Ask the Yangxifu: Should I Wear a Qipao in My Chinese Wedding?

John and I wearing traditional red Chinese wedding clothing -- including my red qipao -- at our wedding
Should she also wear a qipao, just as I did in my wedding (shown here with John)?

Angie asks:

My fiancee is Chinese and we’ve been debating dresses in the process of planning our wedding. His family is bent on having me wear a red qipao, they say it is the tradition. I wouldn’t mind wearing a qipao, but then my family is Irish on my mother’s side and they told me that only sluts wear red on their wedding day. I am feeling so conflicted about this, and was wondering what you thought. Do you think I should wear a qipao?

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You’re writing to a woman who already owns three qipaos — two of which she wore in her wedding — and who digs for almost any excuse to trot them out of her closet for an evening. So the short answer is: hell, yes — go for the qipao.

But more specifically, I think you’re viewing this from the wrong perspective, where it’s red qipao versus white wedding gown. Modern Chinese bridal attire generally isn’t the stuff of some backstage dress smackdown, where the best dress wins. At every wedding I’ve ever attended in China, the bride never has fewer than two dresses, and often wears as many as three. Usually one is a white wedding gown, one a qipao and — if you have a third — one an evening gown. Which means, you can have it all and so can your families — provided that yours doesn’t mind your white wedding dress sharing time with a red qipao.

Besides, when it comes to Chinese weddings, sometimes you don’t just have multiple dresses — you also can have multiple weddings (with many of us ending up like Tianjin Shannon, becoming “The Most Married” you can imagine). So if your Irish family still insists on a wedding in white, well, you can plan a separate ceremony for them (and watch all of your friends look on in envy as you get to say “I do” more than once).

P.S.: You might get a kick out of Ember Swift’s recent post on her dress mess, where her family — also with an Irish background — worried about her wearing a red qipao. She wore both the red qipao and a white dress, and everyone lived happily ever after. 😉

What do you think? What advice do you have for Angie?

Do you have a question about life, dating, marriage and family in China/Chinese culture (or Western culture)? Send me yours today.

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17 thoughts on “Ask the Yangxifu: Should I Wear a Qipao in My Chinese Wedding?

  • August 31, 2012 at 3:11 am
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    Qipao originated in Manchu
    Baidu 汉服 han fu Han nationality Traditional clothing

    Reply
  • August 31, 2012 at 6:00 am
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    You can do what my Chinese wife decided (at the last minute) to do: wear the white wedding dress for the ceremony and then change into the qipao for the reception. Both sides would be happy, and it is a lot easier to get food stains out of a red, highly-ornamented qipao. Good luck!

    Reply
  • August 31, 2012 at 6:46 am
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    qipao is manchurian tradition not han’s,so don’t worry.besides,u got different colours to choose from,not only red,some nice and sparkle will do it.Good luck.

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  • August 31, 2012 at 7:13 am
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    Go ahead, wear a qipao for the reception like Ryan suggested. If you won’t want red, maybe some other bright colour like pink, orange. I always think that qipao lends elegance. And it is not everyday or occasion that you get a chance to wear it and stand out from the crowd. Certainly you should not miss this opportunity – it is your wedding lady, and to a Chinese guy! That would be the best occasion to wear a qipao! You will make everyone happy, including yourself. Jocelyn looks great too in a red qipao! and nobody is thinking bad about her I am sure! All the best wished to you.

    Reply
  • August 31, 2012 at 11:43 am
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    Good luck 🙂 If there’s a chance of me being married, I probably would insist on celebrating in a traditional Asian style, be it Chinese or Korean or Japanese. I also would want to wear traditional Asian clothing. Believe it or not, I’m not a fan of white wedding dress, thus my ideal dress would be blue colored. (Although if there will be a future husband, and he really insists, I’ll probably end up with white… 🙁 )

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  • August 31, 2012 at 12:07 pm
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    Don’t worry so much on the color and no need to argue over what color to wear. I went to so many Chinese weddings and most brides didn’t wear red. Being happy at the wedding is your main focus!

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  • August 31, 2012 at 3:39 pm
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    I never wanted a white wedding dress, and red is my favorite color… Qipao all the way. There was a red one in the beginning of the ceremony and a teal one for later in the afternoon….

    I also considered the cost. White wedding dresses are insanely expensive. A tailor made qipao, less than $100. Alterations on a wedding dress probably cost as much as a qipao.

    Reply
  • August 31, 2012 at 9:46 pm
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    This isn’t about a dress. This is about how you’re going to make decisions for yourself and your family in a cross-cultural relationship.

    To what extent will you take your family’s and his family’s concerns into account? To what extent will you just do whatever you want? How much will you care what people think, how it looks? How much significance will you attach to seemingly small things? Those are the real questions here. Color and style of dress are merely symptoms of a bigger issue.

    Be aware that the way you make these pre-wedding decisions is going to set the precedent for how you make decisions later in life.

    Regarding the dress though my personal opinion is that you should wear whatever the heck you want for your big day! And rock it! 🙂

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  • September 3, 2012 at 2:13 am
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    Actually you don’t need to wear a red Qipao, any other colors representing happiness and propitiousness would be fine, such as gold.

    Reply
  • September 3, 2012 at 3:00 am
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    It does not have to be red. For the young generation of Chinese, not everybody likes red. I went to several Chinese weddings recent years, did not see any bride wearing red, most of the brides wear white wedding dress.
    And it does not have to be Qipao, just talk to your boyfriend’s family, tell them what is your family’s expection and your favorite, I think they will understand you.
    Good luck!

    Reply
  • September 6, 2012 at 8:05 pm
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    haha i think she does not need 2 wear red mang…qipao from different colors is more than enough 2 stand out from the crowd seriously ^^

    Reply
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  • September 10, 2012 at 6:41 am
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    I notice the Qipao you’re wearing isn’t the typical Chinese wedding dress. I guess people nowadays have a more casual attitude towards what they wear in their weddings.

    Reply
  • September 10, 2013 at 10:26 pm
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    I’m considering designing my own dress. That marries the qipao and the western white dress. I don’t think I want to do the full on dress change since getting ready takes so much time.

    We’re going to try the fusion thing. Red accents and a mandarin collar to appease his family and white and fluffy to appease mine. And my bridesmaids will wear jade-toned qipaos.

    Is this appropriate? It’s what i’d like. But i want to make sure my wonderful inlaws are happy too. My parents are pretty loose but his parents really want to make sure their culture is represented. And i love them all and want everybody to be happy.

    Reply
    • September 11, 2013 at 10:54 am
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      Hi quinn,

      Question — are you holding the wedding in your country or in China? If in China, realize that the dress changes are actually not the problem you may imagine. It’s pretty typical to hire makeup artists/hair stylists from beauty salons and/or photography studios whose sole job is to follow the bride around the entire day to touch up the bride’s makeup and redo her hair after she changes dresses. So you might keep that in mind before you decide on one “fusion dress”.

      I would also consult with your inlaws and your fiancee before making any decisions and see what they have to say — since red is the traditional wedding color in China and it’s still not uncommon to see brides wearing at least one entirely red dress at their wedding banquet.

      And remember also that you can wear the dresses at different times. For example, I wore my white dress during the “ceremony” portion of the wedding, then changed into my first qipao to toast the guests (sort of the beginning of the “reception” part of the wedding, if you will).

      Reply
  • February 26, 2014 at 12:22 am
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    Definitely wear the qipao. It’s such a flattering style. The best thing about having an international wedding is being able to let go of all the expectations of the usual American wedding, and do something different.

    Reply

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