I’m engaged and planning a wedding in the States w/ my Chinese-American fiancee. He suggested incorporating a qipao into the ceremony. But I already have wedding colors for my bridesmaids’ dresses (green) and don’t like wearing red. If I decide to wear a qipao, how should I incorporate it into my ceremony? Must I wear red? Also, I will be going to China later this year, should I consider buying one over there?
More than one wedding dress? It might sound like a Bridezilla’s dream, but that’s the reality in most wedding ceremonies in China. Yes, you heard me — most brides in China will strut their stuff in more than one gown as they officially tie the knot during a wedding banquet. It’s very normal to have at least two if not three dresses. The why behind it, as I understand it, is that more wedding dresses suggests more wealth/status, which means better face for the couple and their families.
So while Chinese brides usually start out their ceremony wearing the kind of frothy white wedding gown all Western brides know and love, they never end the night dressed the same way. And many will opt to make a qipao at least one of their dresses — which means it’s easy for you to do the same.
Here’s what I’ve observed — Chinese brides usually change out of their wedding whites once the ceremony portion of their wedding is over (which for those of you in China, is usually the portion of the wedding that goes on in front of the banquet hall and/or on a stage), and wear a qipao when they’re going around the room toasting their guests.
In your case, since you’re probably doing a typical church wedding in the US, you could easily do something similar — change out of the wedding white and into a qipao for your reception. Or, if you feel you must wear your wedding white at part of the reception, then change midway through. Just make sure you time it so people are still around and can enjoy your second dress!
I would recommend having some kind of red in your qipao. Red is the traditional color of weddings in Chinese culture, and it would definitely make your fiancee’s relatives proud to see you reflecting that in your wedding!
But the color red is a much more subjective thing in China (as Ember Swift noted in her thoughtful piece, Do Red and Pink Match?). The short of it is that “pink” is considered red, so if you like pink, you could opt for that as your qipao.
But I get the feeling you don’t want an only-pink gown, since you’ve chosen green as your wedding color, right? No problem. There are other ways to respect both your wedding color and the must-have red requirement of Chinese wedding traditions.
For example, check out my red wedding qipao in the photo above, which I commissioned from a tailor in Hangzhou. While it’s basically red, there’s a strip of glittering blue fabric that offsets the red, as well as blue trim on the collar and sleeve openings. While you might you not want a mostly red/pink qipao with green trim or highlights, what about a green qipao with red or pink trim? Or a green brocade with red or pink flowers? When you think about it, the possibilities are endless.
But I will say, you’re more likely to find those endless possibilities if you buy in China, instead of in the US. So yes, buy that qipao in China!
You’ll have two options. One, just find yourself a store that sells qipaos off the rack. Or two, find yourself a tailor and get it made especially for you. (And, note that sometimes the off-the-rack stores are also tailors and vice-versa.) Here, for example, are links to qipao tailors in Shanghai and suggestions for buying in Hong Kong. (If anyone has suggestions for other cities, please add in the comments!) A tailor, if you can find the time, would be ideal, as you can decide on the fabrics and style of the qipao — blending your wedding green and the Chinese wedding red into a perfect dress that will fit you like a glove.
And even better, unlike your white wedding gown, it’ll be a dress you can still enjoy long after you’ve said, “I do!”
Do you have a question about life, dating, marriage and family in China/Chinese culture (or Western culture)? Send me yours today.