Guo Da Li, or the betrothal ceremony, is one of the most important events for traditional Chinese weddings. The event usually takes place about one to three weeks before the actual wedding day. On the day of Guo Da Li, families of the bride and the groom exchange bridal gifts to signify their blessings for the wedding associate. It is also a gesture to express sincerity towards the marriage between the two families.
In the olden days, the items to prepare for Guo Da Li can be very elaborated because the value of the betrothal gifts is an indication of the wealth of the groom’s family. Nowadays, the list is very much simplified. As a guide, the basic essentials includes the following.
- Dowry (also known as “Pin Jin” in Chinese)
- Dragon and phoenix candles (“Long Feng Zhu”)
- Oranges (already number of oranges, like eight or twelve, is preferred)
- Alcohol (champagne or wine)
- Auspicious seeds and grains (such as dried longans, dried red dates, dried lotus seeds etc.)
The items for Guo Da Li may vary slightly for the different Chinese dialect groups. For the Hokkiens, pig trotters are usually included. For the Teochews, it is typical to have “Si Dian Jin” (four gold items, including gold necklace, gold ring, gold bangle and a pair of gold earrings). For the Cantonese, a roast pig and some dried seafood are shared. Some couples also choose to add auspicious items such as bedside lamps (a symbolism to ward off evil spirits), tea-set to be used for tea ceremony, bridal quilt and bed-sheet, basin, handkerchiefs, etc.
It is also a shared practice for the groom to give bridal cakes to the bride’s family. The bride’s family will then spread the cakes to relatives and friends, informing them that their daughter is getting married. For convenience, many modern couples choose to give cake vouchers or order bride cake package from the local confectionery instead.