By Jocelyn Neo| Epoch Times Staff
In ancient China, a marriage ceremony is a solemn and sacred occasion.
Hence, there is a custom of Three Letters and Six Etiquettes (三书六礼). It refers to the six steps that people follow in traditional Chinese wedding.
But the steps have now been reduced to four, namely, Presenting the Wedding Gifts (过大礼), Bed Setting (安床), Hair Combing (上头) and The Wedding Ceremony (结婚正日) in the modern days.
Traditionally, the Three Letters consist of Betrothal Letter (聘书), Gift Letter (礼书), and Wedding Letter (迎亲书) while the Six Etiquettes are Proposal (纳采), Birthday Conciliation (问名), Betrothal Gifts (纳吉), Wedding Gifts (纳征), Choosing the date (请期) and the Ceremony (迎亲).
The first letter is the betrothal letter that marks the engagement between the two parties and sets out the vows and undertakings of both parties.
The second letter is gift letter. The letter detailed the types and number of gifts that the couple requested, making sure that the gifts bought is appropriate.
The last letter is the wedding letter, which is given to the bride’s parents on the wedding day as the official welcome of the bride to the groom’s family.
As for the first etiquette is proposal, which is usually initiated by a matchmaker or the groom’s parents. They will ask the bride’s parents on the possibility of having a marriage between the bride and groom. The bride’s parents can either refuse or accept the marriage. If it is the latter, the next process will be birthday conciliation.
During the birthday conciliation stage, an astrologer will be hired to check the eight characters (八字) of the bride and groom to see if there will be any clash between the two parties. If there is, the marriage stops. If both parties are compatible with each other, the marriage continues.
When the betrothal letter is accepted, wedding gifts have to be sent. Customs on the types of gifts varies according to different dialect groups. The gifts will be sent by the groom’s family to the bride’s side.
The next etiquette is choosing a date that is auspicious for both the bride and groom according to their date of birth.
The last etiquette is the ceremony and the customs vary according to different dialect groups. Traditionally, when the groom travels to the bride’s home, there will be music accompaniment to let the public knows that a wedding is taking place.