Ideas & Advice

The complete Guo Da Li or Chinese betrothal ceremony checklist based on your dialect group

If you're baffled by what to get for your Guo Da Li or Chinese betrothal ceremony, we've done the legwork and come up with a guide.
 

Photo : www.shuangxile.com

Planning a modern wedding sounds mostly fun for us girls - I mean, many of us have dreamt about this our entire lives! Then there's the other aspect of Chinese weddings - traditional customs and rituals. Of course, there are elder relatives we can turn to for advice but sometimes, you may wind up with different sets of advice. So, we've done the legwork and come up with a guide to help you set things straight. 

A little nugget of information on the Guo Da Li or Chinese betrothal ceremony, which is the first activity to be checked off your list of pre-wedding activities. The Guo Da Li is a significant ceremony among Chinese wedding customs as it symbolises the groom's sincerity in marrying the bride and that she will be well taken care of in their marriage. 

The Guo Da Li ceremony is usually held between 2 to 4 weeks before the wedding. During the betrothal ceremony, the groom and a matchmaker, or an elder female relative deemed to be of good fortune will present the bride’s family with a variety of gifts that represent fertility and prosperity.

Do note that the list of items may differ based on your dialect group. If the bride and groom are from different dialect groups, the bride typically would have to follow the groom’s. With that being said, here’s the list based on the four major dialect groups in Singapore: Hokkiens, Teochews, Cantonese and Hakka. 

Guo Da Li Items (Hokkiens and Teochews)

Item Why you need it or what it signifies
Red and Black basket (Hokkiens),
Straw basket (Teochews)
A traditional practice to hold all the ceremony gift items in baskets
Betrothal Ang Pow A gift to the parents to thank them  for bringing up the bride

2 pairs of Dragon Phoenix (Long Feng Zhu) wax candles

To be lit up during the hair combing or "Shang Tou" ritual
A minimum of 6 canned pig trotters or roasted suckling pig/roasted pork A gift for the mother-in-law
2 bottles of red wine or hard liquor A gift for the bride's father
Traditional wedding cakes To be shared amongst friends and relatives
8-12 oranges To bring about good luck
12-16 apples Symbolize peace
Peanut and Sesame candies (Teochews) To have many off-spring soon
Lao Ma Gor (Bride's Grandma Cake) To be skipped if the bride's grandmother has passed on
Banana (Teochews) To bring in children, homophone for "bring"
Rice candies (Hokkien) For prosperity
A pair of coconuts For multiple generations to come
Black moss, Fa Cai To bring about an abundance of wealth
Charcoal To wish the bride to be blessed with a good life after marriage
2 packets of white sesame seeds and 2 cans of tea leaves To symbolise seeds growing into trees
A double happiness sticker To decorate the home
A red banner To be hung over the door

 

A gift box containing :

4 pieces of gold jewellery, Si
Dian Jin (Teochews)
A gift from the mother-in-law to the 
bride to welcome her into the family    
Dried longan  To be blessed with a dragon boy
Red date For good fortune
Lily bulbs Eternal union 
Walnut/Peanut Harmony within the family
Lotus seeds To have many offspring
Pine tree leaf Longevity
Dried tangerine To bring in more luck
Dried melon slice Sweet life together as a couple
Assorted grains such as red or
green beans, soy beans, barley or rice
To bless the couple with
abundance of harvest

See also 9 GORGEOUS KUAS AND CHEONGSAMS OUR REAL BRIDES WORE 


 

Guo Da Li List (Cantonese and Hakka)
Items                                                                              Additional Information
Betrothal Ang Pao
A gift to the bride's parents to thank them for bringing up the bride

2 pairs of dragon phoenix candles 

To be lit up during the hair combing or "Shang Tou" ceremony
Roast pork A gift for the mother-in-law and a symbol and roast pig symbolises the bride's virginity.

2 bottles of red wine or hard liquor 

A gift for the bride's father
Traditional wedding cakes To be shared amongst friends and relatives
8-12 oranges To bring about good luck
12-16 apples Symbolises peace
Seafood (such as sea cucumber, abalone, scallop, shark’s fin, cuttlefish, dried prawn, oyster, mushrooms 
and fish maw)
To symbolise a long and happy marriage
A pair of coconuts Signifies multiple generations to come
Black moss, Fa Cai To bring about an abundance of wealth

A double happiness sticker 

To decorate the home
A red banner To be hung over the door
Suan pan zi (Hakkas) Hakka common delicacy

 

A gift box that contains :

A pair of golden dragon bangles         
(Cantonese)
A gift from the mother-in-law to
bride to welcome her into the family     
Jewellery for the bride (Si Dian Jin)
A gift from the mother-in-law to
bride to welcome her into the family     
Dried longan To be blessed with a dragon boy
Red date Signifies good fortune
Lily bulbs Signifies eternal union
Walnuts and or peanuts Signifies harmony within the family
Lotus seeds To bless the couple with many offspring
Pine tree leaf Signifies longevity
Dried tangerines To bring in more luck

Dried melon slices

To wish the couple a sweet life together

 


The returning of gifts ceremony called “Hui Li” is for the bride’s family to show appreciation for the generosity from the groom’s family as well as to share the good fortune (and also in ancient times, to highlight the wealth of the bride's family so that they weren't looked down upon by the groom's side). To ensure the good fortune is shared, here’s a list of what should be in the Hui Li (the list applies to all dialect groups):

 

Hui Li Item List
Items       Additional Information                                                       
Gifts for the groom (such as belts, wallet, watch, or an ang pao inserted)

A gift for the groom to welcome into the family

2 bottles of orange juice or syrup To replace the hard liquor and symbolises good fortune
A portion of the gifts received from the groom’s family Typically half of the items will be returned
Huat Kueh or Fatt Koh (Chinese steamed cakes) Symbolises prosperity
Sugarcane (Hokkiens)  
A ruler To have many children and grandchildren
A red umbrella To shield the bride from any negativity during the Chu Ge (leaving the bride's house)
Pants or a suit Symbolises lifelong good fortune
Clothing and accessories for the bride Symbolises fertility

 

See also: 7 MODERN ALTERNATIVES TO WEDDING TRADITIONS

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