For many foreigners, attending a wedding in the West is difficult enough, what with all the etiquette you need to brush up on beforehand.
So how do you avoid ending up with a red face at a Chinese wedding?
After you accept an invitation, the first thing you need to think about is buying a present for the bride and groom.
Age-old custom dictates that “courtesy demands reciprocity.”
There is, however, a notable exception: If you’re the matchmaker who brought the couple together, there’s no need to buy a gift.
The pleasant “task” awaiting you is simply to eat and drink to your heart’s content at the grand banquet.
In the eyes of those attending, you are most respected guest, on a par with the parents of the bride and groom.
But if you’re not the matchmaker, start thinking about that gift! Relishing the delicious dishes free of charge would be an affront to the couple and Chinese custom.
The good news is that you have the freedom to choose from a diverse range of gifts, depending on your relationship with the couple.
If the newly-weds are casual friends, the gifts could include cosmetics, articles of everyday use, or special, personal gifts like perfumes, quilts or flower vases.
If the relationship with the couple is close, giving the bride and groom a gift of cash is the norm.
The next question to consider is: How much to give? The cash gift generally ranges from 300 yuan (US$36) to 1,000 yuan (US$120).
It is equally important that you then find a red envelope to put the cash in.
The enterprising amongst you might be able to make something suitable yourself. But it is important to remember that it must be red because that is the symbol of happiness, good luck and conjugal love.
The moment the couple drink a toast with you is the best time to hand over the red envelop (hongbao) to them.
In addition, do not forget to give the couple your best wishes. After that, you can sit down and fill up on the food on the dinner table without any worries, other than overeating.