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Guo Da Li (过大礼)

Guo Da Li (过大礼)

Three major cultures comprise wedding customs in Malaysia – the Malay or Bumiputera, Chinese and Indian. The details for each culture vary according to tradition and a dash of modernization resulting into the simplification of traditional marriage rituals. But a Chinese wedding is often not regarded as complete unless customary rites have been satisfied.

For Malaysian brides who would like to adhere to the Chinese traditions, here are some traditions that can help you achieve a more successful, blissful and a prosperous wedded life:

Preparing for the Wedding Day

It is vital, according to Chinese custom, that betrothal gifts are presented a week or two prior to the wedding date. This practice is known as the Guo Da Li (过大礼) wherein the groom’s family offers food items and gifts to the bride’s family.

These gifts symbolize prosperity and good luck. Additionally, the bride price (also called the bride wealth) is presented in a red packet.

A few Malaysian families who observe this Chinese tradition make sure that the bride price contains an auspicious amount. The Cantonese, for instance, often give the bride price in amounts that come with the number nine (which is symbolic of a lasting marriage). Some include items in even numbers, say, 12 cans of pig trotters, 2 hard liquor bottles and 18 oranges.

Actual gift items may vary. There are those who include four gold jewelry; others offer baked cakes and candies. Candies that are made from peanut, sugar and sesame seeds are believed to bring harmony and sweetness to the marriage.

Common Gift

A common gift item during Guo Da Li are two pairs of candlesticks that come with a dragon motif for the groom and a phoenix motif for the bride. Other small items may be included during the presentation and to cap the tradition, all the gifts are housed in a traditional basket together with two ang pows for the bride price, as well as the diaper money.

After the presents are offered to the bride’s family, some families even consult the horoscopes of the bride and groom just to make sure that the wedding ceremony’s date and hour would not clash with their signs.

Back in the day, when women are regarded to have a zero status in the society, the bride’s family often demanded for a high price. These days, however, Malaysian families accept the bride price then they return a portion of the amount to the groom’s family. The exact amount is often agreed upon by both families and during the second half of the Guo Da Li ceremony, the Hui Li or the Return Ceremony takes place as a fraction of the bride price is returned. Portions of the biscuits, pig trotters and the phoenix candles are returned, too. Two bottles of honey are exchanged for the liquor that was originally presented.

The bride gets to keep the dragon candles, though.

As to the dowry of the Jia Zhuang, the bride’s family is expected to bring these items to the groom’s home:

  • Mirror
  • Comb
  • Ang Pows for any unmarried siblings and the groom’s parents
  • Sweet foods such as dried longans or dates
  • One set of bed sheet
  • Groom’s pants
  • Two lamps with Xi stickers
  • Face basin
  • Ruler
  • Spittoon
  • Baby bath pail
  • And a sewing box with thread, needles and scissors

The Teochew’s Si Dan Jin or The Four Golds,  on the other hand, is a variation that is added to the usual betrothal presents. This is asked by the Teochew mother-in-law in the form of a gold pendant, necklace, bangle and earrings. These is often presented to the future daughter-in-law by the groom’s mother.

The popularity of gold is slowly waning, though, which is why there are now families that opt for silver adornments.

On the Wedding Day

Early in the morning on the wedding day itself, hair combing rituals are held at both the homes of the bride and the groom. This ritual symbolizes the future married couple’s attainment of maturity.

Hair combing is done by pronouncing a blessing with each stroke of the comb. Traditionally a Cantonese custom, this used to be performed by an elderly and a couple that has been happily married for years. But as modernization is slowly being embraced, the task was slowly taken over by the parents of the couple or a woman who has been prosperous.

To prepare the couple, the night before the wedding, they are asked to shower with water infused with pomegranate leaves. This is believed to ward off evil spirits. They will then be combed four times. The first stroke is a blessing for the couple’s marriage to become everlasting. The second stroke brings harmony to the marriage; the third brings about children and grandchildren; and the fourth and last, fortune and good health.

After Ritual

After the ritual, the couple eats glutinous rice balls that comes in syrup. This is supposed to bring sweetness and harmony to the relationship. The groom then goes to the bride’s home where he will hand a red packet with some money inside. The person that normally receives him into the home is a younger brother of the bride. He will then be let into a room full of lively people (mainly the female relatives and friends of the bride). The groom needs to submit to their demands before he is totally led into the bride’s home. Usually, these people ask for a red packet with some money, sometimes, just for the spirit of fun, the groom is asked to publicly declare his love in a unique way.

There are three bows that need to be done once the groom enters the bride’s home. The first bow is done towards the heaven and the earth; the second one to the parents; and the third to his bride.

Because the Chinese in Malaysia now have a wide array of religious beliefs, not all couples submit to this bowing ritual.

The wedding day often ends with a dinner reception for the couple’s relatives and friends. These days, hotels’ function rooms are the most common venues.

Three Days After the Wedding

The groom is still set to present a couple of roasted pigs to the bride’s family. In the past, a non-virgin bride’s family was presented with pigs that do not have ears and tails. These days, this is merely a customary gesture. The roasted pigs are then returned together with the token gifts to the groom. These are all wrapped in red paper to symbolize a happy beginning and an equally happy ending.

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