Chinese marriage was systemized into custom in the Warring States period (402-221 B.C.). Due to vast expanse and long history, there are different customs to follow in different places, although they are generally the same. Visitors still get chance to witness traditional marriages in the countryside.
In the ancient times, it was very important to follow a basic principle of Three Letters And Six Etiquettes, since they were essential to a marriage.
Three letters include Betrothal Letter, Gift Letter and Wedding Letter. Betrothal Letter is the formal document of the engagement, a must in a marriage. Then, a gift letter is necessary, which will be enclosed to the identified girl's family, listing types and quantity of gifts for the wedding once both parties accept the marriage. While the Wedding Letter refers to the document which will be prepared and presented to the bride's family on the day of the wedding to confirm and commemorate the formal acceptance of the bride into the bridegroom's family.
Six Etiquettes :
Proposing: If an unmarried boy's parents identify a girl as their future daughter-in-law, then they will find a matchmaker. Proposal used to be practiced by a matchmaker. The matchmaker would formally present his or her client's request to the identified girl's parents.
Birthday matching: If the potential bride's parents did not object the marriage, the matchmaker would ask for the girl's birthday and birth hour record to assure the compatibility of the potential bride and bridegroom. If the will-be-married's birthdays and birth hours does not conflict according to astrology, the marriage will step into the next stage. Once there is any conflict, meaning the marriage will bring disasters to the boy's family or the girl's, the marriage stops here.
Presenting betrothal gifts: Once birthdays match, the bridegroom's family will then arrange the matchmaker to present betrothal gifts, enclosing the betrothal letter, to the bride's family.
Presenting wedding gifts: After the betrothal letter and betrothal gifts are accepted, the bridegroom's family will later formally send wedding gifts to the bride's family. Usually, gifts may include tea, lotus seeds, longan, red beans, green beans, red dates, nutmeg, oranges, pomegranate, lily, bridal cakes, coconuts, wine, red hair braid, money box and other stuffs, depending on local customs and family wealth.
Picking auspicious wedding date: An astrologist or astrology book will be referred to selecting an auspicious date to hold the wedding ceremony. Wedding ceremony: On the selected day, the bridegroom departures with a troop of escorts and musicians, which will play happy music all the way to the bride's home. After the bride is clustered to the bridegroom's home, the wedding ceremony begins betrothal letter.