese wedding. Here are just a few ways to incorporate Chinese wedding symbols into your own wedding.
1: The color red
In Chinese culture, the color red is everywhere. It’s considered a lucky color that is commonly used in Chinese homes, celebrations and especially weddings. Red represents happiness, fertility, good luck, success, and good fortune. No wonder it’s so popular at weddings! The color red can be incorporated in the bride and groom's attire, hairpieces and accessories, decor such as lanterns, banners, or drapery, and many other elements that can be inspired with a touch of red.
2: Double happiness symbol
The double happiness (囍) character is a common Chinese wedding symbol seen at celebrations, especially weddings. It originated from a lore, in the Tang Dynasty. The legend tells of a student traveling to the capital to take an exam, which would determine the new ministers of the royal court. Unfortunately, he fell ill along the way in a mountain village and an herbalist and his daughter treated him back to health.
By then, the student and herbalist’s daughter had fallen in love. When it was time for him to leave, she wrote a couplet (poetic verse) on his hand. He promised to return to marry her.
The student passed the exam with flying colors. The Emperor chose to interview him and asked him to finish a couplet. He recited what the herbalist’s daughter had written on his hand. Delighted by his answer, he appointed him as a new minister of the court. Before beginning his new position, he returned to the herbalist’s daughter and married her, as promised.
At their wedding, they doubled the character for “happy” on red paper and hung it on the wall.
Since then, this Chinese wedding symbol can be found on banners, table centerpieces, and even printed on wedding invitations and red packets. The character represents good luck and fortune for both the bride and groom and is usually found in red or gold.
3: Animal symbolism
Chinese animal symbolism is an easy and popular element to include in your wedding. According to ancient Chinese lore, the dragon was known as “the Ruler of Beasts” and the phoenix as “the King of Birds.” The dragon became a symbol of the Chinese Emperor, and the phoenix symbolized the Empress of China.
In modern times, the dragon signifies wealth and strength for the groom while the phoenix represents the bride, signifying grace and renewal of life. Together, the co-existence of two mythical creatures represents happiness, love, and prosperity. Usually, embroidered designs of the dragon and phoenix are found on the bride and groom's clothing or as headpieces in the bride's hair. Other common animal symbols include the koi, butterfly, bat, crane, and horse.
4: Chinese Flowers
Flowers are used as decor similar to western weddings, such as bouquets, decorative arrangements, and centerpieces. Some popular flowers in Chinese culture include:
- Lily: Lillies represent long-lasting and happy unions.
- Orchid: Orchids symbolize love and fertility.
- Peony: A popular flower in floral designs representing peace, beauty, and wealth.
- Lotus: The lotus is one of the most significant flowers in Chinese culture, symbolizing purity, longevity, and honor. As a result, it is also a popular Chinese wedding symbol.
5: Lucky Fruits (Jujube, Peanuts, Longans, Lotus Seeds)
Jujube (red dates) are known for their sweetness and often served as snacks and in desserts. Jujube represents wealth, prosperity, and fertility. They are also symbols for something that is coming or happening soon since the word for jujube in Chinese sounds similar to “early.” By including jujube fruit at the wedding, the family often hopes for an early son.
Peanuts are symbols of health and good fortune. The word for peanut sounds like 生 shēng, meaning born or give birth to.
Longans are similar to lychee, popular for being sweet and juicy. They are also believed to be good luck at weddings, as they are associated with having many sons traditionally.
Lotus seeds and flowers are symbols of prosperity and represent having a big family (are you starting to see the pattern here?) The word for lotus seed is 莲子 liánzǐ, with the second character zǐ meaning sons. Because of this, and seeds being numerous, it is symbolic of having many children.
Together, these fruits make a lucky combo and popular as Chinese wedding symbols. Traditionally, these fruits are spread over the newlyweds' bed before the wedding by a “lucky” woman (someone who has healthy children of her own, usually the mother-in-law) to wish the new couple good luck in their marriage.
Most Popular Places to Incorporate These Chinese Wedding Symbols
Chinese Wedding Dress
Many modern Chinese weddings include several different dresses for the bride. She will often wear a traditional cheongsam (or qipao 旗袍), or Qun Kwa (裙褂) in addition to or instead of a traditional Western white gown. Since red is the dominant and symbolic color of Chinese culture, dresses are often red.
However, many brides choose to wear white dresses, as eastern and western wedding traditions have blended over time. Dresses traditionally are usually adorned with embroidery of floral designs and/or a dragon and phoenix. Modern cheongsam wedding dress styles now are made of a variety of fabric but still have traditional elements like the mandarin collar or pankou knots.
Learn more about different types of Chinese wedding dresses in our style guide.
The tea ceremony is a common Chinese wedding tradition that pays respect to the bride and groom's parents and elders. The bride and groom serve tea to their parents and new in-laws, symbolizing their gratitude and reverence. In return, their parents will give their blessings in the form of hong baos, red envelopes with money.
The tea ceremony often includes symbols such as the double happiness character in their decor—from the invitations, red lanterns, red envelopes, to of course the teacups. Learn more in our Ultimate Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony Guide.
Chinese Wedding Favors
To thank your friends and family for joining you on your wedding day, giving your guests a wedding gift is a memorable way to show appreciation as well as highlight you and/or your fiance’s cultural background.
Gifts can include chopsticks with the double happiness symbol, red gift bags filled with Chinese jujube tea, or your favorite Chinese sweets. Here are just a few fun ways to thank your guests and celebrate your Asian heritage.
Symbols to Avoid For Your Chinese Wedding
The number 4
This is the most unlucky number because it’s name “si” sounds like the name for death in Chinese. It is similar to the connotation of the number “13” in Western society.
The colors black and white
While in Western society white is known for purity and elegance, white in Chinese culture is typically worn during funerals. Like the color white, black is also associated with death as well as secrecy and darkness.
The word for pear “li” is the same as the word for separation. It is bad luck to share a pear, especially at a wedding, because it is believed to cause separation.
There are so many traditional and creative ways to incorporate Chinese symbols at your wedding. The most important part is to make it YOU—it is your big day after all!
More to love:
- Learn about 12 beautiful Chinese wedding traditions you can include in your Asian-American wedding
- Read about the 5 traditional elements of a qipao dress.
- Get inspired by our 30 ideas for a modern Asian-American wedding.
- If you're looking for creative ways to incorporate a phoenix into your wedding, check out this phoenix tattoo guide.