If one thing is universal, it’s that weddings are a big deal. It doesn’t matter what culture, country, or religion you come from; getting married is a milestone. While many similarities link the countries throughout Asia, each of their wedding customs is unique and meaningful for all parties involved. During Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage month, learning about these wedding traditions will really immerse you in the heritage aspect of this culture; much of these traditions are symbolic of the religious, cultural, and societal beliefs throughout Asia. 

1. China

What’s more iconic than the Chinese banquet? Red and gold abounding, this traditional Chinese wedding is all about good fortune, luck, and prosperity. From the eight-course meal to the colors on the walls, this party is riddled with good vibes. Red is for the bride to wear, symbolizing love, luck, honor, and happiness. Gold symbolizes success and wealth, and these colors intertwine to bless the impending marriage. The banquet can last up to four days with a tea ceremony, chuangmen games that the groom plays to prove his capability as a husband, and guo da li betrothal gifts of dragon and phoenix wax candles (for happiness) and a gold pig necklace (for wealth). Couples preparing a traditional banquet for their weddings may consult a monk, fortune teller, or Feng Shui master to pick a lucky date based on Chinese zodiac signs or the bride’s birthday (the right date may be an omen for a successful marriage).

2. Korea

Weddings in Korea are similar to Chinese traditions with the value placed on color, honoring family, gift-giving, and lucky dates. The bride wears red while the groom wears blue, and when they come together their union symbolizes the balances of separate entities (and the Korean flag). There are customs called Jeonanyrye (when the groom gifts his mother-in-law with a wooden goose) and Hapgeunrye (when the couple’s union is sealed by the drinking from the same copper cup), but the biggest event is Pyebaek. Held a few days after the nuptials, this lively gathering features a huge banquet table of food (which sometimes is plastic, just for symbolism’s purpose). On the table towers a mountain of chestnuts and dates, which the in-laws will toss into the newlyweds’ laps to predict how many kids they will have (dates represent sons while chestnuts represent daughters). 

3. India

Wow, there is a lot to say here. Indian weddings are ornate, beautiful, emotional, religious, and one hell of a good time. While different regions have different cultures, the meaning and intricacy of Indian ceremonies are nationwide. The ceremony kicks off with a prayer to Ganesha, the Hindu god of fortune, new beginnings, and the remover of obstacles. Like in China, the bride’s sari or lengha will be red, which represents commitment and fertility. All eyes turn to the bride during the Mehndi ceremony when her hands and feet are painted with henna, and it’s up to her to find her fiance’s name hidden within the design (to further prove her commitment). The groom gets his turn in the spotlight during the baraat or vara yatra, his mini-parade. The ceremony is not complete until the couple drapes each other with lai mala garland to represent their union. In some regions, the bride’s hair will be powered with red to show that she is now a married woman. 

4. Japan

While Western-style weddings are common, traditional Shinto ceremonies still happen. Wearing traditional kimonos (the bride dons white and the groom wears his family crest), the couple will read their vows to the shrine gods, and before the rings are presented, they present a Sakaki evergreen to the gods for gratitude. The couple will drink sake during the ceremony to express gratitude to their ancestors, to symbolize love for the earth and for each other, and to respect people and fertility. Another iconic image of a Shinto wedding is the Tsunokakushi, the tall white headdress worn by the bride. 

5. Vietnam

Again, Chinese influence heavily inspires Vietnamese wedding traditions, which are rooted in Buddhism and Confucianism. Like Chinese traditions, the bride wears red, tea ceremonies honor the in-laws, and a monk or fortune teller predicts a lucky date. What’s unique to Vietnam, however, is le dinh hon (engagement party) and an hoi (betrothal party). It’s important that these parties are lavish and fun, as they can set the stage for a fruitful, happy marriage. Also similar to Chinese banquets is the symbolism of eating a suckling pig, which represents wealth and prosperity. 

6. Indonesia

A variety of cultures dot Indonesia’s landscape, and with them come different wedding customs. The Javanese culture secludes the bride (up to two months in the old days), in a custom called dingitan. In Minangkabau culture, the bride’s family must “propose” to the groom’s family, and the marriage gets approved depending on their answer. The sinamot procession in Batak culture is all about materialism and exchanging the bride’s dowry. The more education and social status that the bride has, the more she will be honored at the ceremony. The Sundanese will celebrate with sawer (the spot where water drops from the roof), poems, and giving the couple a bowl of coins to symbolize wealth. In Lombok culture, the Sasak tribe looks back to ancient roots when there was “marriage by abduction” (which is exactly what it sounds like). When this was a legitimate form of marriage pre-modern era, the kidnapped bride will stay with the groom for three days before eloping, and then it’s up to the bride’s family to either approve the union or to fight the groom to get her back. Today, a wedding procession follows the “abduction” to present the couple to their families for approval.

Weddings flaunt one’s pride in their culture, and this is evident in the detail-oriented customs in Asia. During AAPIH month, it’s important to remember the diversity across Asia, particularly when it comes to how they uniquely celebrate this major milestone.

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

  • Laurie Melchionne

    Laurie Melchionne is the editor in chief at The Argo, Stockton University's independent student newspaper. Laurie majors in Literature with a double minor in Journalism and Digital Literacy/Multimedia Design. With a concentration in creative writing, Laurie loves all things editorial and communications, and believes in people sharing their voices through the written word.