Hakka Weddings and Parties

Weddings, food, music, etc. are representations of Hakka culture that are close to the lives of ordinary people, and also a moving chapter in Hakka life. "Hakka Weddings and Parties" event in Kaohsiung City has been included in the 12 Festivals of Hakka Villages six years ago. At this event, everyone can experience the diversity of Hakka culture through traditional wedding ceremonies, special culinary feasts, Hakka concerts, and Hakka lifestyle.

Every ritual of the Hakka weddings, from the pre-wedding blind date, the engagement, to the wedding, not only indicates blessings for the new couple, but also allows modern people to understand the meaning of traditional marriage customs and practices.

Hakka cuisine is the fastest way to get to know Hakka culture. Hakka banquet cuisine allows participating family and friends to enjoy unique Hakka delicacies during the weddings.

After the first Hakka Blue Shirt Group wedding was held in Kaohsiung City in 2013, the event has been held annually, attracting many Hakka and non-Hakka young couples to take part in traditional Hakka weddings. The weddings are held in the autumn harvest season in November to symbolize a good marriage blooming and bearing fruit.

This event promotes Hakka wedding customs and food culture. The "Hakka Concert" held after the wedding banquet not only provides a platform for Hakka artistic performances and exchanges, but also allows participants to experience the richness and beauty of Hakka culture.

According to the unique customs of ancient Hakka weddings, usually a new couple must go through four procedures to become husband and wife – negotiating the marriage, setting the wedding day, getting engaged, and welcoming the bride.

Negotiating the Marriage

In the past, men and women were not allowed to fall in love and date freely. They must obey the wishes of their parents and follow the instructions of the matchmaker. Whether two people can get married was based on the following conditions: first, the two families’ backgrounds are scrutinized; second, the families’ wealth is assessed; third the talents and ability of the man and the woman are evaluated; fourth, the appearance of both parties is judged; and fifth, their physical health gets checked.

Marriage negotiation involves sending the woman's birth stats (including the date and hour of birth) written on a piece of paper known as “Gengtie (庚帖)” to the man's house. The man then puts the Gengtie on his home’s altar honoring gods and ancestors. If all is well in the three subsequent days, the man's Gengtie is sent to the woman's house. If the woman and her family agree, then the couple can marry. But if during those three days after the man’s family receives the woman’s Gengtie, something breaks in his home or someone in his family gets sick, that would be considered bad luck, and the man’s family can ask the matchmaker to return the woman’s Gengtie to her family, rejecting the marriage proposal.

In addition, the woman’s family can ask the man’s family for his Gengtie. If the woman thinks a marriage is appropriate and auspicious, she will send a piece of paper with his and her birth statistics written on it to the man’s family, otherwise her family can also return the man’s Gengtie if they do not approve of the marriage. After the marriage negotiation between the man’s and woman’s family is completed, the matchmaker will inform the woman’s family to measure the size of her ring finger so that the man’s family can order a custom-made wedding ring for her.

Setting the Wedding Day

A month before the wedding, the man’s family invites an astrological consultant or Feng Shui expert to select an auspicious day for the marriage. Once a day has been selected, the matchmaker informs the woman’s family, asks them for their consent, and makes the various arrangements for the wedding. After choosing the day, it is written in a marriage book, which amounts to a contract, and sent to the woman’s family.

The Engagement

With the consent of the two parties, accompanied by the matchmaker, the man’s family, including the prospective groom, carry money, cakes, gold jewelry, cigarettes, candy, betel nuts, incense sticks, candles, and firecrackers to the woman's home as gifts. During the engagement ceremony, the bride, in a new dress, is led out to her family’s living room by a woman called *“All Happiness Matron,” who guides the bride-to-be in serving sweet tea to the guests, after which she immediately returns to her room.

Later, she returns to the living room to collect the tea cups. At this time, the groom-to-be places the ring, necklace, bracelet and other gold ornaments on the tea tray for the prospective bride to take away. The wedding conductor for the man’s family – usually the bridegroom's father – also puts a red envelope with gold/money on a tray, and the matchmaker hands it over to the woman's family’s marriage conductor or her father. Once the woman’s family accepts the payment, this indicates that they have promised to marry off their daughter to the other party. Then the woman’s family treats the man’s family to a lunch banquet.

*All Happiness Matron: Also known as auspicious woman, is a woman who is happily married, with her in-laws, husband, and children still alive. This woman is hired by the bride’s family and symbolizes happiness. She must appear during both the engagement and the wedding ceremonies.

Welcoming the Bride

According to ancient marriage customs of the Han Chinese people, the groom must personally travel to the bride’s home to welcome her into his family on the wedding day. Usually, after the male family informs the female family of the wedding date, the bridegroom personally goes to the bride’s house to take her to his home on the wedding day.  However, there are some groom’s families that send a welcoming team to pick up the bride, while the groom waits at home.

Because ancient Hakka wedding ceremonies are thought to be too complicated, modern day wedding ceremonies have been greatly simplified.