Sunday, March 13, 2011

Betrothal Gift Exchange (Guo Da Li, 过大礼)

Betrothal Gift Exchange (过大礼) is the day where the groom (with his friends or matchmaker) delivers the betrothal gifts to the bride's family and often the items to be exchanged in a Chinese Customary Wedding depend on the dialect group.

Although most 过大礼 is done 1 month to a few days before the wedding day, there isn't any auspicious dates in April due to the Qing Ming Festival. Hence, explaining ours to be 2 months before our wedding day.

Wedding cakes (礼饼) is one of the items the groom will have to bring over and this is distributed along with the wedding invitations to relatives. This is a common practice for the groom to give bridal cakes to the bride's family for the bride's family to distribute the cakes to relatives and friends, informing them that their daughter is getting married. To make things convenience, we have opt for wedding cakes for our immediate relatives and subsituted the rest with gift vouchers from Bengawan Solo.

Yuan's parents have ordered these wedding cakes from Gin Thye Cake Maker and apparently, the combination varies with dialect groups.

Cantonese Wedding Cakes (四色饼)

For Cantonese couples, Gin Thye offers the "4 colour biscuits" (四色饼) and according to my aunt, there is a total of 8 different types. In this combination, there are two different coloured types with red bean paste and green bean paste. These Chinese style wedding cakes are often printed with double happiness (双喜) or with dragon and phoenix imprint.

Taste-wise, these pastries are not sweet and are generally fresh as the pastry skin not soggy or oily. But comparing these with the Tau Sar Piah sold along Balestier Road, these fall short on the fragrance and intensity of the red bean paste.

Traditional Hokkien candies

For Hokkien couples, the confectionary offers traditional Hokkien candies wrapped with red paper. There are six types of candies: Mi Fang (米方), Dou Tang (豆糖), Ruan Tang (软糖), Dou Sha Bing (豆沙饼), Xiang Gao (香糕) and Gong Tang (贡糖).

Would have prefer the candies over the biscuits since most of the candies are vacuumed packed. Moreover, these are the candies we ate when we are young so to a certain extent, it does carry some nostalgic feeling when unwrapping these.

But of course, there is always hits and misses. While the Gong Tang (贡糖) was not crisp enough to Yuan's liking and is soft and sticky, Dou Tang (豆糖), on the other hand, is the nicest for the not-so-sweet, crunchy caramelized nuts.

Gin Thye Cake Maker 锦泰西果饼家

A box of Cantonese Wedding Tradition cost $10 while each Hokkien Wedding Tradition is $11. The smallest domination for the Bengawan Solo vouchers is $7.20.

Gin Thye Cake Maker 锦泰西果饼家
With 4 branches located at Sembawang, Bukit Batok, Bangkit (Bukit Panjang) and Bishan.
For more ordering informations, do check out their website
Do note that the Sembawang outlet is their main outlet while the others are more to the neighbourhood bakeries. Hence, for enquiries and ordering of the wedding pastries, it is better to visit their Sembawang outlet.

Chin Deh (煎堆), also known as Hainanese Sesame Ball, is one of the items requested from my parents. This is a very traditional pastry and not many confectionaries make this anymore. Apart from the technique required to make, a huge wok is required to fry this glutinous rice pastries.

Gin Thye Cake Maker doesn't make this but do collect orders to get other confectionaries.

Through forums, I managed to find out that Neo Kian Guan does sell this at $15 each. Note that these pastries require 15 days advance notice. Since this is only presented on the actual wedding day, I will post the photos then.

Neo Kian Guan Confectionery and Cakes (梁建源餅家西果店)
Blk 7
Hougang Ave 3
Singapore 530007
Tel: 6382 4352/ 62887041

Operating hours:
8am to 8pm (Mon to Sat)
8am to Noon (Sun)


For those who wants to know more about the Betrothal Gift Exchange (过大礼), read on...

Prior to the Betrothal Gift Exchange (过大礼), most would have taken advantage of the banquet food tasting to allow both parents to meet and discuss the wedding details such as the types and quantities of the betrothal gifts, the dowry, bride's price (娉金) and the number of tables at the wedding banquet to be given by the groom's parents to the bride's parents.

Through internet searches, there are different lists of items to exchange. Hence, to make things simpler, we stick to the SOP provided by our geomacer (whom we engaged to selected auspicious dates for the Chinese wedding, betrothal and installation of the bridal bed)

These are the items Yuan brought over,
Betrothal Gift Exchange (过大礼)

Bride's price as a gift from the groom to the bride's parents for bringing her up
娉金 - 感谢父母的养育之恩

Two pairs of dragon and phoenix candles to signify the couple is a perfect match
龙凤蜡烛 - 天生一对, 龙凤配

To most dialects, it would be 2 pairs of candles with the bride's family keeping the dragons and returning the phoenix to the groom's family.
女方出嫁, 双凰烛一对

For all dialects, Mandarin Oranges refers to good fortune and hence are often presented in even numbers.
桔子 - 大吉大利, 吉祥如意, 花开富贵

2 bottles of Brandy are often the standard items for this exchange while 6 types of grains consisting

1. Red Dates - symbolizes the bearing of a male child
红枣 = 生男孩

2. Red Beans and Green Beans - represents offsprings
红豆和绿豆 = 子孙满堂

3. Dried longans - often with their shells to represent completeness
龙眼干 = 圆圆满满, 完完整整

4. Lotus Seeds - symbolizes the bearing of many child
莲子 = 连招贵子

5. Lily Bulbs - symbolizes everlasting marriage
百合 = 百年好合

For Hokkiens, one of the items given by the groom's family is Pig Trotters. This is serve as a gift to the bride's mother for washing and cleaning the bride when she was young.
(福建人习俗) 猪脚罐 = 洗屎肉

Cantonese will opt for a Whole Roast Pig and this is presented to the bride's parents after the bride has served the tea to the groom's family. Upon receiving the Roast Pig, the brides' family will have to
- Slice off the tail and the head to return to the groom
- Keep the body and distribute to the relatives
- Wrap the Ang Bao, a pair of Pants and Belt in a red paper and placed it in the centre of the roast pig with the head and the tail at each end
- Place 2 oranges beside the head of the Roast Pig

(广东人习俗) 三朝回门, 给烧猪
With the receiving and exchange of gifts, it means that the family is always keeping in touch (i.e. 有来有往)

The symbolism of the 3 items that is returned with the Roast Pig means...
红包 = 金
Red Packet represents "gold" in Cantonese

裤子(衣服) = "服"跟广东的"福"童谣
Pants (Clothes) is a homophone for "fortune" in Cantonese, meaning the wife will bring the husband fortune

皮带 = "带"跟广东的"戴'童谣
Belt is a homophone for "pockets" in Cantonese, meaning his pockets will always be filled

Other items which you will come across for other dialects are

A pair of pineapples representing prosperity (Cantonese)
凤梨一对 - 新旺到来

A pair of old coconuts is a homophone for grandfather in Cantonese, hence, signifies three generations living happily together
老椰子 - 有爷有子, 老少同堂, 三代乐融融

Banana is a homophone for "bring" in Teochew
香蕉 - 连招贵子

Bride's dowry (嫁妆)

Apart from returning half the gifts the groom's family has given, the bride's family will also present the bride's dowry (嫁妆), which is mainly interior ornaments or daily necessities. This is also an opportunity for the bride's family to display their love for their daughter as well as their wealth.

子孙桶, 子孙灯 & 木屐

Baby prosperity set (Potty/basin/baby bath tub) to symbolise healthy offspring and represent good fortune & prosperity.
子孙桶 (马桶,脚盆,水桶) = 早生儿女, 健康富足, 事业有成

Bedside lamps for a blissful future with healthy offspring (to be lighted on the wedding day)
子孙灯 = 添丁添財

Wooden clogs represent smooth career advancement
木屐 - 事业顺利

A set of bowls with chopsticks represent an abundance of food and drinks.
龙凤碗筷 = 丰衣足食
These bowls will also be used on the actual wedding day for the couple to eat rice ball soup to wish the couple a complete and sweet marriage
汤圆 = 吃甜甜, 生儿子 (也可以是圆圆满满)

One tea set to be used to serve tea to elderly on wedding day so as to represent gratitude and respect for them

Faith Coins (i.e. ‘Yuan Qian’), these small pieces of ‘gold’ resembling coins are placed in most items of the dowry to symbolize the affinity between the couple and also family bliss.
缘钱 = 夫妻结善缘, 家和万事兴

Sewing Kit (consisting of thread, needles, pin cushion, scissors, etc) to indicate a capable wife.
针线包 = 妻子娴熟

There are several rulers which I have come across, some refers this ruler to be the descendant ruler which is used during the hair combing ceremony while the one that is given during the exchange is actually a measuring tape (part of the sewing kit). Whatever the case, the ruler that is given during the exchange is meant to bless the couple with great wealth.
子孙尺(梳头) = 良田万顷, 百子千孙

Other items which the bride's family will provide are the beddings (such as pillows, comforter, bedsheets and blankets) for An Chuang (i.e. Install the bridal bed, 按床) and a set of pyjamas, a pair of home slippers and comb for Shang Tou (i.e. Hair combing ceremony 梳头).

My chinese is not very good and pardon if there is any typos. For new couples who are reading this thread, there are shops (as listed below) which sells these items in bundles and provide advise on how to execute each event proper.

Amanda Dreamweaver II
101 Upper Cross Street
People's Park Centre
Tel: 6532 0027

iDear Collection
14 Scotts Road
Far East Plaza
Singapore 228213
Tel: 6835 7720


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