What Is an Appropriate Gift for a Chinese Wedding?

by Margo Dewey

A close-up of a hand offering a red money envelope.

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A Chinese wedding has many traditions, including the kind of gift you give to the wedding couple. One custom is to give money to the bride and groom in "lucky" red envelopes. Close friends and family typically give this type of gift. The amount of money you put in the red envelope and the combination of dollar amounts are all important details in preserving the Chinese wedding gift tradition.

History of the Red Envelope

Red envelopes in China have traditionally been exchanged with a monetary gift during holidays or on special occasions such as birthdays and weddings. Most of the red envelopes are given to family members to celebrate the New Year. Traditionally, the elderly and married couples give out red envelopes to children and young, unmarried adults. According to Nan Nan Liu of the Northwest Asian Weekly, the practice of giving money as a gift originated in the 1600s during the Qing Dynasty when elders gave children coins tied together by a red thread for New Year's.

How Much Should You Give

The amount of money you give as a gift to the wedding couple depends on your relationship with them. According to the Cultural China website, the acceptable amount for an acquaintance to give is $60. Close friends might give $75 or $85, or even $100. Although it is not a tradition, the monetary gift you give the bride and groom can help pay for their wedding expenses.

The Number Really Matters

Paying attention to the actual number amount you give the wedding couple is another part of the Chinese custom. Giving money in the “nines” symbolizes the meaning of “longevity." To wish the wedding couple wealth or good fortune, give dollar configurations that have an "eight" such as $88. Numbers to avoid are odd amounts because they symbolize bad luck as they are related to funerals. The Chinese word for "four" is too close to the sound of the Chinese word “death."

Other Traditional Chinese Gifts

If you are looking for something a little different than money to give at a Chinese wedding, think red. Giving a red gift like red dishes or red crystal candle holders are appropriate. The gift of jade represents strength, health and protection for the wedding couple. In China, a statue of a crane is a respectful gift as it symbolizes fidelity and commitment. The wedding couple may also appreciate a picture of a carp because it signifies prosperity.

Photo Credits

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About the Author

Based in Livonia, Mich., Margo Dewey has been writing cultural and society-related articles since 1987. Her articles have appeared in “Suburban Living” magazine, “Associated Newspapers”, and “Oakland Business Monthly” magazine. She also produced a wedding cable series, “Just For The Bride”. She has achieved the Michigan Press Association Award. She holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from Eastern Michigan University and Bulmersche University in England.