This procedure is the most important process to be done by the couple. Especially the groom. It is as important as tea ceremony. Even for some couple that prefer honeymoon wedding, they still require to have at least a tea ceremony with the parents and of course betrothal not to miss. This two process is unavoidable for Chinese culture.
The betrothal gifts are delivered up to a month and at least three days before the wedding day. The groom and a friend or a matchmaker will deliver the gifts on the auspicious date chosen.
Betrothal gifts 娉礼
The betrothal gifts (quantity of the following items to be determined by the bride's parents) are packed in a multi-tiered wedding basket that is borrowed from a Chinese wedding cake shop and typically include:
- western and chinese wedding cakes, which you may choose either one too. Most people will choose Chinese wedding cakes. You can also replace with the big size "tau sar pneah".
- two bottles of brandy. You can replace it with red wine too as what I do. (it is cheaper anyway)
- even numbered of tangerines or oranges,
- peanut candies for a teochew bride and rice candies for a hokkien bride, or you can replace with modern candies like Cadbury.
- at least six tins of canned pork legs or a whole roast pig for cantonese bride. Roast pig often means a symbol of the bride is still virgin. Well, unlikely not applicable in modern life. Therefore, it depends the bride's parents. Some request for pig legs and some skip this item.
- two pairs of dragon and phoenix candles 龙凤烛,
- betrothal jewellery from the groom’s parents to the bride. Many will skip this nowadays.
- Cantonese will have the dragon and phoenix bangle 龙凤琢 and the teochew four items of gold 四点金. (This also many modern couple skip this items).
At some provinces in China, for very rich people, they don't use wedding basket. This is too small for their items to fit in. Therefore, they usually place the items in pretty boxes, basket, or tray. For some boxes are wrap with pink/red paper. The more boxes/tray/basket, it shows the more wealthy the family.
Bride's price 娉金
Some people also call the bride’s price "bride's dowry". It is either pre-agreed during the wedding negotiations or the bride’s parents may leave it to the groom’s side to decide.
It is usually presented in a red packet or wrapped in a special red cloth. Even amounts are presented. For average income families, RM800 to RM2,800 are commonly given. The groom’s side will usually prepare slightly more than the pre-agreed amount. Some people do request for RM10,000, RM30,000 and more. To usually make the small amount looks nice, you can fill the amount with all 8. Eg, RM888, 1188, 1288, 1888, 2288, 2888, 3888 and so on. This makes the figure looks nice rather than the amount.
A portion is expected to be returned to indicate that the groom’s family is overly generous, the bride’s family is not greedy, and the two families will share their good fortune.
For example, the groom may present a red packet of RM1,288; the bride’s parents may keep $1200 and return the balance in the red packet. Some will include the bride’s price with the betrothal gifts whereas some will only present it when the groom fetches the bride on the wedding day.
Return gifts 回礼
In the return gifts, the bride’s parents will replace the 2 bottles of brandy/wine with 2 bottles of orange syrup. Some doesn't replace the brandy/wine with anything but may return an event number of orange. An even numbered portion of all the other gifts are returned to the groom’s family together with the 2 phoenix candles.
The bride’s side will light the 2 dragon candles and the groom’s side the phoenix candles on the morning of the wedding day. Some hokkien family will also request for a bunch of bananas and red dates to be included in the return gifts. (even numbers).
Bride's dowry 嫁妆
The bride’s parents may deliver the dowry together with the return gifts on betrothal day or may deliver the dowry on another day. After the betrothal, the bride’s parents will distribute the chinese wedding invitation for the wedding banquet to their relatives and friends. For economic purposes, wedding cakes are usually limited to close relatives and friends only.
Likewise, after the betrothal the groom’s parents will either distribute the chinese wedding invitations to their close relatives and friends together with some wedding cakes.