If you've been invited to a Chinese-American wedding, you might be wondering why there isn’t a wedding registry. You might be scratching your head trying to think of what Chinese wedding gifts to buy for the newlyweds. You are not alone.
Chinese wedding traditions are very different from Western wedding traditions, including wedding gifts. For those who are not familiar with Chinese wedding gifts, it’s common to have questions like “How do I know what they want?” “Do I even need to bring a gift?” or “What are the appropriate Chinese wedding gifts?”
If you have these questions, look no further–we've gathered some of the best Chinese wedding gift ideas that cover both traditional and modern wedding gift options.
Traditional Chinese Wedding Gifts
Unlike Western weddings, wedding registries are uncommon in Chinese weddings. In Chinese culture, directly asking your wedding guests for gifts or money can be considered disrespectful or greedy.
Therefore, instead of providing a list of gifts for guests to choose from, in Chinese weddings, the guests have the freedom to choose whatever wedding gifts to surprise the newlyweds with.
That said, traditional Chinese wedding gifts such as red envelopes and gold jewelry are still usually the first choice of gifts.
The Red Envelope Wedding Gift Tradition
Traditionally, guests will give red envelopes with money inside to the couple as wedding gifts. The red envelope is called “红包“, “hong bao” or ”利是“, “li shi”, in Chinese, which represents “good fortune”.
The stuffed red envelope is the most common and feasible Chinese wedding gift because it helps the newlyweds pay for the wedding costs and begin to establish their life together.
Since red envelopes are also used in many occasions in Chinese culture (i.e. New Year, weddings, and birthdays), choosing the right red envelope design is important before you gift it as a wedding gift.
Neutral red envelope designs with the Chinese character “福” which means “blessing” is a safe choice that can be also be used as a gift in most Chinese celebratory occasions.
HOW MUCH SHOULD YOU GIVE IN A WEDDING RED ENVELOPE?
Traditionally, the standard amount of money to put in a red envelope is at least equal to the cost of your meal at the Chinese wedding banquet.
According to a recent study conducted by ValuePenguin, the average wedding cost per guest ranges from $127 to $278 in the U.S. With that said, the typical amount to put in a red envelope as a wedding gift should be around $130 to $300 to cover that expense.
Another factor to consider when deciding the amount is the relationship between you and the couple. Essentially, the closer the relationship is, the more you should put in the red envelope.
For example, if you are a friend or distant relative of the couple, the red envelope value could be closer to $130. But if you are a close friend or immediate family, $200-$300 would be an appropriate amount of money to put in the red envelope.
Alternatively, if this seems like a larger sum of money than you would like to gift, you can always opt to give a non-red envelope Chinese wedding gift and we have several ideas for you below.
Chinese Wedding Jewelry Gifts
In addition to red envelopes, jewelry is also a common traditional Chinese wedding gift, and gold jewelry is an especially desirable wedding gift.
Just as “something blue” plays an important role at Western weddings, “something gold” is the equivalent for Chinese weddings. Gold represents nobility and wealth, thus as a wedding gift, it carries the well-wishes of the family for the newlyweds to have an abundant life together.
Traditionally, gold accessories and jewelry are usually given to the bride by the elders from both sides of the family at the tea ceremony. Since gold is the most valuable item in Chinese culture, giving gold jewelry to the bride represents she is the most precious person in the family.
If you are invited to the tea ceremony, a piece of gold jewelry would be an ideal wedding gift choice for the couple.
HERE IS A LIST OF POPULAR CHINESE WEDDING JEWELRY GIFTS:
The dragon and phoenix bangles are usually given by the parents of the groom and bride or the elders in the family.
The dragon represents the male and phoenix represents the female in Chinese culture. The dragon and phoenix also symbolize the king of beasts and the queen of birds respectively.
Therefore, giving the dragon and phoenix bangles means that the groom and bride will make the perfect couple and that they will have a harmonious marriage together.
2. Gold Pig Necklace
The gold pig necklace is probably the most common Chinese jewelry gift for the bride. It is usually decorated with a “double happiness” symbol or a dragon and phoenix. The gold pig necklace symbolizes fortune and fertility. It is believed that the bigger the golden pig is, the more affluent the newlyweds will be.
An elegant and stylish Chinese hairpin would also be an appropriate wedding gift for the bride. Hairpins adorned with flowers or pearls are two popular designs.
They can perfectly complement the Chinese wedding dress the bride wears such as cheongsam and qun kwa.
Modern Chinese Wedding Gifts
As Chinese and Western cultures continue to blend and influence each other, besides gifting red envelopes and jewelry, some modern gift options have become more acceptable for Chinese weddings. Kitchen items, bedding, and home decor are some of the popular types of modern Chinese wedding gifts.
Custom chopsticks are an ideal and auspicious wedding gift. They represent happiness and abundance in the family. Chopsticks in Chinese is “筷子” (“kuai zi”), which sounds very similar to the word ‘happiness’ in Chinese "快乐" ( “kuai le”).
Thus, giving chopsticks to the couple represents giving them happiness. They can also be used as practical utensils and/or special home decor.
A Chinese tea set is another popular modern wedding gift. A tea set inscribed with auspicious proverbs such as “百年好合”(ever-lasting marriage) or the dragon and phoenix symbol makes for an appropriate wedding tea set gift. If you know that the couple is also a fan of drinking tea, then a delicate tea set could be a thoughtful wedding gift for them.
3. Silk Bedding
Silk bedding is a romantic and luxurious gift for the groom and bride. Silk is a high-quality and comfortable fabric that can help the couple sleep well. Since it is also a durable material, silk bedding is a durable gift that the couple can enjoy for a long time.
4. Jade Home Decor
Jade home decor is not only elegant to display but also an important Fengshui item that creates positivity energy. With that said, a piece of jade home decor would be the perfect wedding gift for a newlywed couple to put in their new home. Different jade carvings embody different meanings. For wedding gifts, mandarin ducks and flowers are usually the most popular choice since they symbolize love and wealth.
The Chinese Wedding Gifts Dos and Don’ts
When you are giving wedding gifts to the newlywed couple, there are some wedding superstitions that should be considered.
Here are some dos and don'ts for you to follow:
1. Choose lucky numbers
When gifting red envelopes, it’s considered good luck to put in an amount of money that ends in 8 or 9 like $188 and $199 because “8” represents fortune and “9” symbolizes “long-lasting” in Chinese culture.
2. Buy gifts in pairs
Since weddings represent two hearts joining together, Chinese wedding gifts should always be in pairs. For example, if you are giving custom chopsticks as a wedding gift, make sure you give two pairs to the couple instead of one.
1. Avoid unlucky numbers
Some numbers have unlucky meanings in Chinese, such as 4 and 7, as these numbers relate to death. For example, when giving a red envelope as a gift, avoid giving an amount such as $147 and $277.
2. Don’t pick the unlucky items as wedding gifts
Some items are taboo in Chinese wedding culture, such as clocks and knives. "Clock” in Chinese is "钟", which indicates death and ending. Kitchen knives, even though they sound like a practical wedding gift, are considered bad-luck items to give because knives are related to blood and death in Chinese culture.
We hope these traditional and modern Chinese wedding gift ideas are helpful when attending your next Chinese wedding!