Many people won’t know, but I was actually an employee of the Singapore High Commission once upon a time, and because of that I have developed a real love for the country that sits at the edge of Asia.
One of the most beautiful, clean and orderly places in the world, Singapore is strict in it’s rules and beautiful in it’s heritage and lifestyle. Not to mention there is a giant ocean-liner suspended in the sky about the city! Talk about amazing.
During my time at the Singapore High Commission I was able to really pick up a lot of the traditional customs that were used within the country of Singapore – especially when it came to weddings. Most weddings in Singapore take their roots from common Chinese wedding traditions and some 5 main customs are used to honor the Singapore heritage and the culture.
The first is that of Betrothal Gifts, which is gifting the bride’s family that represents a formal betrothal from ancient times when matching was commonplace. The first part of this gifting process takes place two weeks before the wedding where the groom and a matchmaker will visit the bride’s home with a basket of gifts, otherwise known as “Guo Da Li”. The basket of gifts are normally made up of items from the ancestral regions from the bride and groom and can include items such as brandy and pigs trotters. The bride than gives something back to the groom as a gesture of goodwill, and that usually amounts to orange syrup or honey, as well as gifts for the mother in law and women in the groom’s family to show honor and respect.
Another ritual is a hair combing ritual which is practiced at every Chinese wedding. It takes place the night before the wedding to signify the vergence into adulthood and both members of the bridal party do it. First they wash themselves in water infused with pomelo leave which is said to ward off evil spirits and than sit down in new pyjamas in front of a pair of dragon and phoenix candles to have their hair combed.
Each stroke represents a new blessing, such as having your marriage last a lifetime, be happy and harmonious, have lots of children and a longevity of life. To complete the ritual, rice balls are than consumed as a symbol of a sweet marriage. Yum! Sounds like a good ritual.
On the wedding day the groom has to rally his groomsmen to “fetch” his bride. He is usually met with the bridesmaids who demand that he satisfy a number of tasks first, similar to what takes place during a Thai ceremony. This custom traditionally serves as a test of the groom’s sincerity and love, so it’s designed to be difficult, but also super fun. During the “fetching” there always has to be tasting four flavours: sour, sweet, bitter and spicy to represent the various trials and tribulations that follow a marriage. Then, all the bridal party will go to the wedding at an auspicious time.
Throughout every wedding you will always find a tea ceremony in Singapore. The tea ceremony is where the bride and groom pay their respects to their families by offering them tea and addressing them formally. The families will acknowledge their place in their family and offer blessings for a happy union. The tea ceremony is normally a long ceremony that contains many symbols for early child birth and happy marriages and must be completed in a particular sequential order. Any mistakes could mean disaster for your wedding!
After all of that, it’s time to get ready to party! Like a normal reception, the Wedding Banquet is a delicious feast where guests sign the guestbook and give presents of red packets to the bride and groom, enjoy an 8 – 10 course dinner and than the bride and groom change outfits about three times. There is also the “Yam Seng” which is the drink toasting ceremony like classic weddings, before the bride and groom return to their honeymoon suite for the classic bed turning down ceremony as practiced in Asian weddings.
So there you have it! If you want an auspicious Singapore style wedding, you can pay homeage to their Chinese ancestors and traditions through these five amazing wedding customs.