Your Beginner Guide to Chinese ‘Guo Da Li’ Ceremony

What is Guo Da Li?

The Chinese betrothal ceremony Guo Da Li (过大礼) marks the important formal meeting between families from both sides of the couple, and is what symbolises the groom’s sincerity toward marrying the bride, along with his assurance that she will be well taken care of for the rest of their married life. This is amongst the multiple traditional Chinese wedding rituals known as the Three Letters, Six Etiquettes, or San Shu Liu Li (三书六礼), which encompasses the pick of an auspicious wedding date.





When Should Guo Da Li Be Taken Place?

The Guo Da Li ceremony usually takes place between two to four weeks prior to the wedding. During this day, the groom and a matchmaker, or an elder female relative with good fortune, will present the bride’s family with an array of gifts that symbolise fertility and prosperity.



What to Prepare for Guo Da Li?

What you need in hand during the day of your Guo Da Li ceremony has a lot to do with your dialect group. A Hokkien bride’s betrothal ceremony requires a few items that are different from that of a Cantonese bride. However, despite your dialect group, the bits and pieces used for the ceremony should always come in pairs as an epitome of good fortune.


A Guo Da Li set typically involves:

  • A betrothal basket

  • One pair of dragon and phoenix candles each

  • A red packet or Ang Bao, bearing the bride price, which the chinese refer to as Ping Jin (聘金)

  • A can of pig trotters or a platter of roasted pork

  • Hard liquor or wine

  • Traditional wedding cakes or Xi Bing (喜饼)

  • An auspicious box of 8 oranges

  • Jewellery for the bride, or Si Dian Jin (四点金)

  • Double happiness stickers

  • A red baner to hand over the door


Kindly refer to the following Guo Da Li list by SingaporeBrides to make sure you’ve had everything you need according to your dialect group:


(source: Singapore Brides)


How Much Is the Guo Da Li Ang Bao Amount?

The “bride price” usually ranges in variants of the Chinese auspicious number 8 and can be anywhere between $188, $288, $1,888, $8,888, etc depending on how wealthy the groom’s side is.


Hui Li (回礼), or Returning of Gifts

To express their acceptance of the marriage and gratitude for the extravagantly generous groom’s family, the bride’s family will reciprocate their generous gestures and share the good fortune by returning a portion of the gifts. This is otherwise referred to as Hui Li (回礼 )which directly translates to the returning of gifts.


The bride’s dowry, or Jia Zhuang (嫁妆) will also be presented during the Hui Li ceremony to the groom’s family to symbolise wealth and prosperity of the bride’s family, and to bless the couple’s marriage with ultimate happiness and prosperity.


The dowry items include:

  • A tea set for the wedding tea ceremony at the groom’s house

  • A five-piece descendant pail set (baby bathtub, potty, washbasin, tray and mug)

  • Brand new red bedsheets and duvet for the bridal bed

  • A set of bed-side lamps

  • A dining set comprising a pair of chopsticks, spoons, bowls and plates

  • Two pairs of red wooden clogs, wedding slippers or bedroom slippers

  • A sewing basket with an even numbered rolls of colourful thread, a set of needles, pincushion and scissors

  • A set of gold jewellery gifted by the bride’s parents


You may refer to this Hui Li checklist by SingaporeBrides when preparing for this momentous ritual:


(source: Singapore Brides)


Guo Da Li Procedure:

Step1: Select Your Date

If sticking to tradition means everything to you, conifer hiring a Feng Shui (风水)master to read both of your Ba Zi (八字) compatibility. Based on the results, these geomancy experts will recommend a favoured date and time, in which they will warn you against ill-advised dates.


These days, many less conservative families tend to set a date based on their guests’ availability.


Step 2: Ensure That Families From Both Sides Are Able to Present

It is a must that parents of both the bride and groom present. In addition to that, a female matchmaker or a senior female relative with good fortune will need to be present to participate in the ceremony. Her primary role is to chaperone the groom, as he presents the Guo Da Li to his future in-laws.



Step 3: Exchange of Auspicious Sayings

Auspicious sayings are mandatory in all Chinese joyous occasions. The ceremony starts with the groom’s eldery or older female relative congratulating the bride’s parents on tying the knot the moment she arrives at the doorstep of the bride’s home. Well-wishes will be bestowed upon her, along with blessings of offsprings to the couple, following is an example:


恭喜亲家老爷和亲家奶奶荣登外父外母榜, 祝福 <names of the bride and groom> 永结同心、恩爱到白头、连生贵子


Direct translation: Congratulations to the family of the bride. Wishing the couple eternal bliss, and to be blessed by offspring soon.


Step 4: Presenting of Gifts by Groom

As mentioned above, here is where items are exchanged according to respective dialect groups. Since this is supposed to be presented to the bride, the type of gifts will be based on the Bride’s family’s dialect group.



Step 5: Returning of Gifts from Bride

As explained above, this step involves the family of the bride receiving and accepting the groom’s shower of gifts. They will then move to reciprocating the act by returning half the initial items gifted, along with the dowry to the groom which consists mostly of daily necessities.


Step 6: The Closing

The couple and the groom's elder female relative or matchmaker will return to the groom's home, where the bride will present her dowry to her in-laws. These items will then be kept aside for use after the wedding day.


What Happens After Guo Da Li?

Once the ceremonial exchange is complete, the bride’s family can begin with other necessities. These include picking a wedding venue in Singapore, planning for the decorations and floral arrangements, as well as distributing wedding cakes and goodies to family and friends.


According to Chinese custom, one should only issue their wedding invitations after Guo Da Li. However, this is no longer practised by modern families nowadays. The truth is that it can definitely take as long as 2-4 weeks for guests to RSVP their attendance. Hence the urgency.

Is Guo Da Li a Must?

In the modern lifestyle, convenience and efficiency are highly prioritised. In contrast, Guo Da Li serves as a good reminder: there are no shortcuts to enjoy the rewards of a marriage, or family. Marriage, and family by extension, are and have always been hard work. This labour is of course, for a worthwhile reason. Therefore the “bride’s price”, which can sort of be perceived as the groom’s gratitude fee to his betrothed’s parents, to thank them for raising his beloved wife.


Furthermore, when the bride’s family accepts his gifts during the ceremony, it also represents their acceptance of their daughter’s groom. They have been convinced that his intentions are sincere. This is when a vote of confidence is given to him that he will make a capable and dutiful husband.