By contributor Choo Nyuk Lin
Chinese Weddings – Past and Present
What were Chinese wedding ceremonies like in the 50s and 60s? Are there any differences in the way it was carried out back then compared to today’s one?
Let me do some comparison:-
Just like what’s being practiced today, the groom, together with all his ‘brothers’, would go to fetch the bride from her place in a fleet of cars. The bridal car would of course be the most luxurious of the fleet, usually an Austin, borrowed from a friend or relative. But in those days a long sugar cane complete with leaves was always tied to the side of the bridal car. Most grooms, though not a must, would hire a 4-piece band and put them in one of the cars. Hence in those days, the wedding fleet would come and leave with blaring music.
There would be the usual procedures such as the groom would not get out of the car until the bride’s younger brother had opened the door for him, and for that favour, the bridegroom had to give his future brother-in-law a big angpao.
But in those days, there was no such thing as the bride’s ‘sisters’ blocking the passage and pulling all kinds of tricks and pranks on the best man and ‘brothers’. This antics has spread from Hong kong to Malaysia not very long ago, I think.
The climax of the wedding was the evening of the day the bride was taken back to the groom’s place. Many years ago there was such a prank as ‘gao-sun-liong’搞新娘，i.e. pulling pranks on the newlyweds. The young couple would stand in the centre of a big circle formed by friends and relatives. The bride would appear in cheongsam with heavy makeup. There would be a ring leader, usually somebody with leadership such as the groom’s boss. There would be lots of unrelated people crowding around, just to watch the show. The young couple would be asked to do all kinds of nonsense, such as to sing a song, to eat together a candy hanged by a string, or to feed each other with fruits. The antics were all plain clean funs. Most people above 70 years of age, our parents and grandparents included, had gone through this ‘humiliation’ on their wedding days.
Today wedding dinners are invariably held in restaurants. But many years ago dinners were either held at home or in community halls. There were three main caterers who could provide the services of throwing a 10 course dinner for 100 tables. They were Gao-lou-weng, Siow Hong, and Siow Xin Fatt. All of them have already passed on.
What else have I missed? I have to remark that today’s new couples are much older than those 30 to 40 years ago. In fact, many in those days married at 18 or 20.
As time goes on, some practices were lost, but some new ones were added on. The main objective, of course, is to have fun and enjoy the process of growing up and settling down.
Hopefully, it’s only once in everyone’s lifetime.