The betrothal ceremony called Guo Da Li is one of the most important events in conventional Chinese weddings. This takes place at about one to three weeks prior to the D-day. This is that day when the bride’s and groom’s respective families exchange bridal gifts to show their blessings for the upcoming union.
Guo Da Li essentials include the following:
- Long Feng Zhu or the dragon and phoenix candles
- An even number of oranges (eight or twelve is often preferred)
- Champagne or wine
- Dried longans, dried lotus seeds or dried red dates
- The bride price
What Is the Bride Price?
Also referred to as bride token or bride wealth, this is the amount (monetary or property) that is paid by the groom’s family to the bride’s family. This is comparable to the dowry which is paid instead to the groom or is used by the bride when setting out for a new home life. The bride price, as opposed to known beliefs, is not the amount that reflects the approximate value of the woman.
A lot of cultures practice paying the bride price. Here are some of the nations that observe this unique wedding culture:
- Ancient Mesopotamia
- Ancient Greece
- The Jews
- African countries
The Economics of Bride Price
The prevalence of bride price payment is closely intertwined with China’s female shortage. The amount has constantly gone up since the ‘80s as more and more males are having difficulty finding a suitable wife.
The concern here is that poverty may prevent a man from seeking a spouse. One’s inability to pay the bride price has forced many to postpone their marriage dates just so they could save some more money.
But do not think that bride price is all about scrimping for the said amount. Just think of it this way – in modern times, the bride price can be seen as a means of sustenance for the wife in case of marriage breakup or if the husband cannot adequately provide for his wife. Among the Chinese, the bride price represents the bride’s family that is losing a daughter and the groom’s family that is soon to gain one.
The bride price is the groom’s parents’ sign of respect which also aims to establish goodwill between the families that are about to be joined. This price also serves as a symbol of the bride’s worthiness to be included in the groom’s family.
The amount given by the groom’s family is often discussed in the middle of wedding negotiations. The parents of the bride may also choose to leave the decision to the groom’s family.
But how much is a fair bride price?
Average income families can pay the bride price from RM800 to RM8,000. But these amounts can easily go up to five digits such as RM10,000 or more. For well-to-do families, the amount can skyrocket to RM24,000 or even higher.
It is, of course, good to practice sensitivity when it comes to money matters. It is important to keep everyone contented by conducting appropriate discussions. Both families – the bride’s and the groom’s – must be pleased with the agreement.
There is also a need to keep the bride price at an even number. This is, again, taken from the Chinese culture where even digits symbolize prosperity and good luck. Therefore, the most popular amounts given as bride prices range from RM1,888 to RM8,888.
If the bride and the groom also decide to hold a wedding banquet, it is likely that the bride price would also include some tables during the said banquet. The gifts or ang pows that will be collected from these tables will be given to the bride’s family and not the groom’s.
Presentation of the Bride Price
Bride prices are properly presented to the family of the bride before the wedding takes place. Both families choose a lucky day when they can all meet up. This is when the betrothal gifts are given.
The bride price is placed inside a red packet and is presented to the bride’s family. For parents that are more traditional, they wrap the bride price in red cloth. To imply that the groom and his family are generous, the parents often prepare a bride price that is a little higher than the amount that was agreed upon.
As tradition and ethics would dictate, the family of the bride will return a portion of this amount to the husband-to-be. For instance, a bride price of RM1,888 means her family gets to keep about RM1,200 while they return the rest to the groom’s parents. Once again, this is a sign of goodwill as the bride’s family also indicates that the groom and his family have been overly generous. Returning the balance also implies that the bride’s family is not avaricious.
The bride price can also be paid in the form of livestock or a parcel of land.
Advantages of the Bride Price
Looking at the positive effects of presenting the bride price, it has been observed that this amount has stabilized a more loving and open relationship between the bride’s and groom’s families. Also, this has fostered acceptance on both sides where they learn to sit down, discuss and come up with a decision as one, big, unified family – a set up that rarely happens among couples that get married minus the bride price.
The bride price is also a form of religious expression in some nations. It also proves the young groom and how much he is willing to give up just to be married to his most desired woman.
The tradition of giving the bride price may seem archaic to some nations but Malaysians continue to value its cultural and religious functions.
More and more families, these days, actually just present the newlyweds with a certain amount of money as a gift. This amount is then used by the new couple as a means to start their life as husband and wife – nothing can be more beautiful yet simple as this.