Guest Author - Caroline Baker
One of the most prominent features of a Chinese wedding is the wedding dress, or should we say dresses -- with a plural.
Since red is the color of luck in Chinese culture, the bride would normally wear an all red dress. Often the dress is embroidered with many designs made of gold or silver thread. The most typical designs on the dress are those of the dragon and phoenix, showing the union of male and female sides.
Aside from the elaborate dress, much attention would be paid to the hair. Very complex headdresses would adorn the bride, often so heavy the bride could do nothing but bow her head and keep it steady. A veil would sometimes be present, either strings of beads or a solid piece of fabric covering the face. In ancient times, it was often not unusual that the first time the groom would lay eyes upon his bride would be after their wedding, in their betrothal bed.
The style of the dress often emphasizes the origins of the family. More northern areas would wear a Qi Pao, while southern areas would tend to wear the two-piece Cheongsan. There are also other styles of dress arising from the varied cultures that are contained within China, such as Mongolian, Taiwanese, Tibetian, and various minority groups that still find their homes in China. Most still do have the characteristic red that has been part of the ceremonies since probably when weddings were first introduced, during the Warring States period.
In more modern Chinese weddings these days, it is not unusual to find Chinese women dressed in a traditional Western white gown. Though the color white is associated with death, the acceptance of this practice shows the growing influence of other cultures on the Chinese. During a modern wedding ceremony, it is not uncommon for the bride to change her outfit three or more times during the night. The more dresses, the more prominent the family. Most of the dresses worn these days arise from the Qing dynasty, the last dynasty of China and are called Qi Pao.
Interestingly enough, the men, while still dressing formally and more decorative than normal, would not wear red. Men are more commonly in the normal black or grays, or dressed in their formal station clothing. This is very much like Western cultures in that aspect.