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Can You Wear Red to a Traditional Chinese Wedding?

Wondering if you can wear red to a traditional Chinese wedding? You’re not alone! The color red is deeply rooted in Chinese culture, symbolizing everything from joy to prosperity. But when it comes to weddings, the rules around this hue get a bit more complicated. Specifically, the bride and groom wearing red? Yes! Bridesmaids? Hmm, maybe. Guest? No! Stick around as we explain the complex rules more thoroughly.

Feature can you wear red to a traditional Chinese wedding

The Significance of Red in Chinese Culture

In Chinese culture, the color red holds a profound significance that transcends mere aesthetics. It symbolizes joy, prosperity, and protection against evil spirits.

Historically, the reverence for red dates back to ancient times. Ancestors worshipped fire and the sun, both of which are red and yellow. The color yellow was reserved for emperors only in ancient China, and red became an integral part of matrimonial customs. During weddings, red elements like banners, attire, and palanquins signify a life filled with passion and happiness for the newlyweds.

A traditional Chinese wedding venue
A traditional Chinese wedding venue

The color also serves a protective function. Inspired by the legend of the “Nian” (meaning Year in Chinese) monster, people wear red and use red decorations to ward off evil. Given that a wedding is a pivotal life event, red ensures not only a festive atmosphere but also a safeguard against negative forces.

Nian legend
"Nian" Monster. The ancient Chinese legend says that if you wear red and play fireworks on the first day of a new year, Nian would be scared away and the village would be safe.

However, it’s crucial to note that wearing red to a traditional Chinese wedding as a guest isn’t appropriate. At the wedding, red is reserved for the bride and the groom, and guests donning the same color could be seen as disrespectful. Additionally, wearing all-black or all-white outfits is also inappropriate, as these colors are traditionally associated with funerals and mourning.

Traditional Chinese Wedding Attire for Brides and Grooms

The primary styles for brides and grooms in traditional Chinese weddings are Dragon-Phoenix Gowns (龙凤褂) and Xiuhe Suits (秀禾服).

The Dragon-Phoenix Gown is a two-piece outfit with golden and silver embroidery. It comes in five different levels, with the embroidery getting denser and the price going up as the level increases. The most expensive ones have so much embroidery that you can’t even see the red fabric underneath. The design is pretty snug, usually with 3/4-length narrow sleeves, and the skirt is tube-shaped, which can be a bit restrictive to move in. However, it does look amazing on the wearer, especially if you’re petite or slim.

Dragon-Phoenix Gowns
Dragon-Phoenix Gowns (level from high to low)

Xiuhe Suit, on the other hand, is a kind of developed tradition in modern China. It was first created in the 2001 Chinese TV show “When Tangerines Turn Red.” The show designed this top-and-skirt wedding outfit for the lead actress Zhou Xun, who played the character Xiuhe. After that, this elegant outfit became famous, and people named it “Xiuhe Suit” after the character. This dress is usually loose-fitting with various patterns. While the traditional base color is bright red, it’s evolved to include blues, golds, champagne, and pinks too.

Zhou Xun and her wedding dress in the show 'When Tangerines Turn Red'
Zhou Xun and her wedding dress in the show "When Tangerines Turn Red"

Both of these outfits are usually made of red silk. Therefore, if a guest wears red to a traditional Chinese wedding, it could be seen as an attempt to overshadow the bride, which is a big no-no.

Guests' Traditional Chinese Attire Suggestions

When attending a Chinese wedding, guests could consider several etiquette points.

First, opt for understated yet elegant attire. Ladies could try a cheongsam or qipao, and gentlemen could select a suit or a shirt with trousers.

Second, avoid overly revealing or extravagant makeup, as they can be deemed inappropriate in a traditional ceremony.

Third, steer clear of attire that resembles the bride’s or bridesmaids’, as it seems like stealing the limelight. Choose subdued colors like blue, gray-purple, brown, or beige to maintain a dignified appearance.

Sounds dizzy? Here are some great outfit ideas!

Loose Cheongsam Green Qipao Chinese Vintage Dress
Green Cheongsam at Esty
Classic Jacquard Flower Surface Qipao
Classic Jacquard Flower Surface Qipao at Esty
Ramie Qipao Dress,Chinese Qipao Dress Floral Dress
Ramie Qipao Dress at Esty
100% Linen Short Sleeve Shirt Chinese Cheongsam Shirt
100% Linen Short Sleeve Shirt at Esty

Final Words

So, the next time you get an invite to a traditional Chinese wedding, think carefully about red! While red may be your go-to for festive occasions, it’s best left to the bride and groom in this ceremony. Opt for elegant, subdued colors, and you’ll show the utmost respect for the couple’s big day. Happy celebrating!

If you want to learn more about Chinese traditions, welcome to our “Chinese Dress” channel. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions or ideas~ We are always here to exchange brilliant thoughts!

Have a good day

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