Wedding: The Date ♥ 婚禮: 吉日

You’ve found your dream venue. You pray it’s available for your dream date. In the not-so-sunny UK, it’s a desperate fight and risky gamble among 200,000+ couples for a beautiful spring/summer wedding. The dilemma in Hong Kong, however, is more tradition-related.

The Chinese believe marriage – one of the most important life-events – should take place at the right time, in the right place and with the right people. By doing so, the couple will be blessed with eternal happiness, which is extended to their parents. Hence, the tradition called “擇吉日” (choose a good day).

In order to work out the “good day”, you need to get hold of a copy of “通勝” (Tung Shing) which is written based on Lunar calendar and provides comprehensive information and guidance for what the suitable activities are for each day of the year. If you struggle to decipher its language (don’t worry, most people probably do), the alternative is to visit a Feng Shui Master at a temple. You can find many of these dotted around Hong Kong, with the most popular one in 黃大仙 (Wong Tai Sin).

13 - Tung Shing
The fate of a Chinese marriage is in the hands of Tung Shing.

As the saying goes, “a marriage is not between two people but two families”, the “good day” takes into account the birth dates of six people – the couple and both parents. Some say the wedding day should avoid the exact dates, while others believe only the birthday months should be avoided, both with a goal of not “sharing” or “diminishing” the happiness of their elders. The “good day” also takes into account some traditional Chinese festivals related to the departed. According to Lunar calendar, the third, seventh and ninth month are not suitable for weddings. This is roughly equivalent to April, August and October in Western calendar, during which prayers are offered and rituals are performed for the deceased. As you can gather by now, strict adherence to the traditions and rules would quickly eliminate a number of months in the year.

The Brits also have some interesting traditions for choosing wedding dates, but they are rather myths than guidelines to be followed. There are different old verses or poems that describe which month is good for marriage and what kind of fortune it brings, and vice versa – not dissimilar to the spirit of “通勝”. A common one is May, because apparently if you “marry in the month of May, you’ll surely rue the day”. And if you marry in June, “life will be one long honeymoon”. Think I’ll remember that next time I sign a wedding card.

The day of the week matters to the Brits, too. An old English poem once says, “Monday for wealth / Tuesday for health / Wednesday the best day of all / Thursday for crosses / Friday for losses / Saturday, no luck at all”. Hmmm, I believe we have found the culprit to a rising divorce rate, as almost 60% of weddings in the UK take place on Saturdays!

Seeing as I am from Hong Kong and my husband is from the UK with some Chinese roots, our wedding is clearly going to be a yummy fusion. We flirted with the idea of an August wedding simply because it would be a lot cheaper, but quickly decided against it as some family members weren’t comfortable with having a “red” (wedding) and “white” (ghost festival) occasion in the same month. This was about the only religious instruction from our family, fair enough. At the end of the day, we wanted as many family and close friends to attend as possible. So it was clear to us July was the answer. We knew it would be hot as hell and those typhoons would creep up on us anytime, but it would be summer holiday for everyone and this was particularly important for our family and friends abroad. As for the day, Saturday suited most guests as crazy working hours in Hong Kong means Fridays are ruled out and Sundays are reserved for rest.

Our simple guide to setting a wedding date:

  1. Guests’ availability
  2. Venue availability
  3. Avoid crossing the lines on those key traditions and respect our cultures

This obviously varies from couple to couple, but should get you started on how to approach the first step in wedding planning if you have a multicultural family.

Last but not least, here is one of my recent favourite songs to get you in the mood while planning the best day of your life!

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