If you have been in China before or have a Chinese friend – then you might know something about the custom of red envelopes (“hong bao”). Generally speaking – this is a monetary gift presented inside of the red envelope. There are many stories related to this custom. Today I want to tell you about red envelopes given at Chinese wedding (not a “naked” wedding described previously).
Red envelopes from guests
Once you got an invitation to a wedding which usually comprises the invitation card, even number of candies (8, 10 or 12) and two packs of cigarettes – you should go and buy red envelope with an appropriate inscription:
- Happy Wedding (新婚快乐 –“xin hun kuai le”) or
- Happiness (喜- “xi”) or
- Be a Good Couple Until Old Age (百年好合 –“bai nian hao he”) or
- Happy forever (永远幸福 –“yong yuan xing fu”) and so on
Then you should think about the amount of money to put inside. There is no special regulation and it mostly depends on your relationship with the newly weds. Unwritten law prescribes that when invited to someone’s party you must give the same (or bigger) amount of money than you’ve received before.
Envelopes are given at the specially arranged front desk near the entrance to the restaurant. Some people, however, prefer to pass them directly to the groom and bride along with their kind wishes.
Usually guests write their names on the envelope – so that receivers know whom they got it from. Sometimes, however, the name is not written (and since in China we give cash and not named checks) – groom and bride will pay close attention to the “source” of the envelope in order to distinguish it later.
Red envelope from new weds’ parents
From groom’s parents.
First two envelopes are given to groom and bride in the morning of wedding day when he takes his fiancee to their new house to hold a special tea ceremony. The sum of money in these envelopes is not big: from RMB 88 to RMB 2,000 (1 USD equaled 6.83 RMB at the day of article publishing). In any case it is some even number having a positive symbolical meaning.
The third envelope is the “fattest” one: RMB 1000 – 50,000. It is handed to the groom and bride by his parents on the stage during the wedding party.
From bride’s parents.
Bride’s parents also prepare three envelopes. They will usually contain lesser sums of money. First two are given when groom takes the bride from her house in the morning and the third envelope on the wedding stage.
Red envelopes from bride and groom
Bride and groom will also give red envelopes with little sums, but lucky numbers according to Chinese believes ( RMB 2, 6, 8, 9, 12, 18, 68, 88, 128). These little envelopes are used as “ransoms” to the guests who play different funny tricks with groom.
For example, when the groom arrives to pick up the bride – her friends and relatives require from him to pass different tests or answer tricky questions in order to take his future wife. Each time when the groom fails – he will give away a little red envelope.
Funny wedding games and challenges are awaiting for him at every step – at the gate of the house, entrance to the apartments, bride room’s door… Would you prefer to make 100 pushups in the tight suit or save yourself with the help of few RMB and meet your girl as soon as possible ;-) ?
Reunion does not end the “troubles” of new weds who’d better prepare more envelopes in advance.
So if you go to Chinese wedding, don’t miss the chance to play jokes and get some money back :-)
Wish you luck and wealth (not necessarily inside red envelopes).
Time to go to bed now.
Sleepy Crystal Tao