So you’ve been invited to a Cantonese wedding in the city. This might be your first or you might be a veteran already — but in any case, here are five tongue-in-cheek reminders before RSVP-ing.
What should you (not) wear?
It really depends on the dress code given for the wedding, but generally speaking, all-white or all-black is a big no-no since these colors connote mourning in Chinese culture. Red would also not be ideal as there’s a chance you might steal the thunder from the bride and groom, who will be decked out in the auspicious color for at least part of the day.
What should you give?
Depends on how close you are with the bride or groom, but money still rules (no random household goods or silverware, please!). If you’re a colleague of the bride or groom, a good rule of thumb is that you might want to pay a bit higher than the estimated price of the actual meal you’re going to get. And be mindful if you’re going to a swanky place — you know what that means! Also, make sure that you round up the money given to even numbers — like $1,000 or $888 — to symbolize good luck and prosperity.
What should you expect?
The symbolic tea ceremony is the most important tradition of a Cantonese wedding; usually it’s only close friends and relatives who get to witness this portion of the wedding, which takes place in the bride’s parents’ home. The idea: the groom goes to “fetch” the bride (and will smash the patriarchy another day). At the house, the bride and groom sit on mats on the floor and pour cups of tea for family and important guests. There are also (sometimes raunchy) games played by the bridal party. At night, you’ll be eating an eight-course banquet meal at a Chinese restaurant / hotel ballroom / anywhere that can hold a lot of people.
What should you (not) say?
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to well wishes for the couple. But it would be wise to avoid any inauspicious actions (like giving a “clock” as wedding gift to the couple, which sounds like you’re attending someone’s funeral) or numbers (like “four”, which sounds like “death” in Cantonese).
When should you leave?
As soon as dessert hits the table, that’s the cue that you’re free to go. There’s usually no dancing or hanging around once the meal is finished (it’s all about the food, after all). You’ll know that you’re expected to leave for sure when you see the bride and groom standing at the door, cordially wishing their guests farewell. And there you have it — enjoy your next awesome Cantonese wedding without breaking a sweat!