A marriage ceremony or wedding has always been a traditional affair that has transcended national borders, race, caste, creed or religion and even time. So, needless to say even in the 21st century, a typical wedding ceremonial in Singapore no matter how avant-garde and trendy it may appear at the outset is steeped in age-old rituals and customs. Singapore is a melting potpourri of cultures and people with diverse ethnic cultures and practices have harmoniously co-existed in the country for decades.
So, it follows that inter-racial and cross-cultural nuptials and weddings are quite common in the city-state. A wedding in Singapore is Occidental or Western in form but essentially Oriental (traditional) in character. The following lines elucidate some conventional and time-honoured customs that are still zealously followed in a characteristic wedding ceremony in Singapore.
1)The Positioning of the Wedding Bed (An Chuang)
Just before the wedding ceremony, a well-to-do man is generally consulted as far as the positioning of the newly married couples’ bed is concerned. Thereafter, a male kid of a close relation is invited to lie down or roll on it. Such an activity (rolling on the bed or lying down on it) is carried out to sanctify or consecrate the wedding. A male child is selected so that the couple is blessed with a son. Fruits like dates and oranges and vegetables particularly red or green beans are also spread throughout the bed for auspiciousness.
2)Sending Betrothal Gifts (Guo Da Li)
The tradition or practice of sending betrothal gifts to the bride’s family has been handed down from generation to generation. Actually, the entire process (of sending wedding gifts) comprises of two stages. In the first stage, the prospective groom and a lady who is considered lucky, visits the would-be-bride’s home to handover the gifts basket. What goes into the basket depends upon the ancestral provinces of both the groom and the bride. In the stage or final stage, the bride’s family returns the basket out of courtesy. The parents of the bride are supposed to reciprocate the gesture by giving ‘return gifts’. The amount of gifts in the baskets should always add up to an even number.
3)The Ritual of Combing the Hair (Shang Tou)
Prior to the wedding ceremony, the hair of the groom and the locks of the bride are done up generally by a lady and this ritual of combing signals the transitioning of the couple from adolescence to adulthood. The hair is usually done up (or combed) four times and each round has a symbolic meaning. The first combing stands for the lasting of marriage; the second represents holy wedlock till one reaches his or her prime; the third round stands for fertility and the ultimate combing represents lasting prosperity.
4)Bringing the Bride to Her In-Laws Home
Traditionally, the bridegroom in order to fetch his would-be-wife visits her parental or family home along with some of his closest male friends (xiong di dui) and relatives. The entire episode of bringing the bride to her in-laws home is quite an elaborate affair. The groom along with his male buddies has to go through many trials and tribulations before he can get to the bride. The ‘jie meis’ (bridesmaids) make the groom profess his love for his bride by telling him to draw up a marriage contract and put his signature on it.
5)Tea Ceremony (Feng Cha)
The newly married couple after paying homage to their predecessors offer cups of tea to the parents of the grooms. Thereafter, they offer tea to the groom’s elders. In return the couple are presented with red packets containing money.
Parents of both the bride and the bridegroom sponsor a lavish wedding banquet that usually comprises of a 7-to-10 course dinner. The wedding banquet is a perfect way of commemorating the holy union.
7) The Home-Coming (San Chao Hui Men)
It is customary for the newlyweds to visit the parental home of the bride three days post the wedding reception.