Guo Da Li 2023 Guide: Your Handbook for a Perfect Celebration

by Our Momento SG | Nov 15, 2023

In China, Guo Da Li is an auspicious event that occurs prior to the actual wedding day. It is commonly referred to as the Betrothal Ceremony.

During this event, the bride and her family are presented with a host of gifts and betrothal money by the groom in an act expressing gratitude as well as sincerity.

Acceptance of the gifts by the bride and her family warrants their acceptance of the groom as well.

Significance of Guo Da Li

Before we delve into various interesting customs underlying Guo Da Li (过大礼), it is important to get acquainted with its significance.

Traditionally, a wedding in the Chinese culture is preceded by this event, wherein the groom presents the bride and her family with extravagant gifts. This act aims to demonstrate that the groom is appreciative of the bride’s family for the effort they put into raising her.

Finally, the groom asks for the bride’s hand in what may be perceived as an official engagement between the families. The daughter is then handed over by her family to the groom.    

While the custom sounds quite simple and straightforward, it has intricate details that make it extremely interesting.

In fact, the customs also tend to vary with dialects.  

Guo Da Li in the Modern Day

The modern world is very chaotic and as such, we are often tempted to ditch our traditions and customs to make life tad simpler.

Additionally, wedding planning is already extremely stressful and convenience often takes precedence over customs.

However, in a few families, customs are considered non-negotiable and no wedding is considered complete without them.

It is crucial to make sure that the opinions of both the bride’s and groom’s families are taken into account since a wedding is the merging of two families.

Rituals of Guo Da Li

Choosing an Auspicious Date 

In Chinese culture, Liu Li (literally translates to 6 ceremonies) is a ceremony that encompasses various rituals, right from the proposal to the wedding as well as its aftermath.

Typically, Guo Da Li is celebrated two months before the actual wedding. However, what steps can be undertaken to select the right date and time for this event?

Many people who are rooted to their traditions and customs tend to consult a Feng Shui (风水) master who is an expert at finding the Ba Zhi (八字) compatibility of the bride and groom.

This enables them to determine the date and time that are most auspicious for you.

Understandably, the 7th month as well as Qingming dates must be avoided since they are considered highly inauspicious.

In case you are not very particular about choosing an auspicious date, you can always opt for one where all of your family members and friends are available to attend.

Gifting During Guo Da Li

As stated above, dialects determine the gifts that must be presented during Guo Da Li.

For instance, there are four primary dialect groups in Singapore – Hokkien, Cantonese, Hakka, and Teochew.

Occasionally, the dialect groups of the bride and groom may vary.

In such cases, the gifts that are perishable must align with the customs of the bride’s dialect group, while non-perishable items must align with the groom’s group.

Finally, note that it is considered auspicious to always present gifts in pairs.

Cantonese & Hakka Gifting Items & its Significance:

Basket (Straw, Black, or Red): This helps carry all of the gift items presented during Guo Da Li.

Betrothal money in a red packet: The numbers must be in 8 for this gift

Two sets of wedding candles (two dragons and two phoenix): Hair combing ritual is conducted in candlelight

For bride’s mother: at least 6 pig trotter cans or roasted suckling pig: Is a symbol of the virginity of the bride

For bride’s father: red/white wine or hard liquor (two bottles): Is a symbol of harmony and prosperity

Traditional wedding cakes: The exact type of cake will be determined in accordance to the families’ wants. This cake will be presented to their friends and relatives

Seafood including scallops, drip prawn, and abalone: This signifies a long-standing marriage filled with happiness

Black Moss: Is meant to convey wealth

Oranges (8-12): Is a symbol denoting good luck

Charcoal: This gift is meant to convey blessings to the bride

Double happiness stickers: These stickers are used to decorate their home

Red banners (2 sets) where the size of the cloth is 9.9 ft: One banner is for the bride, one for the groom. Used to hand over the main door

Two coconuts: Signifies future generations

White sesame seeds (two packets) and two cans with tea leaves: To bless the couple with fertility

Suan pan zi – Hakka only (算盘子): It is considered a delicacy in the Hakka

Cantonese & Hakka Gift Box Items & its Significance:

For the bride: Jewellery, typically, golden dragon and phoenix bangles are presented

Dried longan: Conveys blessings to ensure that the bride and groom enjoy good fertility

Lotus seeds: Symbolizes the birth of multiple children from the marriage

Red dates: Signifies good fortune

Dried melon slice: It symbolises a marriage that is abundant with sweetness

Lily bulbs: Signifies sustainable marriage filled with harmony

Walnut or peanut: Conveys harmonious relationships between the bride’s and groom’s families

Dried tangerine: Signifies a prosperous future with immensely great fortune

5 element seeds presented in two boxes: Symbol dictating multiple kids from the marriage

Hokkien & Teochew Guo Da Li Items & its Significance:

Basket (Straw, Black, or Red): This helps carry all of the gift items presented during Guo Da Li

Betrothal money in a red packet: The numbers must be in 8 for this gift

Two sets of wedding candles (two dragons and two phoenix): Hair combing ritual is conducted in candlelight

For bride’s mother: at least 6 pig trotter cans or roasted suckling pig: Is a symbol of the virginity of the bride

For bride’s father: red/white wine or hard liquor (two bottles): Is a symbol of harmony and prosperity

Traditional wedding cakes: The exact type of cake will be determined in accordance to the families’ wants. This cake will be presented to their friends and relatives

For Hokkien, 2 Hokkien candies: To signify prosperity, rice candles are gifted

For Teochew, 2 Teochew biscuits: To signify multiple children, peanut and sesame biscuits are gifted

Black Moss: Is meant to convey abundant wealth

Oranges (8-12): Is a symbol denoting good luck

Charcoal: This gift is meant to convey blessings to the bride

Double happiness stickers: These stickers are used to decorate their home

Red banners (2 sets) where the size of the cloth is 9.9 ft: One banner is for the bride, one for the groom. Used to hand over the main door

Two coconuts: Signifies future generations

White sesame seeds (two packets) and two cans with tea leaves: To bless the couple with fertility

Hokkien & Teochew Gift Box Items & its Significance:

For the bride: Four pieces of Gold Jewellery

Dried longan: Conveys blessings to ensure that the bride and groom enjoy good fertility

Lotus seeds: Symbolizes the birth of multiple children from the marriage

Red dates: Signifies good fortune

Dried melon slice: It symbolized a marriage that is abundant with sweetness

Lily bulbs: Signifies sustainable marriage filled with harmony

Walnut or peanut: Conveys harmonious relationships between the bride’s and groom’s families

Dried tangerine: Signifies a prosperous future with immensely great fortune

5 element seeds presented in two boxes: Symbol dictating multiple kids from the marriage

Dowry Items & Hui Li Gifts & its Significance:

Dowry Items

Furnishings and furniture: This must be ordered in advance

One sewing box set: Used during the hair combing ceremony, this symbolizes being bound together

One ruler: This is also used during the hair combing ceremony to signify multiple children

Sugar Cane: Symbol of navigating life together through thick and thin

Linen cover: Must be presented in colours considered auspicious

A pair of prosperity lamps: To signify prosperity and fertility

One umbrella (red colour): Protection for the bride against negativity

Charcoal: Symbol of a happy marriage for the bride

Fate coins: These coins are used to set the matrimonial bed, with four placed at the bed’s four corners, in the drawers or cupboards, and the room corners

Set for tea ceremony: This set is used during the tea ceremony conducted at the house of the groom

House slippers (two pairs): For the bride and the groom

Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Descendent Pail set, and Spittoon: Symbols of fertility

Dining set: Signifies blessings for fertility and financial abundance

Hui Li Gifts

Belts, watch, gold ring, cufflinks, or wallet with ang bao: Presented to the groom

Syrup or orange juice (two whole bottles) exchanged for liquor: To signify good luck

Huat Kueh: Auspicious symbol denoting prosperity

Ceremony

A wedding and all the rituals related to it are joyous moments and must be replete with auspicious words and chants.

Thus, when the groom and an older relative approach the house of the bride:

The bride’s parents must be congratulated

The couple must be blessed with good wishes

Following this event, the Guo Da Li items are presented by the groom to the bride’s parents.

Immediately, half of the gifts received by the bride’s parents are returned to the groom in an act of generosity.

Additionally, hui li gifts are also presented to the groom and his family to demonstrate respect.

Crucial customs

Guo Da Li is a traditional ceremony and thus, there are several crucial customs.

To begin with, gift exchange is extremely important as it depicts generosity, respect, and sincerity on both sides.

In the case of the “Diaper Money”, all of the kids are retained by the bride’s parents. But in the case of the dowry, some must be returned by the bride’s family.

End of the Ceremony

Following all of the customs and the exchanging of gifts, the family of the bride can begin putting up wedding decorations.

Then, the pastries or cakes are distributed to their loved ones. According to traditional Chinese culture, it is only following the Guo Da Li ceremony that wedding invites are disbursed.

This custom is no longer followed by most families since in this day and age, the ceremony is held around two to four weeks prior to the wedding.

In summary, Guo Da Li is a joyous, auspicious ceremony and should be celebrated like one.

It is unnecessary to stress out over tiny details. Instead, the goal should be happiness and harmony.

Depending on how traditional the families are, the practices to be followed can be determined in advance.

As long as both families communicate clearly with each other and plan proactively, this event will be extremely stress-free and heart-warming.

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