Marriage customs in Yuhuan | Updated: 2019-02-19

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Marriages in old times were arranged by parents' order and on the word of a matchmaker. According to traditional marriage customs in Yuhuan, a county-level city of Taizhou, Zhejiang province, in the first step of a marriage, a boy's family and a girl's family, under the negotiation of a matchmaker, will exchange birthday letters bearing the boy's and the girl's birthday and birth hour respectively. If the to-be-married’s birthdays and hours do not conflict according to astrology, the marriage will proceed to the next stage.

In the next step, the groom's family will later present the bride's family with betrothal gifts, such as jewelry, cloth and silk, which is referred to as "informal betrothal" or "deposit betrothal". Within several months or several years after the "informal betrothal", the bridegroom's family should send a red letter stating the selected wedding date, along with the marriage payment, to the bride's family who will return such betrothal gifts as clothes and fruits in season. Then, both of the families will present the fruits and desserts to relatives and friends who will give red packets with money enclosed and gifts to express their congratulations and good wishes.

Before the wedding, the bride's family will tailor the bride underwear with the cloth presented by the bridegroom's family, which is referred to as "open scissors". Three days before the wedding, the couple begins to prepare for the ceremony. The bride will tidy her face and shave her forehead; the groom will cut his hair and take a bath.  

According to traditional marriage customs, the groom won't go to the bride's family to receive his wife, but dispatch a bridal sedan chair and musicians to receive her. For a bride, who is a native of Fujian province or Wenzhou, there will be a nephew or a younger male relative of her carrying a pollen basket accompanying her. In Taiping Street, Wenling, another county-level city of Taizhou, the bride's brother is allowed to accompany her and send her to the groom's home.

After arriving at the groom's home, the wedding ceremony starts. The bride and groom, guided by the bridesmaids and best men, will pays kowtows to Heaven and Earth, the family ancestors, and parents successively. When the wedding rites are concluded, a best man will read wedding words. Then, the ceremony proceeds with a grand feast for relatives and those who helped in the wedding.

According to an abolished custom, if the groom fails to return from the sea for fishing, a rooster held by the groom's younger sister, in substitution of the groom, will perform the rite of exchange bows with the bride. Then, the rooster should be kept in the bridal chamber for three days.

On the wedding night, an activity named "send to the wedding chamber" will be held. In order to tease the newlyweds and add a joyous atmosphere, the best man will read easily understood "bridal chamber words" that compiles rhymes with a folk cultural motif and auspicious compliments.

Traditionally, the newlyweds are to prepare gifts and return to visit the bride's parents three or seven or 120 days after the wedding. A new bride with no children should return to her parents' home before the end of May and stay for a few days before returning to her husband's home in early June.  

The above-mentioned traditional marriage customs were still popular in the countryside of Yuhuan during the Republic of China (1912-1949). Complex marriage customs lost its popularity in 1930s, but was still preserved in countryside. After the Liberation, feudal marriage customs were gradually abolished, and marriage customs became more civilized, thrifty, and simple.

However, matching the birthdays of the bride and groom, presenting and accepting a large betrothal payment and expensive gifts, hosting a sumptuous feast, showing off wealth and increasingly high monetary gifts can still be seen in some areas.