Wedding planning can be a little tedious and challenging. But it may be even more so when it comes to the traditional aspects of a wedding. Yes, we are referring to the Guo Da Li ceremony. The Guo Da Li ceremony can be confusing to navigate especially when the traditions vary depending on different dialects and family beliefs. But fret not, our comprehensive Guo Da Li Singapore guide is here to help you cruise through the traditions and make this auspicious occasion even more memorable for you and your family!
What is Guo Da Li (过大礼)?
Guo Da Li refers to the Chinese betrothal ceremony, where the two families meet formally. This is an old marriage tradition that is still practised today among the four main Chinese dialect groups in Singapore. Namely, Cantonese, Hokkien, Teochew and Hakka. During the ceremony, the groom and a matchmaker will present the bride’s family with several gifts that represent fertility and prosperity.
Is Guo Da Li necessary in Singapore?
Traditionally, the Guo Da Li ceremony is compulsory as it symbolises the groom’s sincerity and commitment to marry his bride. It is an opportunity for the groom to assure the bride’s family that she will be in good care. However, if both your families are cool to not have a formal Guo Da Li ceremony in Singapore, we don’t see why you can’t make reduce it to a smaller event or skip it entirely! With that said, Guo Da Li is still actively practised today as it reminds us that there are no shortcuts to a marriage and family approval matters when it comes to blissful married life.
When does the Guo Da Li ceremony occur in Singapore?
Depending on your family beliefs, Guo Da Li dates can be selected based on general auspicious dates found on the internet or date given by your Fengshui master based on both of your ba zi (八字). Regardless of the method you choose to select your Guo Da Li date, the ceremony usually takes place between two to four weeks before the wedding.
Who needs to attend Guo Da Li in Singapore?
While everyone is excited about your wedding, there is no need to invite the whole village over for your Guo Da Li ceremony. This is especially true during the pandemic. Here’s a list of the people who should attend your Guo Da Li ceremony in Singapore:
- Groom & bride
- Groom’s parents (no need to accompany the groom to the bride’s house)
- Bride’s parents
- A female matchmaker or the groom’s senior female relative with good fortune. She will accompany the groom to the bride’s house. Someone is considered to be of good fortune if she is married, not widowed, has kids and enjoys good health and prosperity.
Guo Da Li Singapore: What should the groom prepare?
Not sure what to prepare for the ceremony? Here’s where our Guo Da Li Singapore guide comes in handy! While the specifics of your Guo Da Li items will depend on your bride’s dialect group, here’s the general idea of the things that the groom will need to prepare for the Guo Da Li ceremony in Singapore.
1. Betrothal baskets
As its name suggests, betrothal baskets are meant for the groom to hold the Guo Da Li gifts when he goes to the bride’s home. Depending on the bride’s dialect group, different betrothal baskets may be used. The Hokkien Betrothal Baskets (available on partyandwedding.sg) come in a red and black design while the Teochew Betrothal Baskets (available on rattanmakermelaka.sg) is decorated with auspicious motifs of pomegranates and peonies. Not keen on traditional wedding baskets? You can also get a Red Wedding Basket (available on partyandwedding.sg) which will work for all dialect groups!
2. Dragon and phoenix candles
As with many wedding customs, there is an auspicious meaning behind the tradition. The dragon and phoenix candles are no exception. The dragon signifies wealth and strength for the groom while the phoenix represents grace and renewal of life for the bride. Together, the dragon and phoenix candles symbolise a matrimonial union that is blessed by the gods.
The Dragon Candles (available on The Chinese Wedding Shop) are to be presented by the groom and kept with the bride’s family, who will light the candles on the morning of the wedding day. Meanwhile, the bride’s family has to return the Phoenix Candles (available on The Chinese Wedding Shop) to the groom. The groom’s family will also proceed to light the candles on the morning of the wedding day.
However, as a naked flame can pose unwanted risks on your special day, many modern couples choose to not burn the candles at all – it’s entirely up to you!
3. Red packets for pin jin and diaper money
Pin jin (聘金) is probably one of the most important aspects of the list of Guo Da Li items in this guide. As many people choose to present pin jin in cash, you will need an extra large red packet to hold the generous sum (read below for information on how much to give for pin jin). The Chinese Pin Jin Red Packet (available on Wishy Milk) is made of thick suede material to ensure all your pin jin is nicely secured inside. It’s also designed with auspicious wishings such as 百年好合, which means a long and happy married life for the couple.
Aside from the pin jin red packet, the groom will also need to prepare a diaper money red packet for the bride’s family. The diaper money is a token of appreciation to the bride’s mother for raising her. You can use this Nappy Red Packet (available on Kekhoon) or any wedding red packet designs for the diaper money.
4. Pig trotters or roasted suckling pig
Depending on your bride’s dialect group, grooms will need to prepare pig trotter cans or a roasted suckling pig. These are gifts to your mother-in-law. The most popular type of pig trotters is the Gulong Pork Leg Mushroom (available on Shopee Supermarket). The sweet and savoury marinated pork trotters make for great side dishes for a family feast! Remember to stick a double happiness sticker on each can.
For Cantonese brides, a roasted suckling pig is a must-have item for Guo Da Li. If transporting a whole suckling pig is inconvenient, you can consider ordering the Roasted Shapi Suckling Pig (available on LW Roasted Meat Pte Ltd) which comes nicely packaged in a box. You can choose for it to be pre-chopped before delivering if your in-law requests for it.
5. Hard liquor or wine
Since there are gifts for your mother-in-law, there must be gifts for your father-in-law too! Depending on your father-in-law’s preference, you can either present him two bottles or liquor or wine. We suggest going for the Martell XO (available on Pernod Ricard Official Store) which the in-laws will definitely be pleased with. Alternatively, buy the Almaviva 2019 Red Wine (available on Malt & Wine Asia Official Store) which is a full-bodied wine with a deep coffee, black pepper and earthy flavour. Don’t forget to stick a double happiness sticker or tie a red ribbon for each bottle before giving it to your father-in-law.
6. Traditional wedding cakes
Chinese wedding cakes (喜饼), also known as dowry cakes, are usually prepared by the groom’s family to be presented as wedding gifts during Guo Da Li. The wedding cakes will be distributed by the bride and her family to her relatives and friends. As such, these cakes serves as an announcement of the couple’s marriage to the bride’s loved ones and is often given along with their wedding invitations. Chinese wedding cakes come in many designs and flavours ranging from the traditional cakes with a big red xi (喜) to mini cake boxes with assorted pastries like this Happy Oven Wedding Cake Gift Box (available on Happy Oven). Depending on how traditional your in-laws are, you can even substitute wedding cakes with these cute Annabella Patisserie Macarons Gift Box (available on Annabella Patisserie Official Store)!
7. Mandarin oranges
Be it Chinese New Year or Guo Da Li ceremony, mandarin oranges are essential in many Chinese celebrations. Thanks to their golden-orange hue, mandarin oranges are seen as a symbol of good fortune. Don’t forget to bring along at least eight Yong Chun Honey Mandarin Oranges (available on Shopee Supermarket) when you head over for Guo Da Li! Don’t forget to stick a double happiness sticker on each of the mandarin oranges before presenting them to your in-laws. Psst, when mandarin oranges are not in season, you can use regular oranges as replacements! Just be sure to pick pretty oranges without bruises.
8. Double happiness stickers
Amp up the joyous atmosphere for you Guo Da Li ceremony by preparing some double happiness stickers. Get the Big Double Happines Sticker Decors (available on Changjiu SG Chinese Wedding Shop) to put up on the doors, windows and walls in the house. You will also need some small double happiness stickers such as these Chinese Wedding Double Happiness Stickers (available on The Chinese Wedding Shop) for the smaller items that you will be giving at the Guo Da Li. This includes the pig trotter cans and liquor bottles. The small stickers can also be used to decorate mirrors, beauty products or vases.
Both the groom and the bride should put up a Red Banner (available on partyandwedding.sg) on their main house door. You guessed it – this is because red is an auspicious colour and ‘hanging red’ is a Chinese custom that symbolises good luck and luck!
10. Li jing he (gift box set)
Si dian jin/golden and dragon phoenix bangles
For Hokkien and Teochew brides, Si Dian Jin (四点金) is a gift given from the groom’s mother to the bride to show her blessings for the couple. It also means that the groom’s mother welcomes the bride into the family. Si Dian Jin usually consists of four pieces of jewellery – necklace, earrings, bracelet and ring – made of solid gold, 14K gold or 18K gold.
Likewise, the golden and dragon and phoenix bangles also hold similar meanings as Si Dian Jin, but is the jewellery gift for Cantonese and Hakka brides. If you’re particular about the jewellery design, we suggest communicating your preferences to your mother-in-law before she goes to purchase. Do keep in mind your in-law’s budget as well to avoid unnecessary unhappiness. Read our Si Dian Jin guide for a better idea of this tradition!
Five-element seeds (五谷丰收), also known as five colour auspicious seeds, symbolise prosperity and abundance. As its name suggests, the five-element seeds are made up of five types of seed including red bean, green bean, wheat, soybean and barley. While you can put together the combination on your own, we suggest getting the Chinese Wedding Five Colours Auspicious Seeds (available on Kekhoon) as a set for convenience and pretty aesthetics!
Dried longan, red dates, dried lotus seeds, dried melon slices, lily bulbs, peanuts, dried tangerine
Similar to the five-element seeds, these dried goods are also meant as blessings for the couple. The dried longans symbolise 早生贵子 (fertility), red dates symbolise 鸿运当头 (good luck). The dried lotus seeds symbolise 连连生子 (fertility) and dried melon slices represent 甜甜蜜蜜 (blissful marriage). Meanwhile, the lily bulbs symbolise 百年好合 (long-lasting marriage), peanuts symbolise 和和气气 (harmony). Lastly, the dried tangerine symbolise 大吉大利 (good luck and prosperity). These items are meant for An Chuang (安床) – the blessing of the matrimonial bed. You can get them in a set like the Chinese Wedding Bed-Setting Set (available on The Chinese Wedding Shop) which even comes with a tray, red packet, prosperity bucket and step-by-step instructions for the An Chuang set up.
Guo Da Li Singapore: What gifts should the bride return?
Hui li (回礼) or the returning of betrothal gifts is an act of gratitude displayed by the bride and her family. As its name suggests, the bride’s family will have to show their acceptance of the marriage and reciprocate the groom’s generous gesture by returning a portion of the gifts received during Guo Da Li. This also symbolises the sharing of good fortune. The following are the items that the bride and her family must prepare for hui li during Guo Da Li.
1. Watch, belt or wallet
While the groom’s parents prepare the Si Dian Jin or dragon and phoenix bangles for the bride, the bride’s parents will have to get a gift for the groom to welcome him to the family. This usually comes in the form of a luxury watch, belt or wallet with a red packet. Grooms, if you have any preferences for the gift, be sure to let your in-laws know.
2. Orange juice
In exchange for the liquor or wines presented from the groom’s family, the bride’s family will need to return two bottles of orange juice. This also symbolises 甜甜蜜蜜 (sweet and loving marriage). Remember when giving the orange juice, such as the Minute Maid Pulpy Orange (available on Shopee Supermarket), stick on the small double happiness stickers on each bottle.
3. Half of the Guo Da Li gifts from the groom
This includes the phoenix candles, at least two pork trotter cans and wedding cakes and a pair of oranges. The bride’s family will also have to return a portion of the pin jin.
4. Huat kuehs
Huat kueh (发糕) represents prosperity and sincere wishes for the groom’s family to have a huat-ful life. Similar to a cupcake or a muffin, this steamed prosperity cake can be used as an offering to the god during auspicious occasions for good fortune. The Gin Thye Huat Kueh (available on Gin Thye Official) has a bright orange hue and boasts a light and fluffy texture. It is made without preservatives, hence, it is better to consume the huat kueh within two to three days. You can also store it in the freezer to maintain freshness for up to a week.
5. Red ruler
The Chinese wedding ruler signifies a bright future blessed with prosperity and wealth. Many people choose a plastic ruler, like this Chinese Wedding Ruler (available on The Chinese Wedding Shop) for its durability.
6. Red umbrella
The Chinese believe that a bride must be sheltered with a red umbrella on the morning of the wedding day, as she makes her way from her home to the wedding car. Aside from shielding the bride from the strong UV rays, the red umbrella is also believed to protect the bride from negative elements, evil spirits and bad luck. The red umbrella comes in many designs ranging from plain ones to glamorous ones like the Chinese Wedding Umbrella Peacock (available on The Chinese Wedding Shop). The umbrella sports bright colours and intricate embroidery along the fringe, finished off with a lustrous golden handle – how pretty!
Guo Da Li Singapore: Guide to the bride’s dowry
The bride’s dowry (嫁妆) is usually presented to the groom’s family together with the hui li, although the bride gets to keep it thereafter. The dowry symbolises the bride’s family’s wealth and prosperity and signals their blessing to the couple’s marriage.
The dowry contains various items (read below), but if you’re too busy to prepare them one by one, we have a better suggestion. You can purchase the dowry items (excluding jewellery, bags, clothes or shoes) as a set through the Chinese Wedding Dowry Package (available on The Chinese Wedding Shop). If you’re worried about finding space to store the full-sized washbasin and potty, you can opt for the Modern Style Chinese Wedding Dowry Package (available on Kekhoon). Designed for modern brides, this version contains Chinese wedding miniatures of a sewing machine, washbasin, potty and more to solve your worries. They even serve as cute decorations to display in your marital home!
Usually, the bride’s family will gift some gold jewellery to the bride or pass her the family heirloom as a sign of blessing for their daughter.
2. Sewing kit set
In the past, married women are expected to be skilled in sewing to take care of their family well. This is why sewing and stitching supplies are included in the dowry. Even though modern women are now recognised beyond their sewing skills, the tradition of the red Sewing Kit Set (available on Kekhoon) still remains.
3. Descendant pail set
A descendant pail set is a must for the dowry. It signifies prosperity and long life for the generations to come. The set is made up of a potty, basin, bathtub, pail and hot water flask. As mentioned above, many modern brides choose to go for Miniature Chinese Descendant Pail Set (available on Changjiu SG Chinese Wedding Shop) to avoid the headache of finding a storage space for the actual items.
4. Chinese wedding tea set
The tea ceremony (敬茶) is an important event in a Chinese wedding as it represents the formal introduction of the newlyweds to the two families. The couple will also show their respect and gratitude towards the elders during the tea ceremony by bowing or kneeling down when offering the tea. This chinese wedding tea set will be used at the tea ceremony. Many of these tea sets come with auspicious designs such as the Pair Of Fishes Chinese Wedding Tea Set (available on The Chinese Wedding Shop) which represents a match made in heaven.
5. Bedding set
Don’t forget to prepare a set of wedding bedsheets as part of the dowry. This bedding is used to set up the matrimonial bed during the An Chuang. Not sure what makes for a good wedding bedsheet design? We suggest sticking to the red theme and going for a minimalistic style, like the Epitex Wedding Collection Bedsheet (available on Epitex Official Store) so you don’t feel odd to reuse the bedsheets again after your wedding!
6. Dining set
Parents will give a Chinese wedding dining set to the bride as a blessing for an abundant married life where there will be no worry for basic needs such as food. The set usually includes spoons, bowls, plates and chopsticks. The dining set is used on the wedding day to serve longan red date soup or glutinous rice balls. Similar to the Chinese wedding tea set, the dining set usually comes with auspicious designs, like the double happiness motifs on this Six Piece Chinese Wedding Dining Set (available on Kekhoon).
7. Bedside lamps
The traditional Chinese wedding bedside lamps are lighted up by fire. However, this proved to be inconvenient especially when the bedside lamps must be lit for three days and three nights – signifying fertility. Today, many couples choose to go for Battery Operated Chinese Wedding Lamps (available on The Chinese Wedding Shop) so they don’t have to worry about the flame.
8. Fate coins
Fate coins (大缘小缘钱), also known as yuan coins, are believed to bring good relationships to the couple. The Chinese Wedding Yuan Coins (available on Kekhoon) is used for An Chuang and will be placed in the four corners of the matrimonial bed and wardrobe.
9. New bags, clothes or shoes
Parents can also prepare a set of new bags, clothes or shoes for the bride to ensure she embarks on this new journey of her life wearing new items instead of old ones. This is to signify new beginnings and good spirits. Among the three items, most parents prefer to gift shoes because the pronunciation for shoes sounds like harmony (谐) in Chinese.
Pin jin: How much should I give or return for Guo Da Li?
You can’t plan for your Guo Da Li without touching on the sensitive subject of pin jin (聘金). Pin jin refers to the bride’s price offered by the groom’s family to the bride’s family as a symbol of respect and sincerity.
This monetary gift is presented to the bride’s family during the Guo Da Li ceremony. Thereafter, the bride’s family will take a small sum from the pin jin and return the remaining amount back to the groom. The returning of the pin jin symbolises gratitude and acceptance of the marriage from the bride’s family. It also shows that the bride’s family does not see the marriage as a transaction of their daughter, but rather a blissful union of two families.
As with all money matters, the pin jin can be tricky for couples to navigate – especially when the parents on both sides are involved. Our advice to couples is to discuss with their parents the amount they expect to give or receive before conveying it to the in-laws. Try to manage your parents’ expectations and get both sides to meet in the middle to reach a harmonious agreement.
Groom: How much pin jin to give?
For the groom’s family, the pin jin should be of an amount that demonstrates generosity and sincerity for the marriage. While there isn’t a fixed market rate to follow, the most common amounts given range from $1,888 to $8,888. Give an even amount and include the number eight in the sum. It’s better to give a pin jin of four digits (thousands), as daughters are also referred to as qian jing (千金) which is translated as thousand gold. Remember that the bride’s family will return part of the pin jin back to the groom’s family, so factor this in when deciding on the amount.
Bride: How much pin jin to return?
While the groom’s side worries about the amount of pin jin to give, the bride’s family is usually stressed over the amount of pin jin to return. Similarly, there isn’t a fixed market rate for the amount to return. The common practice is to take about 10% to 50% of the given amount and return the rest. However, this is up to both families’ discretion. Usually, the bride’s family will take an auspicious amount – an even amount with the number eight in the sum.
What happens at a Guo Da Li ceremony in Singapore?
On the auspicious day for your Guo Da Li ceremony, the groom will arrive at the bride’s house with a female matchmaker or female relative. He will be bringing with him all the Guo Da Li items listed in the guide above to present to the bride and her family. The groom’s matchmaker will congratulate the bride’s parents at the doorstep and give some blessings for fertility and prosperity.
The groom will then present the bride’s family the Guo Da Li items. This is a good time to whip out your camera and take some family photos with the Guo Da Li gifts for commemoration. After receiving the gifts, the bride’s family will reciprocate the act by returning half the gifts. They will also present the dowry to the groom. This marks the end of the Guo Da Li at the bride’s house.
With the hui li and dowry in hand, the couple and the matchmaker will return to the groom’s home. Here, the couple will give the hui li to the groom’s parents and the bride will show her in-laws her dowry before keeping them aside for herself. Usually, after the Guo Da Li ceremony, the bride and her family will distribute the wedding cakes and wedding invites to their relatives and friends.
Guo Da Li Singapore: Items to prepare for Hokkien brides
Worried that you’d leave something out for your Guo Da Li ceremony? Fret not, with Guo Da Li packages like the Betrothal Hokkien Package (available on Kekhoon), you will have everything you need delivered straight to your house! Psst, it even comes with a traditional wedding basket which is loaned to you for three days. Thereafter, the kind people at Kekhoon will come to your home to pick up the basket – how convenient! If your in-laws are cool to skip some of the Guo Da Li items in this guide, you can opt for the Simplified Hokkien Guo Da Li Package (available on Kekhoon) instead. This set omits things like the dragon and phoenix trays and the wedding basket.
Download a copy of our Guo Da Li guide for Hokkien brides to keep track of the items you need to prepare for your ceremony.
Guo Da Li Singapore: Items to prepare for Cantonese brides
There’s no need to fuss over the items for your Guo Da Li when you can just order the Cantonese Chinese Wedding GDL Betrothal Package (available on The Chinese Wedding Shop). The set comes with all the essentials mentioned in this Guo Da Li guide, including the dragon and phoenix candles, wedding grains and a betrothal tiered wedding basket (free loan for three days). You can also contact The Chinese Wedding Shop if your set requires customisation. Otherwise, the package comes with a procedure list which you can follow for the Guo Da Li and actual wedding day.
Download a copy of our Guo Da Li guide for Cantonese brides to keep track of the items you need to prepare for your ceremony.
Guo Da Li Singapore: Items to prepare for Teochew brides
Ganjiong Teochew couples will be happy to know that they can settle their Guo Da Li items in one shot with the Teochew Betrothal Guo Da Li Set (available on Kekhoon). At less than $160, you get everything you need including four cans of pork leg, Teochew wax as well as sesame and peanut candies. You can even top up to add some Teochew Da Lao Bing (available on Gin Thye Official) which is a flaky pastry made from red bean paste, flour and lard.
Download a copy of our Guo Da Li guide for Teochew brides to keep track of the items you need to prepare for your ceremony.
Guo Da Li Singapore: Items to prepare for Hakka brides
Even after thorough research and preparation of the Hakka Guo Da Li Items (available on Kekhoon), many young couples are still confused about what to do during their Guo Da Li. If this is the case for you, fret not! The Kekhoon Hakka Guo Da Li package not only comes with the essentials like si se bing (四色饼) and organza bags for the two bottles of liquor, but also sends a wedding consultant to your doorstep when delivering your order to run you through all the items – what they signify, when to use them and what to do with them. And if you’re doing last minute preparations for your Guo Da Li, you can always contact the seller to schedule an urgent delivery (subjected to availability).
Download a copy of our Guo Da Li guide for Hakka brides to keep track of the items you need to prepare for your ceremony.
Tie the knot without a hitch with our Guo Da Li Singapore guide
It may be hard to wrap your head around many of the wedding traditions and customs, but we hope our Guo Da Li Singapore guide has helped you to prepare for the big occasion smoothly! Now that your Guo Da Li is out of the way, it’s time to prepare for the big day. Start by getting toned up with these trainer recommended wedding workouts so you’ll look your best at the wedding. Don’t forget to plan for your honeymoon too. Consider booking a relaxing getaway at these best Bintan resorts or best Batam resorts!