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GUO DA LI – all you need to know

Guo Da Li, also known as the Betrothal ceremony is an important event in the Chinese culture that takes place before the actual wedding day where your groom will present the betrothal money as well as other wedding gifts to the bride’s family as a token of gratitude and sincerity. By accepting the groom’s gifts, this shows the bride’s family’s acceptance of the groom. 

Do remember to contact Just Married Films for your wedding videography and wedding photography needs for your Guo Da Li.

What is Guo Da Li

Guo Da Li (过大礼) is a traditional Chinese wedding custom whereby the groom delivers elaborated wedding gifts to the bride’s family, as an act to acknowledge their effort in raising their daughter and to show his sincerity to marry her. As a formal engagement between both families, the groom officially asks for the bride’s hand in marriage and the bride’s family also properly hands their daughter over.

This might seem like a simple ceremony, but there is much more to know for Guo Da Li. Especially for different dialects, there are different customs to follow.

Why is it important to do Guo Da Li

In today’s modern time, many couples choose to skip over traditions and save hassles. As if planning a wedding is not already stressful right?

However, some families still hold on to these customs and do not acknowledge a Chinese wedding if certain customary rites have not been satisfied. As weddings not only involves the couples but also both side of the family members, it is important to make sure family members’ opinions are taken in too.

How do you do Guo Da Li

Setting a Date 

Commonly known as “ Liu Li” ( 6 Ceremonies) in the past, this ceremony commemorates all the way from the proposal, to the actual wedding and even after. Most couples will plan their Guo Da Li two to a month’s time before the actual wedding day. But how do you choose the perfect date and time? 

For the superstitious, you can approach a Feng Shui (风水) master in finding your Ba Zhi (八字) compatibility to calculate your auspicious date and timing. You might also want to avoid inauspicious periods of the year such as Qingming dates and the 7th month. 

 

However, if you are not keen on using these methods in setting a date, or if the families are not date-sensitive, you can just choose a date when everyone is available. 

 

Prepare the Guo Da Li gifts (Groom’s side)

There are different Guo Da Li items to get based on the different dialect groups. In Singapore, there are 4 main dialect groups – Cantonese, Hokkien, Teochew and Hakka.

In the event that the bride and groom are from different dialect groups, perishable gifts should be prepared in accordance with the bride’s dialect group customaries while non-perishables should be according to the groom’s.

Tip: Items should always come in pairs to symbolise good fortune.

 

Cantonese & Hakka

Guo Da Li Items Meaning to the items
Black Red or Straw BasketTo carry Guo Da Li items in the basket
1 big red packet with your betrothal gift money (聘金)Betrothal money must have numbers in 8
2 pairs of Chinese wedding candles (2 dragons, 2 phoenix wax candles)Candles are meant to be lit during hair combing ritual
Gift for mother-in-law: roasted suckling pig or minimum 6 pig trotter cansSymbolises virginity of the bride
Gift for father-in-law: 2 bottles of hard liquor or red/white wineSymbolises prosperity and a harmonious atmosphere in the family
Traditional wedding cakes (喜饼)Type of pastries depends on parent’s discussion. Cakes will be distributed by bride’s family to family and relatives
Seafood such as abalone, scallop, dried fish maw, drip prawnSymbolise long and happy marriage
Black Moss (发菜)Symbolise abundance of wealth
8 – 12 orangesSymbolise good luck
Charcoal Symbolise blessings for the bride after marriage
Double happiness stickersFor home decoration
2 sets of red banners, 9.9ft red clothTo hang over main door (1 for groom, 1 for bride)
1 pair of coconutsSymbolise generations to come
2 cans of tea leaves and 2 packets of white sesame seedsBlessings for fertility
Suan pan zi - Hakka only (算盘子)Hakka delicacy
Gift Box ItemsMeaning to the Items
Jewellery (for the bride) Usually dragon and phoenix golden bangles
Dried longanSymbolise blessings for fertility (早生贵子)
Red datesSymbolise good fortune (鸿运当头)
Lotus seedsSymbolise having many children (连连生子)
Dried melon sliceSymbolise sweet marriage (甜甜蜜蜜)
Lily bulbsSymbolise harmonious and long-lasting marriage (百年好合)
Walnut or peanutSymbolise harmony between families (和和气气)
Dried tangerineSymbolise good fortune and prosperity(大吉大利)
2 boxes of 5 elements seeds (different grains such as red beans, green beans, wheat, soy beans, barley, rice)Symbolise having many children (百年好合五谷)

 

Hokkien & Teochew

Guo Da Li ItemsMeaning to the items
Black Red or Straw BasketTo carry Guo Da Li items in the basket
1 big red packet with your betrothal gift money (聘金)Betrothal money must have numbers in 8
2 pairs of Chinese wedding candles (2 dragons, 2 phoenix wax candles)Candles are meant to be lit during hair combing ritual
Gift for mother-in-law: minimum 6 pig trotter cansSymbolises virginity
Gift for father-in-law: 2 bottles of hard liquor or red/white wine
Traditional wedding cakes (喜饼)Type of pastries depends on parent’s discussion. Cakes will be distributed by bride’s family to family and relatives
2 Hokkien candies – for Hokkien Rice candies for prosperity
2 Teochew biscuits – for TeochewPeanut and sesame biscuits to symbolise many off-spring
Black Moss (发菜)Symbolise abundance of wealth
8 – 12 orangesSymbolise good luck
Charcoal Symbolise blessings for the bride after marriage
Double happiness stickersFor home decoration
2 sets of red banners, 9.9ft red clothTo hang over main door (1 for groom, 1 for bride)
1 pair of coconutsSymbolise generations to come
2 cans of tea leaves and 2 packets of white sesame seedsBlessings for fertility
Gift Box ItemsMeaning to the items
Jewellery (for the bride) 4 pieces of gold jewellery
Dried longanSymbolise blessings for fertility (早生贵子)
Red datesSymbolise good fortune (鸿运当头)
Lotus seedsSymbolise having many children (连连生子)
Dried melon sliceSymbolise sweet marriage (甜甜蜜蜜)
Lily bulbsSymbolise harmonious and long-lasting marriage (百年好合)
Walnut or peanutSymbolise harmony between families (和和气气)
Dried tangerineSymbolise good fortune and prosperity(大吉大利)
2 boxes of 5 elements seeds (different grains such as red beans, green beans, wheat, soy beans, barley, rice)Symbolise having many children (百年好合五谷)

 

Prepare the Hui Li (回礼) Gifts and Dowry (Bride’s side)

Hui Li GiftsMeaning to the items
Watch, cufflinks, belts, gold ring or wallet with ang baoGifts for the groom
2 bottles of orange juice or syrupIn exchange of liquor, symbolises good luck
Huat kueh (发糕)Symbolises prosperity
Dowry ItemsMeaning and Uses
Furnitures such as bed, mattress or dressing tableOrdered beforehand
1 Sewing Box SetSymbolise being bounded together. Used during hair combing ceremony.
1 RulerSymbolise many off-spring. Used during hair combing ceremony.
Sugar CaneSymbolise going through thick and thin together
Linen CoverAuspicious colours
1 pair of prosperity lampSymbolise fertility and wealth
1 red umbrellaUsed to shield bride of any negative elements
CharcoalSymbolise a good life after marriage for the bride
Fate coinsPlace coins at 4 corners of the bed, corners of the room and in cupboards/drawers. Used during matrimonial bed setting.
Tea ceremony setUsed for tea ceremony at groom’s house
Dining set includes 2 bowls, 2 pair of spoons and chopsticksSymbolise blessings for financial stability and fertility
2 pairs of house slippersFor the newly-wed couple
Descendant pail setSymbolise fertility
Spittoon Symbolise fertility
Toothpaste and toothbrushSymbolise fertility

During the Ceremony

As all joyous occasions, there should be an abundant exchange of auspicious sayings. When the groom and the groom’s female relative/elder arrive at the bride’s doorstep:

Congratulate the bride’s parents on this joyous matrimonial match

Bestow blessings and well wishes to the couple

Once all the congratulatory sayings and introductions exchanged, the groom will present the Guo Da Li items to his future-in-laws.

Upon receiving the gifts, the bride’s family will reciprocate the generosity of the groom’s family by returning half of the gifts received. In addition, the bride’s family will also present their gifts prepared for hui li, as a significance of respect and sincerity to the groom’s family.

Important customs to follow 

Just like any other traditional ceremony, there are customs to follow and obey. Firstly, the receiving and returning of gifts is very important in tradition to show mutual respect and sincerity from both parties. 

For the “Diaper Money”, the bride’s parents would have to receive all, but for the Wedding dowry, the bride’s side must return some. 

After the Ceremony

Once all the formalities and exchanging of the gifts have been done, the bride’s family can put up the wedding decorations and distribute the wedding cakes/pastries to their family and relatives. Traditionally, wedding invites can only be given out after Guo Da Li. However, this practice is not strictly observed nowadays considering the ceremony is done only 2-4 weeks before the wedding.

 

Ultimately, the ceremony of Guo Da Li should be a joyous and meaningful one. Rather than stressing out over the formalities, what matters is that everyone is happy. As families are now less traditional, many practices are not followed as strictly and can be discussed between both parties. Therefore, communicate between one another and enjoy the process!

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