If you've been invited to attend or are taking place in a traditional Chinese wedding, there are some very important differences that you need to know about. Unlike Western culture, many Eastern traditions are still alive, rooted deeply in the fabric of society and ingrained in every day life. For example, most celebrations and holidays in China have a large amount of symbols and colors that represent ideas and superstitions that hold true to this very day. Weddings are no exception.
Why Colors are So Important in Chinese Weddings
Colors are used in traditional Chinese wedding by both brides and grooms. These colors represent years of belief systems and pay homage to the old ways to help ensure a life of happiness and a strong, healthy marriage. Starting back in the Han Dynasty, certain colors became synonymous with these concepts and were incorporated into weddings. Call it superstition or tradition, the human tendency is to not tempt fate and buck the system - this is why traditional Chinese wedding colors are still used today.
You'll likely see the Chinese character meaning “Double Happiness” emblazoned all around the wedding, including on the invitations or the tablecloths (or a dragon and phoenix pattern on the decorations, symbolizing the bride and groom - this is often embroidered on the bride's dress). When you see the Double Happiness symbol, it will likely be in gold with a red background. This should be the only clue you need to understand that you'll be attending a traditional Chinese wedding - dress accordingly.
What are Traditional Chinese Wedding Colors?
Red and gold are colors you can always see in a Chinese wedding.
As you've probably guessed by the symbol's colors, red is the most important color in a traditional Chinese wedding. Red carries a highly positive connotation in China, resonating throughout their entire country - even their flag. Red is associated with a number of positive qualities and ideals, including:
These are all ideal conditions for a happy marriage, explaining why red is used so liberally during a Chinese wedding. Additionally, gold is used not only because it compliments red very well on the color wheel, but also because it is a sign of royalty.
In true tradition, gold is a color left strictly for use by royals, since it signifies they highest societal and cultural statues. But during weddings, it is not considered taboo to use gold in combination with red to symbolize honor in marriage. This noble bond of honor is made in front of royalty, thus upping the stakes and consequences of having a dishonorable marriage.
Unlike Western weddings, white is thought of as a color strictly associated with death and funerals in China. For this reason, it should be avoided at all costs in a traditional Chinese wedding since weddings are a time for happiness, life and the future, not death, remembrance and the past.
The only exception to this rule is a bouquet of flowers that contain white lilies. Lilies are symbolic as a flower that means “happiness ever after,” a good vibe to bring to any wedding. Be sure the lilies (called baihe in Chinese) do not make up the entire bouquet, however. A good flower to pair with the lilies are red roses.
A Closer Look at the Meanings of Traditional Chinese Wedding Colors
Here are some other things you should know about traditional Chinese wedding colors:
1. Red as a Wedding Color
Culture in China dictates that red is the symbol for love, luck and happiness, all positive qualities for a wedding. Red also brings prosperity and has been historically used by the Chinese during celebrations and festivals. You'll find red on most wedding invitations, decorations, flowers and even the food. Most noticeable of all, however, will likely be the red wedding gown. In a traditional Chinese wedding, the bridal gown will almost always be red. Be sure to give wedding gifts of money inside of lucky red envelopes to ensure the couple's future prosperity and happiness.
2. Gold as a Wedding Color
Gold is the symbol of wealth, joy and luck and is closely tied in with the royal family. During ancient times, only the imperial family could wear the color gold or use gold. As such, to this very day, gold is still only used as a secondary color in weddings, paired with red to symbolize the importance of the unity between the man and woman. You'll find gold trim in many of the invitations, decorations, wedding attire and especially on the arms and necks of the attendees in the form of jewelry.
3. Other Wedding Colors
For those looking for a slightly modern twist on a traditional Chinese wedding, it has become popular to use slight variations on red and gold. For instance, bright or pale pinks instead of red, or using yellow instead of gold. Burgundy and purple have also become popular, but will not bring the same tradition to the wedding that red and gold do.
4. Bad Ideas for Wedding Colors
In addition to white being left out of traditional Chinese weddings due to its association with death and mourning, other dark colors also symbolize unhappiness. Blue, gray and black are left out because they are thought to symbolize an unhappy marriage. In general, avoid dark colors altogether.
Where to Find These Colors
No matter what, a wedding is always a joyous occasion. You should never go against the wishes and traditions that the ceremony is embracing. This may mean going out and buying new clothing, but that's a small price to pay for not being looked upon as the person who brought bad luck and unhappiness upon the newly wed couple!