Just want you to know…

People always ask a parent of an eligible son or daughter, “When are you going to issue us your summons?” Of course, by the term “summons”, they actually mean the wedding invitation card and the fine would be the ang pao (red packet containing the gift money) that they would have to give when they go to attend the reception.

In the past, the wedding invitation among the Chinese looked like this…

Wedding invitation 1

It would be folded in half…and inside, you would see the details – the full names of the bride and the groom and their parents, the date of the wedding, venue and time of the reception, the church and time of the wedding service, if applicable – in English on one side and Chinese on the other.

Wedding invitation 2

There is, of course, the usual R.S.V.P. (Please reply)…and the name and telephone number of the person to contact. Unfortunately,  in the past, few would bother to do so…therefore, the host would have no choice but to prepare enough tables for the number of people invited, never mind if half of them failed to turn up.

These days, the invitation cards come in all shapes and sizes and even colours…

Wedding invitation 3

…and the R.S.V.P. may be specially for “regrets only” – only those unable to attend would need to let the host know. Here in Sibu, it seems to be the normal practice also to include the clause: “Gifts are respectfully declined” or “Gifts and congratulatory messages in newspaers are respectfully declined”. This means that if you receive the “summons”, you can just go for the banquet without having to pay the “fine”.

Other than that, people in the past may ask the parents of a potential bride or groom when they are going to “distribute the sweets”. When somebody wanted to get married, the man would have to send a representative to the house of the lady to discuss with her parents – things like the dowry, how many tables they would want for the wedding, how many for the engagement…and how many packets of sweets and so on and so forth.

The “sweets” refers to a packet specially ordered from a local confectionery in which there would be a red card with gold lettering announcing the engagement of the couple. Inside the packet, one would be able to find, wrapped in red paper, one piece of peanuts in caramel coated with sesame seeds…

Engagement sweet 1

…and one would also find in the packet, also wrapped in red paper, a piece of crushed peanut cake…

Engagement sweet 2

The packets would be distributed by both sides – the bride and the groom to their next-of-kin and their friends to announce their engagement.

Among the Foochows, there is also what they call “lay piang” – a flat round cake of varying sizes, and the groom’s representative would also have the girl’s parents how many “tna” (some kind of traditional weight measurement) they wanted. These would be given to their close relatives – the size of the lay piang being representative of the respect accorded to them and they would have to reciprocate by giving gifts of gold to the bride on her wedding day, the weight of which (or the size of the bracelet or necklace) must match the size of the lay piang received.

Believe you me, this is just the tip of the iceberg! Getting married the traditional Chinese/Foochow way is definitely no piece of cake… LOL!!!