The content of Betrothal Gifts and the amount of Bride Price should be agreed by both parents early in the wedding planning. Well, don’t ask my opinion on this Bride Price thing because I’m just going to launch into a feminist rant. I digressed.
About 1 month before the Tea Ceremony, on an auspicious day, Betrothal Gifts are traditionally delivered from the groom to the bride. Depending on how traditional your parents are, finding Betrothal Gifts is no shopping at Costco.
Betrothal gifts includes:
- Wedding Pastries – 2 pairs of Dragon and Phoenix Wedding Cake, one for the bride, one for the groom. Add other even numbers of wedding pastries from a total of 4,6 to 8. See more here
- Coconuts – 2 pairs of Coconuts. (It has to do with a phonetic symbol for child bearing)
- Tea leaves
- 2 pairs of betel nuts 檳榔. ( Good luck finding that in North America, try asking Taiwanese or Southeast Asian stores)
- 3 Animals – 2 pairs of Chicken or Geese (2 males, 2 females). Pork ( chopped open in halves but connected at the bone). A pair of fish (It must be a pair of whole, big fish. Don’t do canned Sardine and absolutely no fillets! Your Mother In Law won’t be amused)
- 4 types of Dried Seafood - High Roller Option: Dried Abalone, Sea Cucumber, SharkFin, Fish Maw, Scallops. Ghetto Option: Dried Squid, shrimp, Shitake Mushrooms, oysters. Both options must include Fat Choy 髮菜. Yes, you gotta put the Fat Choy in the Gong Hei Fat Choi here. There is no human English translation for Fat Choy but “Nostoc flagelliforme”. No, this is not a new vampire name.
- 4 types of nuts – Lotus Seeds, Lily Bulbs, Dates, Longans, Lychee, walnuts or peanuts. (These are pretty much all symbolic of child bearing.)
- Gift Box – A layered gift box that is big enough to contain all of the above. Then throw in more lotus seeds, lotus roots, Kadsura Pepper Stem 青蔞 ( yup, google this), cypress (扁柏), Betel nuts, sesame seeds, red beans, green beans, a red string, betrothal jewelries, cigarette, bottles of brandy, pairs of tangerines, 2 pairs of dragon and phoenix candles, a pair of wedding couplet 喜联 and the Bride Price in red envelope.
*How much should the Bride Price be?
There is really no set answer and it depends on how the bride’s family interpret this amount. From what I heard in Hong Kong, the market price ( again, don’t ask ) for Brides now is about $7000 USD. A common sense measure will be to offer amount that contains a combination of lucky numbers like 3, 6, 8, 9. An alternative will be a smaller amount like $500-$1000 just for tradition sake. Afterall, however symbolic, who wants to a price tag on a girl?
Bride’s Returns of Betrothal Gifts
If I could return everything and pretend nothing has ever happened, I would. However, a Chinese Wedding is not gonna let you out easy. After the Groom’s family scouted out the above items, the bride will return another set of gifts back to the groom’s family to symbolically express that the groom ” had been too generous” and the bride’s family ” is not greedy”.
Sometimes this is offered a few days after the delivery of the betrothal gifts. Some family offered the returns of gifts along with the Dowry at a later day.
Traditionally the Returns Gifts includes:
- Half of the Bride Price. The amount must be even number
- Tea Leaves, Fruits
- 1 pair of Taros, Lotus Roots, Pomegranates
- Towels 賀帷巾
- Gifts for the groom like clothes, belts, wallets, a pair of shoes and 2 pairs of socks. At the very least, the shoes.
- 1 betel nut
- Other pastries like fried rice ball (煎堆) and Chinese Sponge Cake (鬆糕).