Thursday, October 9, 2008

"Lai See" 利是

i've been to my fair few wedding banquets now in Hong Kong and i'm not going to try to mention all the dos and don'ts and ins and outs of a Chinese wedding as it's all a bit much for me...maybe i'm just being lazy...

but i've decided to mention one very small (but naturally important) part of the process;
the invitation card and the "lai see" (red envelope: 利是)
note the re-occurrence of the "double happiness" character (囍) above

i'm not sure if there are any rules, but most of the invitations i have received consisted of 3 parts.
the first one being the actual invitation. this is usually in a card form or postcard style with all the necessary info like who's getting married, where and when etc.
one very important difference is the choice of color. unlike the western "white" wedding colors, reds and golds are the colors of choice here and this goes for all celebrations.
by the way, white is usually reserved for funerals...

i don't think it's wise to show a picture of the invitation i've just received as it might cause some unwanted gatecrashers!

the 2nd part of the invitation is the "cake voucher". i'm not sure if this is true so someone out there correct me if i'm wrong, but i heard that because the wedding cake used at the banquet is actually fake and the guests can't try the wedding cake, such vouchers are given instead.
the Hong Kong bakery "Maxim's" (美心)must do a roaring trade as all the cake vouchers i have ever received have always been from here. unfortunately i don't think they make the nicest cakes....
this voucher will give the guest 1 dozen pieces of cake or bread to the same amount and has no expiry date!!
because of this no expiry date business i have a few of these at my apartment... how the heck am i gonna eat 12 slices of cake!? or how many loaves of bread it would get me!

golden dragon cake voucher

the next surprise in my invitation is this little square envelope (red & gold of course).
inside is a small token of appreciation (HK$10 or $20) in advance for the wedding gift which i will, but have at this stage not yet given.

note the famous building on the $20 note.
now where have you seen this before...hehehe

thank you (in advance) money

so what is my wedding gift to the bride & groom?


bathroom towels?

fancy dinner plates?

it's an easy one. cash.
straight-up, no fuss, cash.

just in case you haven't seen it before; HK$500

currently the going rate in Hong Kong is $500+.
the amount should end in an even-number and shouldn't have anything to do with the number 4; which sounds like the word for "death" in Chinese (and in Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese).
by the way, most buildings here don't have a 4th floor (or 14th, or 24th and so on) for the same reason. who wants to live on the "death-floor" anyway...

another popular amount to give is $888 as the number 8 in Cantonese sounds similar to the word for "fortune". as $88 would be just too little to give, another 8 is added.
now you know why the Beijing Olympic games opening ceremony was held on the 8/8/2008 at 8 seconds and 8 minutes past 8 pm.

so the new crisp (no old ones please!) $500 note (or $888 bank cheque) is placed in a special envelope like this and given at the banquet when signing-in your name.

wedding envelope & card

the name of the bride and groom is written on the front along with my name so they know how much i gave them. what goes around comes around!
such envelopes can be bough at stationary shops for about HK$5.
banks will also give you a similar one (naturally with the bank's logo on it too) for free if requested. bank-envelopes are usually used during the new year when cash is also exchanged...more about this another time!

by the way, the bride and groom will not invite guests who are pregnant or those who have had a death in the family that year.
understandably people who have had a death in the family are mourning and should not take part in any celebrations.
as for the pregnant women, i only just found out the reason.
apparently in Chinese culture 2 happy things can bring about some bad luck. therefore, the happiness of a wedding + the happiness of the birth of a new child = bad luck.
the same goes that if 2 couples are getting married in the same month then they should not attend each others wedding.
mmm, interesting.


pascale said...

I loved reading the last paragraph particularly because I didn't know about those!
How interesting to see how different ppl celebrate differently!

world of sekimachihato said...

* pascale

yes, it's cool learning about how other cultures celebrate such occasions.
i have another wedding post coming up soon!

Anonymous said...

The custom of the bakery voucher has nothing to do with the fake cake at the reception. Formerly, a real cake was given by the bride to family and friends prior to the wedding, but since that isn't very practical, the contemporary thing to do is provide a bakery gift card for the guest to select their own sweets from a bakery. The vouchers have a set amount and usually do not allow for 12 slices of cake. In parts of Taiwan, it's still common for the brides guests to be presented with a cake, called 團購. Obviously, it doesn't much resemble a Western cake.

As for the hongbao included in the invitation, I was always told that this was only for the groom's invitees. If you're friends with both the bride and groom, you will receive both the bakery gift card and the hongbao.

And 500 is much too little to give as a present. In Shanghai, most people give 1000 if actually attending the banquet. Denominations with 9, such as 900, are good for weddings, as the 9 sounds like long-lasting.

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