Chinese wedding: Why must a pregnant relative stand up to accept tea

Chinese weddings are steeped in cultural beliefs or sometimes, even superstitions. Whether practical or not, some of these customs are still being observed.

Wedding chaperone Kenneth Steven Chan sheds light on some Chinese wedding traditions:

The threshold

The bride is not supposed to step on the threshold of the groom's house but cross over it. There is a belief that if the bride steps on the threshold of the groom's family home, it means she is above the mother-in-law.

The red umbrella

When the bride leaves her maternal family's house, the father of the bride has to open a red umbrella to escort her out. Also, rice is thrown onto the umbrella.

In the olden days, legend has it that a mythical bird will attack the bride in red kua (Chinese traditional wedding outfit) or anything in red. A red umbrella is used to shield the bride so that the bird does not see her. Rice is scattered on the umbrella to further distract the bird, so that it will peck on the rice grains and not harm the bride.

When she arrives at the groom's house, the wedding chaperone will hold the red umbrella for the bride.

Carrying the bride on the back

In ancient times, the wedding chaperone has to carry the bride on his or her back onto a sedan chair. This is done to avoid offending the deities. This custom is observed with the belief that the bride is forbidden to see the sky and step on the ground, so to speak. Hence, the Cantonese saying, pat kin teen, pat dim tei (don't see the sky, don't touch the earth). But nowadays, this practice is uncommon.

Pregnant woman and the tea ceremony

If the elder sister-in-law is pregnant, she and the hubby have to accept the tea standing up. The pregnant woman has auspicious energy and the family does not want her energy to clash with the wedding couple's. If the newlywed couple and the pregnant sister-in-law (and her husband) are standing up, the energies would be balanced. If the pregnant woman is the younger one who has to serve tea, the married couple also have to stand to receive the tea. In a nutshell, if there is a pregnant woman during a tea ceremony, both parties have to stand when accepting the tea.

Pregnant bride

She has to lower her head when leaving her family home. This is to avoid the energy of the foetus from clashing with other energies.

When the wedding chaperone comes to the bride's house, he or she has to say aloud, tai yan cho yea, sai lo kor hung hoi (a Cantonese phrase to inform the foetus to excuse anyone who has offended it).

No kneeling

The pregnant bride should never kneel to avert any untoward incident. The pregnancy may not be stable and too much movement is not good for the bride.

Red packets

Token money in red ang pows should be in even numbers. However, the number nine (odd number) is acceptable e.g. RM119 as it symbolises eternity.