Asian Wedding Traditions: A Family-Centric View

Asian Wedding Traditions

For couples tying the knot across Asia, saying “I do” often means contending with a host of relatives vying to make the ceremony their own. More than a union of two individuals, Asian weddings represent the merging of families, clans, and communities—a symbolic cross-pollination of ancestral bloodlines.

Parents Call the Shots

As with many milestones in one’s life, it is parents who overwhelmingly dominate Asian wedding planning, including for couples who have come together through various means, such as mail order Asian brides. Though brides and grooms may foot the bill themselves nowadays, parental advisory rules across everything from guest lists to auditioning caterers.

The Stress of Hosting Hundreds

Welcoming hundreds, if not thousands of guests inevitably falls to the mothers and fathers of the bride and groom. They meticulously hand-address invitation cards to friends, business partners, overseas relatives, and neighbors they haven’t seen in years.

“My parents invited people I hadn’t met since I was five years old!” laughs Maya Lee, whose Korean nuptials totaled 350 guests.

Venue selection also falls squarely on parental shoulders. Banquet halls must have the capacity for 12-course banquets while accommodating multi-generational households.

Wardrobe Decisions

Mothers particularly revel in shopping for opulent outfits decking out the wedding parties. In Indonesia and India, they select vibrant brocade kebayas and saris for female family members that complement the bride’s outfit. Among Chinese Malaysians, they ensure the groom’s red qipao jacket pops beside his bride’s embroidered cheongsam dress.

Picking Auspicious Dates

Consulting monks, shamans, or Chinese almanacs to determine an auspicious date is likewise a parent’s prerogative. The 8th month of the Chinese lunar calendar is avoided as the word for “eight” sounds like the word for “separation.”

“My parents moved our date up by two months to land on a more fortuitous day,” says Vee Chew, a Singaporean bride. “The original date was deemed bad for having too much ‘fire’ energy from the summer heat.”

Celebrating with Elders

In the morning itself, elders bestow their blessings on couples through meaningful rituals. For Hindus across southern Asia, parents sprinkle turmeric water to ward off evil spirits. Christian Filipinos kneel before their parents to receive rosaries and coins in velvet pouches.

Sage Marriage Tips

Elders also pass down pearls of wisdom to freshly minted spouses. During Chinese tea ceremonies, grandparents sip brews symbolizing sweetness, bitterness, and smoothness in marriage.

“My grandmother told me not to go to bed angry and allow any misunderstanding to last overnight,” recalls Tang Wei Ming.

Through these acts, young couples gain their elders’ approval, ensuring luck and prosperity in their union.

Gifts Reflecting Family Wealth

Lavish gifts from elders also affirm the couple’s status within the family’s social strata. Gold jewelry, luxury cars, property deeds or stock options in the family firm—these presents broadcast accumulated household wealth for all guests to appreciate. For communities that value financial security, these expensive displays assure the durability of marriage against unpredictable tides.

Siblings and Cousins Share Spotlight

Sibling camaraderie saturates wedding occasions as well. Brothers serve as groomsmen while sisters and female cousins take bridesmaid roles during ceremonies. They also rally closest friends to initiate traditions putting couples in the spotlight.

Neighborhood Fanfare

In northern India, sisters and cousins dance ahead of the groom’s baraat procession through his ancestral neighborhood. As the brass band’s drums intensify, they encircle the groom while dancing joyfully to build excitement.

In a similar fashion, brothers, and cousins accompany Chinese grooms to receive their brides bysetting off deafening strings of firecrackers outside their home on the wedding morning. As red smoke billows, the chaotic pops signal the bride’s imminent departure from her maternal family.

Holding Up Nine Hoops

Through games too, relatives embroil the newlyweds in tests of harmony, endurance, and cooperation. A popular Indonesian ritual sees elder siblings holding a wooden hoop decorated with baby’s breath and ribbons above the couple’s heads. Progressing through nine of these hoops represents different stages in marriage.

“It was like an intense couples’ workout class having to crouch and jump through those hoops together in my gown!” jokes Jakarta resident Katrina Wijaya of her 2015 nuptials.

Modern Couples Bucking Traditions

Yet as Asia grapples with globalization, younger generations increasingly question rituals dictated purely by ancestry or superstition. Couples now adapt long-held customs to better suit their post-modern sensibilities.

Urban Japanese couples are omitting rice cake-throwing rituals while young Pakistanis are saying no to thousand-strong guest lists of parental acquaintances. Those entering intercultural unions are fusing customs from their respective backgrounds or abandoning heavily religious rituals.

“I respected my parents’ Buddhist beliefs, but wanted to design a non-denominational ceremony to cater to my wife’s mixed French heritage,” says Daisuke Nakamura, 36.

Intimate Family-Only Gatherings

Couples are also scaling down to intimate indoor affairs involving only parents, siblings, grandparents, and dearest friends. Lavish banquet halls become cozy restaurant alcoves with 10 to 15 round tables instead of rows seating 800.

“Having a tight-knit affair allowed more meaningful chats with each table,” notes Selena Wong, a Guangzhou-based PR director. “I could actually catch up with my favorite cousin from Australia!”

Though weddings are increasingly collaborative, the family retains an instrumental role in Asian marital traditions. Rather than mere guests, relatives ensure these bond-sealing occasions reflect household lineages crossing generations past and future.

Gretchen Walker
Gretchen is a homemaker by day and writer by night. She takes a keen interest in life as it unfolds around her and spends her free time observing people go about their everyday affairs.