Chinese Wedding Checklist

For everything you need to know about planning a Chinese wedding, we created this Chinese wedding checklist. Let’s make this ceremony one to remember.

By Monica Mercuri

Chinese Wedding Checklist
Photo by East Meets Dress

The First Look ✨

For couples implementing parts of a traditional Chinese wedding ceremony into their wedding, an already-length to-do list can grow even longer. To ensure you’re completely covered, we’ve broken our Chinese wedding checklist into five categories:

12 Months Before the Wedding: Parents’ Meeting, Logistical Planning, and Practicalities

One of the very first steps on the road to a happy marriage is introducing the two sets of parents to each other. Even if they’ve already met, a formal sit-down provides an opportunity to go over the logistics of your wedding.

Question Checklist for the Parental Planning Meeting

Before settling on colors and dresses, there are a few questions every couple should answer to help create a vision for their special day:

  • How Big Will the Wedding Be? Which friends, family members, and co-workers have to be included on the guest list?

  • What’s the Budget? The bigger the wedding, the higher the costs. In many cases, the parents will iron out an agreement over who pays for what. Some couples may choose to chip in on the wedding budget.

  • What Traditional Ceremonies Will You Include? In practice, Chinese weddings are multi-day affairs with a variety of different ceremonies. Decide which aspects you’d like to include in your day to help frame the celebrations.

  • Who Will Be Invited? Chinese wedding guest lists can be anywhere from 100 to 500 people. Start talking with your family now about what you want your guest list to look like (and enlist the help of Zola’s wedding guest list manager to help you keep track of RSVPs, guest communication, and more).

Of course, more events mean more planning, more Chinese wedding decorations, and more expenses. Before you plan anything, figure out what on the below list has a place in your dream wedding:

  • The Guo Da Li (formal engagement), after the proposal and before the wedding
  • The An Chuang (marriage bed preparation), usually two to three days before the wedding
  • A hair combing ceremony the night before the wedding
  • A tea ceremony (usually for the immediate family) on the day of the wedding
  • A procession to pick up the bride (or spouse) before the wedding
  • An exchange of vows (at the place of the banquet or in a western ceremony)
  • An eight or 10-course banquet on the wedding night
  • A visit with the groom’s family three days after the wedding

Once you, your future spouse, and all parental figures are in agreement, it’s time to make it official and start planning.

Plan the Guo Da Li

While some couples consider themselves engaged as soon as one party has popped the question, the Guo Da Li is the traditional ceremony for establishing a formal betrothal.

__Some couples may wait to start their wedding planning until after completing the Guo Da Li. __

This formal engagement ceremony includes an exchange of gifts between the groom’s family and the bride’s family. In the past, it was a traditional dowry, including monetary exchange. Many families have modernized or customized this practice somewhat, although it sometimes still includes cash gifts. Likewise, individuals from different regions and dialects may have slightly different tradition,s.

Typically, Guo Da Li gifts may include:

Gifts From the Groom to the Bride and Her Family:

  • Phoenix and dragon double happiness candles
  • Roast pork
  • Liquor or wine
  • Wedding cakes
  • Dried seafood
  • Lucky fruits
  • Jewelry for the bride

Gifts From the Bride’s Family:

  • Bedsheets and pillowcases
  • Bucket and ruler
  • A tea set
  • Chopsticks
  • Bedside lamps

Gifts From the Bride to the Groom:

  • Men’s accessory (watch or cufflinks, etc)
  • Fruits
  • Pants
  • Wedding cakes

Of course, not every Chinese couple has both a bride and a groom. Feel free to adjust these traditions to you and your partner’s vision, and no matter what, you’ll find something beautiful.

Additionally, some of these items have symbolic meaning, and others can be used in future wedding ceremonies. The Guo Da Li doesn’t have to be incredibly formal. These days, it’s easy to buy pre-made Guo Da Li packages or kits. If you choose to assemble your own gift set, remember to gift everything in even numbers (other than four) to invite good luck. Red packaging is preferred.

Checking Off the Wedding Practicalities

After both families have agreed on the basic arrangements for the wedding, it’s time to tackle logistical details so that you can start informing guests.

Take the following steps:

  • Apply for a Marriage License: While a marriage license is hardly the most romantic part of your wedding, it’s a necessary step for getting legally married. Get the b,all rolling well in advance of your nuptials.

  • Hire a Wedding Planner (or Not): Due to the many steps involved in planning a wedding, it can be helpful to solicit some professional help. If you can find a wedding planner who’s experienced in the components of a traditional Chinese wedding, even better. However, some couples choose to do the legwork themselves (often with lots of help from their friends and family).

  • Consider Appointing or Hiring a Dai Kam Jie or Chaperone: This person can be a member of the family or a hired professional. Either way, the Dai Kam Jie will accompany the bride on her wedding day (or the couple), and serve as a valuable resource for planning the ceremonies.

Consult With a Feng Shui master: Many families consult with a fortune teller or Feng Shui master to help them pick a lucky date for the wedding rituals.

12 to 9 Months Before the Wedding: Perfecting the Dinner and Tea Ceremony

Once you’ve chosen a date, you’re well on your way to sending wedding invitations. But first you need to figure out exactly when and where the different public-facing aspects of the day will occur.

At this point, your specific timetable will depend on the events you include. While some couples choose to walk down the aisle in a more westernized ceremony, we’ll focus our guide on two more traditional components of a Chinese wedding: the tea ceremony and the banquet.

Planning the Tea Ceremony

Traditionally, the couple serves tea to their parents and other close family members in the morning or afternoon before the banquet. This private ceremony often implements the tea set given by the groom during the Guo Da Li.

  • Some couples visit the bride’s family in the morning, followed by the groom’s family in the afternoon. If you’re both brides or both grooms, you can schedule these visits however you wish.

  • Others include the entire family in a formal tea at the groom’s parents’ house.

  • You could also choose to perform the tea ceremony as part of a wedding breakfast or luncheon.

At your tea ceremony, you’ll brew tea (of any kind) and serve it to the proud parents. This can be as informal or formal as you like. Be sure to consider:

  • The decor
  • Your outfit
  • The music

However you choose to dress, decorate, and prepare, make sure there’s ample time between your tea ceremony to change clothes and travel between wedding venues before dinner.

Planning the Dinner Banquet

After the tea ceremony comes to a celebratory dinner. To start planning yours, check these things off your list:

  • Find a Wedding Venue: Use online tools to look for venues that suit your preferences and accommodate your party size. Keep in mind that many desirable locales book up a year or more in advance. The sooner you can start your search, the better.

  • Hire a Caterer: Some Chinese families have very specific traditions for 10-course meals with dishes like roast duck, roast suckling pig, and scallops. Of course, others choose vegetarian or even gluten-free affairs. No matter what, you’ll definitely want a caterer with delicious food that will impress your guests. Serve an even number of courses (often eight or 10).

  • Hire a Photographer or Videographer: A videographer or photographer can help you document your banquet and any other ceremonies. Look through local professionals’ portfolios. You can even try them out for an engagement shoot to see if your styles mesh. If they do, work together to create a thorough shot list for the big day.

  • Entertainment Vendors: To keep your guests enrapt throughout multiple courses, you’ll need entertainment. This can mean:

    • Hiring an MC, so you and your spouse can spend more time enjoying the meal.

    • Hiring lion dancers to ward off evil spirits via a beautiful and entertaining traditional dance.

    • Hiring a deejay to play music and get guests on the dance floor as the eating comes to an end.

  • Other festivities: It’s a good idea to start figuring out what other kinds of activities you want to incorporate into your celebration like:

    • Playing door games (i.e. quizzing the couple about each other)
    • Deciding what music you want played (either by your deejay or a playlist).

9 to 6 Months Before the Wedding: Planning Your Ensemble and Building Your Wedding Website

This is when you’ll make some of the most important decisions and make sure your guests have all the information they need.

Getting Your Ensemble Ready

Besides getting the venue ready for guests, there’s the task of curating your appearance on your special day.

This involves:

  • Shopping for Your Qi Pao, Qun Kwa, Dress, or Suit: If you or your partner identify as a bride, there are a variety of traditional dresses for brides, including the two-piece Qun Qwa and the one-piece Qi Pao. Depending on a bride’s home region and taste, she could choose either silhouette or any red dress. Likewise, grooms can choose traditional or western suits.

  • Visiting a Tailor: Make sure your garment is hemmed and finished, so that it perfectly fits your form (maybe with a little wiggle room for that 10-course meal).

  • Finding a Hairstylist: Does your regular stylist do elaborate updos with all-day hold? If not, ask them for a recommendation for someone who can make sure your locks look their best from the tea ceremony through dinner and beyond.

  • Hiring a Makeup Artist – Just because you’re a Sephora Beauty Insider doesn’t mean you should try doing your own makeup for your wedding. It takes specific products to stand up to the elements and your aunties’ kisses throughout an all-day affair.

  • Getting a Practice Mani-Pedi – Taking your ji mui (bridesmaids) out for a mani-pedi to finalize your nail look before the wedding can give you a much-needed opportunity to relax while ensuring your nails look their best.

Build Your Wedding Website

Before you send out your invites, it’ll be helpful to get ahead of questions your friends and family will have about your special day. Your wedding website should include:

  • Time and date of the wedding
  • Venue location and directions for all of the events
  • Attire information
  • Explanation of ceremonies, if you’re inviting a variety of guests from different backgrounds

Zola’s free wedding website creator makes building a beautiful website easy. Choose from hundreds of customizable templates and use our drag-and-drop feature to include all the information you need on your site. Your guests will be able to find everything with just a few clicks.

6 to 4 Months Before the Wedding: Booking Travel and Opening Up the Registry

Once the biggest decisions of the wedding have been made, it’s time for the extra touches that you and your spouse-to-be will really enjoy.

  • Book Your Honeymoon: Honeymoons are a more modern addition to typical Chinese weddings, but more and more couples are taking advantage of the time to enjoy the post-wedding planning calm. Start booking flights, hotel rooms, and researching activities for you and your partner to look forward to.

  • Open Up Your Registry: While registries aren’t a traditional part of Chinese weddings, many Chinese couples have started using them. Zola’s wedding registry allows you and your partner to register from hundreds of amazing brands, as well as select honeymoon funds as a registry option. You’ll also enjoy free shipping and returns, price matching, and stellar customer service.

4 to 1 Months Before the Wedding: Sending Invites, Confirming Headcounts With Vendors, and Getting Ahead

At this stage, the majority of wedding details should be finalized. Now all that’s left is to ensure family and friends can join (and that vendors know what to expect).

Send the Invitations

According to Chinese tradition, send out your wedding invitations at least three months before your wedding day. However, it’s important to keep in mind the following details:

  • You or your spouse’s parents may request that you invite your guests in person. Of course, you can also send out paper wedding save-the-dates and invitations to those who are too far away.

  • Invite your “ji mui” (bridesmaids) and “heng dai” (groomsmen) to take part in the wedding planning. They can provide invaluable help for the steps to come. For example, they can help you brainstorm door games to play on the day of your wedding.

Finalize Decor, Vendors, and Rentals

Once you have a general idea of who’s coming, you can use that information to:

  • Rent the correct number of tables and chairs
  • Select place settings
  • Decide on flowers and decorations

If you’re working with a wedding planner, they’ll set up visits with individual wedding vendors, so that you can make informed choices about flowers, streamers, lighting, and other decors. Some You can also choose to DIY some aspects of the wedding. Depending on where you host your Chinese wedding tea ceremony, you may find yourself decorating more than one venue.

Whatever route you choose, don’t forget to include the following at your venue(s):

  • Lots of red
  • Good luck fruits (dates, pomegranates, and oranges)
  • The double good luck symbol combining two “Xi” (喜) characters
  • Paper lanterns

When the RSVPs start coming in, you should also reach out to your caterer to sort out any dietary restrictions and help give them an accurate sense of what (and how much) they need to cook. You’ll also want to:

  • Finalize Headcount: Once you have a final headcount for your guest list, you can work with your venue and other vendors to ensure you have all of your bases covered.

  • Start Addressing Thank You Notes: Traditionally, Chinese couples don’t send thank you notes. However, if you’re signing up for a registry, it’s best practice to send thank you notes. Get a headstart on addressing the thank you notes, so you’ll be ready to roll right after the honeymoon.

Week-of Wedding Preparations

As the wedding date approaches, Chinese couples need to make the same preparations as any other soon-to-be-married pair—sometimes with added twists.

Standard Week-Before-Wedding Prep

Like all other couples, you’ll need to take a few basic steps to make sure everything stays on track.

  • Finalize Your Look. Do a dry run of your outfit (or outfits) along with your game-day makeup and hair. Be sure to try out different shoes and accessories. Get any last-minute alterations to your garment. Once you’ve made your decisions, polish your jewelry and break in any shoes you’ll be wearing on your wedding day. You’ll also want to pack an emergency kit stocked with supplies that can hide minor stains and tears.

  • Double Check the Details: If you’re working with a wedding planner, make sure you’re on the same page about the schedule of events. Ask them to confirm timing and vendor payment procedures, or do it yourself. If there are last-minute changes to the guest list or potential issues with the weather forecast, communicate with all relevant parties to make the necessary adjustments.

  • Get in the Right Headspace. You have a lot going on, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find time to breathe, drink water, eat, and connect with your future spouse. In fact, some traditional Chinese ceremonies provide time for contemplation and blessings. Check out the list below, or make time to find your own happy place, whether that means listening to music or hitting the gym for some endorphin release.

  • Make Adjustments. Expect the unexpected—like a guest who can’t make it at the last minute. Appoint someone to help juggle untimely guest requests and issues while you get ready to greet your guests.

Finalize the Details on Special Ceremonies and Traditions

If you’re participating in any of the following traditions, make sure the stage is adequately set.

  • Hair Dressing: The night before the wedding, you and your spouse-to-be might choose to spend the night separately for this ritual. Traditionally, both partners shower with cleansing botanicals. Then, a “woman of good fortune” (sometimes the Dai Kam Jie) combs their hair while reciting a blessing. If you’ve hired a professional helper or a wedding planner, they can help assemble the needed supplies, which include:

    • Red candles
    • Incense
    • Red yarn
    • Cypress leaves
  • Bed Installation (An Chuang): On an auspicious date just before the wedding, a woman of good fortune (as above) prepares the couple’s wedding bed with red sheets. No one should sleep in a bed until the wedding night.

  • Red Envelope Wedding Gift: Some couples may choose to forgo a wedding registry in favor of cash gifts, and others implement both. Many guests expect to give money equal to the amount of their meal at the banquet. If you plan to accept, be sure to place a money box or red envelopes at the entrance of the dining room. Assign someone to collect the money at the end of the night.

We’ve mentioned a few other potential ceremonies, including the visit to the groom’s (or partner’s) family three days after the wedding. The good news? That’s one aspect of the wedding you won’t have to plan.

Need Help With Your Checklist? Zola’s Here for You

A traditional Chinese wedding isn’t just about the couple, but the blending of two families and their extended communities. As such, there’s a long checklist of tasks to complete, things to buy or rent, and etiquette to adhere to.

But the goal of all these items is your long-term happiness. After all your hard work and preparation, your wedding will serve as a formal blessing of your union, inviting in good luck and clearing away any obstacles.

And even before the ceremony takes place, your friends and family are there to help. So are we.

Zola’s wedding checklist tools, registry, and marketplace are all here to simplify the process of your nuptials. Get started with our free, customizable wedding planning checklist. Once you’re organized, it’s that much easier to have fun while planning your wedding.

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