Ask the Yangxifu: Siblings Won’t Give Hongbao at her Chinese Wedding

(photo by 多瑙河之野鸭 via
(photo by 多瑙河之野鸭 via

Stacy asks:

I am having my wedding celebration in Beijing in late Spring of this year and my family is coming to celebrate from [Western country]. Now, let me first say that my family has been just HORRIBLE about the entire situation. What I mean by family is my siblings. They feel like ‘I am being a bridezilla’ which in my opinion I am not. One minute they are mad at me because I didn’t ask them to be in the wedding (you only have one bridesmaid/groomsman in a traditional Chinese wedding and its not a great job—I want them to enjoy the wedding, not be following me around) the next minute they are telling me that I am being selfish because I haven’t shared any details of the wedding with them. I have explained the situation to them 1 million times, I am not planning this wedding my father and mother in law are (they are also paying for it) and I basically just have to show up on the day (P.S. I am actually really happy about this as I have planned a wedding before and it’s not easy). Anyways moving on, we have a huge problem right now with the hongbao.

My siblings refuse to give hongbao because they are paying to come to China and their hotel, etc and believe that it’s extremely expensive and are making me feel BAD about MY OWN WEDDING!. My husband says that its a slap in the face for China and all Chinese people if they don’t give the hongbao “mei mianzi’ [no face], I’m sure you are familiar. Me, I’m stuck in the middle. I understand where they are coming from but I am extremely upset with them because they have turned what is supposed to be a joyous occasion into something that I am dreading. I tried to mediate the situation by saying that if they gave hongbao, we would obviously pay for the hotel and their 4 day excursion around Beijing. However they completely disagree with the whole concept. They want to show up at my wedding without hongbao and just pay for everything on their own — the hotel and the excursion.

I don’t know what to do at this point. I think my husband is right, I mean it’s going to look really bad that my family does not give hongbao at my wedding. It’s a traditional Chinese wedding, I’m wearing traditional Chinese clothes and we are doing everything by Chinese custom which my siblings completely don’t understand. Help!



I have a feeling you’ll never convince your siblings to do the right thing. I’ve met people like them. They remind me of “ugly American” tourists who act as anti-ambassadors around the world, making everyone hate America just a little more when they disrespect local cultures. Their way is, of course, the right way and the only way! 😉


It’s bad enough to meet these people in your travels, but worse if you’re actually related to them. You have my deepest sympathies.

So here’s what I’m proposing:

Option #1: Have them present empty hongbao envelopes. Okay, it’s not ideal and it is a little bit of a “bait-and-switch”. But no one would ever have to know. I’m sure somewhere in a Chinese etiquette book out there, there’s an entry about “never opening the hongbao before your guests” just as Chinese never open gifts when presented. I’ve never seen it happen. Your family will have no idea there’s nothing inside…and you can remove them from your hongbao pile before any prying hands/eyes are the wiser. Just give the envelopes to your siblings and ask them to present them at the wedding. Later on, you can then stuff the envelopes with cash yourselves (should the family do any post-wedding bookkeeping and need to record the amounts).

But then again, with such uncooperative siblings, chances are they wouldn’t even agree to this! And if so…

Option #2: Prepare hongbao for each sibling yourselves. Just stuff them with appropriately auspicious sums of cash, write their names on the envelope, and then drop them into your basket/bag when nobody happens to notice. (Alternatively, have the bridesmaid or groomsman deposit them in the basket/bag ahead of time.) Then, when it comes time to add up the hongbao cash after the wedding, your family will see the contribution and assume your siblings did their part.

Of course, if this seems like too much work for a bunch of ungrateful siblings, there’s always…

Option #3: Don’t invite them.

What do you think? What advice would you have?


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

42 Replies to “Ask the Yangxifu: Siblings Won’t Give Hongbao at her Chinese Wedding”

  1. Ooooh that is awkward! I don’t know of a solution, but the ones you suggested are great. Maybe you could also lie for them later and say that they gave the hongbao before/after the wedding. My mom will do that, she’ll bypass the official person collecting hongbao and slip it discreetly to the bride/groom herself. I’m sorry to hear that a person’s wedding day has to be surrounded by so much unnecessary drama.

  2. That is quite the pickle and I can sympathize with both sides. Weddings are stressful and overseas weddings are more so for those travelling. You family has had to spend big to attend so its understandable that they don’t wanna give a monetary gift. I guess the empty envelope is the best choice unless they object to having to give ANYTHING out of principle and thus even a symbolic gift like a empty envelope is a no go.

  3. Stacy are you having 1 or 2 wedding ( 1 in China and 1 in your hometown)?

    Also is it just because it’s “giving money” appose to a “gift” that is causing the grief…were they planning on giving you a gift or were they coming to the wedding without any “gifts”? Can there be a compromise a gift instead of money?

    If your whole family coming, mum, dad and siblings? Could there be 1 “unified” red envelope given to you and your husband from your entire family. Does it have to be individual envelopes?

    Have you thought about doing a family Skype chat…explaining to them the formalities/traditions behind a Chinese wedding?

    Good luck, ultimately this is your weeding ,

  4. In this case, let your family do whatever they want as long as they go to your wedding. Don’t turn this problem into a bigger issue. Don’t bring it up again. Wedding is the happiest day of your life. Money is not problem.

  5. Stacy’s siblings doesn’t sound that nice and perhaps there is something else going on in their family that has made this issue a huge problem.

    I also have a wedding coming on in May and my mom and two of my siblings will travel to China because of it. My mother probably wants to give some kind of gift and hongbao would be an easy way to do it.

    But I would rather not accept any money from my sister and brother who are both younger than me. My sister is a student and my brother still in middle school. I will advice them not to give anything or if they want to follow the custom, them put a small note inside the hongbao.

  6. Dear Stacy

    I really sympathize with you, but I don’t think that you should make it in to a bigger problem by adding the money yourself. If your siblings find out, this could maybe cause them to make a scene at your wedding. I think you should enjoy the day instead of using energy to worry too much about this. I also think that maybe you should expect your husband to be a little more understanding about the situation. You are maybe having a traditional Chinese wedding, but the fact is that you are still a multicultural couple, so some cultural differences will always be present. They paid for their trip, hotel and excursions so that they could join your wedding and spend the day with you, maybe just leave it at that. I personally explained to my boyfriend that it’s very different in my culture, where we don’t give money at weddings but gifts. His family understood this and the fact that the cost of travelling to our wedding will exceed the “Hongbao” amount we would have received from my family. I’m agreeing to getting married in a temple instead of a church, having the wedding in Taiwan, letting my mother-in-law do all the preparations and choose all the guests… Maybe it’s a small deal to “overlook” the “Hongbao”, compared to having you completely stressed and sad on your happy day.

    I wish you a wonderful, peaceful wedding and a prosperous life 🙂

  7. Hey,
    I’m sorry that you have to deal with something like this for the wedding. Although I’m not married, (and likely chance of that happening is 0 percent,) I do wish you and your future husband the best of luck. I’m not familiar with Chinese wedding, so what exactly is hongbao?

  8. That sucks that your siblings won’t even try to find a compromise and that it’s up to you to do so…for your own wedding day! Jocelyn has some great options, although I agree more with Option #2. Even though it’s bad Chinese etiquette to open the hongbao in front of people, you never know when it’s going to be opened. If it falls into your mother-in-law or father-in-law’s hands and they see that your siblings all gave empty hongbaos, that might look even worse than not giving it at all. Think of it as just another wedding expense!

    I totally understand how stressful it can be even if you’re not planning the wedding (I just showed up my wedding day too!) because you’re trying to balance/please two cultures. But I hope you do get to enjoy your special day because it should be all about you! (and your husband)

  9. Feel so sorry for Stacy, although it seems like it’s some kind of deeper problem than just giving hongbao.
    I’m going to have two weddings: one in my hometown and second one in China. We decided that gift from my parents is gonna be cost of whole wedding in Poland (they also have to pay for journey to China), and no more gifts in China from them. Both sides are really understanding about customs and traditions in each others countries but we also have to remember that we are multicultural couple and that costs of two weddings are much bigger than just one. It’s always good to find some compromises in such situations and don’t push your family too hard. Even if they will attend your chinese wedding, remember that they are not chinese.

  10. From the tone of it, the story sounds so improbable. Why would siblings be so mean and set on an otherwise joyous and happy occasion as their sister’s wedding day!

    Imagine a Chinese attending a western wedding refusing to give any gift just because he has a thing about it, but insisting nevertheless to turn up.

    A hongbao is just like a gift. 入乡随俗 or do as the Romans do when in Rome, if doing as the Romans do, does not hurt anyone anyway.

    Jocelyn, you have about covered the stratagems. But I still feel giving an empty hongbao is not only devious but obviously also mean and cheapskate too.

  11. This story ended up being a lively debate during family dinner last night. Our family consensus was that both the siblings and the groom’s family are at fault.

    As already established, the siblings are being too selfishly unyielding. Every wedding regardless of culture has its unique quirks that are important to the bridge and groom but not necessarily all the guests, but you just do it because presumably, you care about those people and it’s their special day.

    ALSO, and this is not to be overlooked, complicating this dilemma are the expectations of the groom and his parents. They too are being selfishly unyielding in their own obsession with “mianzi.” My parents, who are Chinese, were saying that hongbao is traditionally a gift from the older generation to younger. There’s no expectation for say, a 25yr old man to give $$$ to his 35yr old brother. Also, idk what area of China this groom’s family is from but in my local culture, wedding hongbao from the family is usually given in private. Only friends and coworkers bring money to the wedding and make a show of giving it at the wedding to the bride/groom during the toasts. If the bride’s parents had refused to give any kind of gift or money, then ok I can understand the groom being mildly offended. However, I never heard of a culture where it’s mandatory for a woman’s siblings to make monetary contribution to her wedding. Their travel costs are already their gift to her. I have a very strong suspicion that the groom’s parents think that because the bride is a foreigner, her family has to make a big production of giving a lot of money so that they can show-off to their friends how awesome it is that their son married up into a wealthy western family. But most likely, this woman’s siblings are just regular middle-class people who don’t have extra $$$ just lying around. Probably the trip to China was already a big investment and sign of support for them.
    Both sides just need to get over themselves and realize what a wedding is supposed to be about – celebrating the union of 2 people they love.

  12. I share the same tought as hz.
    Your groom and his parents are being selfish too. I know this money thing is important in Chinese culture but they have to understand that your family is from another culture. Don’t be so hard on your siblings. You should combine both traditions and not just focus on pleasing the chinese. Although thats a personal decision…. I hope you find te best solution and enjoy your wedding preparation and wedding day.

  13. Hi Stacy:

    I am sorry that you are caught in this terrible dilemma. I have followed this blog for about a month now and found the people here warm and wonderful. Jocelyn has done a great job! This is the first time I post something because I hope my suggestion and comments would help you decide how to overcome the dilemma and truly enjoy the greatest day in your life and your husband’s life.

    I think when you read suggestions or comments from people who post in response to your plea to Jocelyn for help, it may be useful to know the background of the poster to help you put the suggestions or comments in the proper perspective. I am a Chinese man who was born and raised in Hong Kong. I came to the U.S. for college education after reaching adulthood and have lived in the U.S. for about 40 years now. I have attended countless number of Chinese weddings and American weddings, so I think I know their customs and traditions. I consider myself to be relatively open minded (an euphemism for being westernized). My own wedding ran into some problem between my mom and my inlaws so that they refused to speak to each other after the wedding. I sincerely do not wish that your inlaws and your siblings would not be in speaking terms after your wedding.

    Option 3 (Not Invite Your Siblings)
    I think this option likely would not work because you apparently have already invited the siblings. Withdrawing the invitations now would cause further strain between you and your siblings. There is a high probability that they would fault you more than what they have done so far.

    Option 1 (Give Empty Hongbao Envelopes)
    I agree with Michelle and Ordinary Malaysian that this option is very problematic. I am sure that your inlaws will have a system of keeping track of who gives which hongbao. If they find out that the empty hongbao envelopes came from your siblings, your inlaws would likely view your siblings as cheapskates and, even worse, hold them with low esteem. I would never attend a Chinese wedding with an empty hongbao envelope. As Michelle stated, it is better to not give any hongbao than give an empty hongbao envelope.

    Option 2 (You Give Hongbao Stuffed with Money on Behalf of Siblings)
    I also agree with Michelle that this is the best option. Regardless the option you choose, it is better that you discuss with your husband. Treat this as the first crisis in your married life that you and him need to deal with. Convince him that the option you choose is the best compromise that you can come up with (no ideal solution here). He should be able to understand that you are put between a rock and a hard place, and be fully supportive of what you want to do to save your wedding or, more importantly for the long term, to prevent the relationship between your inlaws and your siblings from turning sour. If you choose option 2, it is better to get your husband on board. Prepare the hongbao with the names of your siblings and give the hongbao to the person who handles hongbao for your inlaws and say that your siblings gave them. Of course, to avoid potential complication, the person who handles hongbao should not be told the truth. Don’t tell your siblings (just drop the topic from any future conversations with them from now on). With option 2, the Chinese customs would be followed in the eyes of your inlaws. and your siblings would think that their principle (with which I don’t agree) are upheld.

    Best of luck to you. Wising you an unforgettably successful and smooth wedding!

    @Sveta: Hongbao are red paper envelopes (Jocelyn had a photo above that shows several hongbao) for holding cash, intended as a gift in many ceremonies and important occasions for Chinese families. You stated that you have zero chance of getting married. Please do not think like that. Although I do not know you, I believe that it will be your turn to get married, may be even in China, sooner or later. The right one would come along sometime. How would I know? I know because from your posts in the past, I sense that you are a warm person with a caring disposition. A personality like that is what a lot of men in China would very much like the wife-to-be to have.

    @Sara: Congratulations for your wedding planned with one in Finland and one in Guanzhou. Your inlaws and husband are Cantonese. I was brought up in Hong Kong so I am familiar with the Cantonese customs. Your younger sister and brother are not required to give any hongbao in your Chinese wedding. If they want to follow the local customs, each of them can give a hongbao with a token 10 RMB provided by you. I am sure your inlaws would be very happy to see that and be appreciative of what your sister and brother give. Your inlaws would understand and not blame your sister and brother for the meager amount because they do not earn any money and they are not required to give. When I got married, my younger sister gave a hongbao too, even though I would not blame her for not giving any hongbao. Good luck to your planning.

    1. @David(HK)

      Thank you for confirming that in Cantonese culture at least my sister and brother are not required to give a hongbao. Even coming to China to participate in my wedding is a lot of money for my sister who pays for her self.

      Btw, I’m only have one wedding and that’s the one in Guangzhou. We don’t plan to have another wedding in Finland.

  14. Personally, I wouldn’t invite them. They sound like they are going to resent you for the costs involved (now and well into the future), and quite possibly ruin your beautiful wedding day. Giving them the option not to attend also has it’s own problems (e.g., you resenting them!) but at least you will be able to marry your wonderful man in an atmosphere of respect and happiness and joy. It sounds like your family are already psyched up and ready for the trip though, so you might need to offer an alternative event to compensate. Maybe a faux small reception in your home town one day. The alternative is to actually sever ties with your family, which is always a real option, and in some cases necessary for your own sanity. They sound difficult, selfish and uncompromising. This attitude and behaviour will only continue to complicate your life as you move through the joys of marriage and family. Your wedding day sounds like it’s going to be simply perfect and beautiful. Enjoy everything about it!! 🙂

  15. I have to agree with both hz and David. The best solution in this case, to save everyone arguments and “face”, would be to stuff your own money in a red enveloppe on behalf of the siblings and hand it in separately to your parents in law or whoever is taking care of the hongbao. Don’t mention this to your siblings or parents in law either.

    It’s great her siblings will actually be making the trip to China but I would not expect anyone to give hongbao on top of the travel costs. However, it is not right of them to make Stacy feel bad about her own wedding! They should also try to be more open-minded about the Chinese traditions. However, it can’t be forced on others. Just let them pay for their trip and leave it at that.

    My fiancé and I received some hongbao from his family and Chinese friends way in advance of our wedding, in private. We will be holding a tea ceremony at his parents’ place on the morning of our wedding and I expect hongbao will be handed then instead of the reception later that evening.

    To Ordinary Malaysian: Unfortunately, this story is highly probable. If my own upcoming wedding in May was in China instead of Canada and that we followed tradition as Stacy is doing and had family traveling to China – which would actually be a problem in itself for them and would cause arguments despite the wedding that’s supposed to be a joyous occasion – I know I would get the exact same reaction.

    In fact, I received resistance from my own sibling on the month we had originally intended to marry on (late September of 2013). Long story short, we actually ended up pushing our wedding day to May 2014 as a result of my own sibling who made me feel bad about my own wedding (!) Contrary to Stacy, there was an issue on their part about being IN the wedding party. I do not understand it either, but this type of behavior unfortunately happens in many families. It causes too much sadness and too much stress for no reason.

    Good luck, Stacy. I sympathize with your situation. Try to push through all the negativity surrounding you. It is yours and your fiancé’s wedding and no one else’s. I am happy for you that your wedding will be celebrated in China, surrounded by tradition. Congratulations!

  16. wow, hz, great insight / interpretation on the Chinese family side!

    possible problem with option 1:
    Some weddings I’ve been to (Taiwan family) have a reception table with some family cousins where guests can sign the guest book and also the cousins accept the hongbaos. After the cousins note who gave which envelope and then when guests aren’t looking, check inside and record the amount. I think this is so that the wedding couple know how much they are obligated to everyone else who came, and how much they should expect to pay at the giver’s (family’s) wedding. The idea is to be reciprocal.

    So I think the best solution is the various option 2 ideas given above, or say they gave already in private, or actually, hey Option 4:

    * * * TELL THE TRUTH. * * *

    “We felt that because of the expense of international travel and hotels, that their presence at our wedding was enough of a gift.”

    More, less eloquently: We appreciate that it is traditional for Chinese people to have this custom but we have different customs in [native country], and I am happy to be marrying into this culture, and it is enough that my family accepts my decision (under breath: sorta). I don’t expect my husband’s family to adopt Western traditions and I don’t need my family to be suddenly Chinese.

    Frankly, I’m not very impressed with your fiance’s non-attempt to compromise, understand, and accept your family either. “Instead of ganging up on me and making me feel worse by telling me how disrespectful my family is, what other solutions do you propose we come up with as a team to resolve this conflict with our family?” Ack, actually no don’t say that first half— that’s confrontational. How about, “When you use words like ‘slap in the face to all Chinese’, it makes me feel like you’re saying that my family is deliberately insulting you, rather than this being a (not-unexpected) cultural misunderstanding. What other solutions… etc.”

  17. Hi!
    Do not stress out too much, making it a bigger problem will just cause you stress.

    Look, at our wedding we did not touch even one single hongbao (this goes for Option 1).
    There was a table at the restaurant, and there T’s cousins and mom were in charge of giving the empty hongbaos, people would fill in the hongbaos’s and get one wedding gift (they could choose from 2 different ones), then write the name in a list.

    During that time we were going table by table offering baijiu to all our guests.
    When we finished the wedding we continued the ceremony at home and in the evening my mother in law took the bag with the hongbaos and the “wedding accounting book” and organized it, we didn’t touch it at all during the whole process.

    How did we do with the money from western relatives?
    First of all, one note. We paid 100% of the wedding. This could make a difference in the way of thinking in this case.
    Only my dad came to China. Therefore he did as he pleased. Days before the wedding he gave us money and a small gift for the wedding day. He is my dad and I don’t give him any rule. I don’t give rules to my parents in law either when my dad comes. Family is family. They see and do.
    When my mother in law asked, we explained to her, we came all the way from Shanghai to Shandong and is not the best option to carry cash with us. We also explained to her that since we both paid 100% of the wedding there is no need to include my dad’s part in the accounting book (after all, he has no plans to marry in a future and we won’t need to pay him back if he has babies or marries 😉 no need to keep track on it ).
    (Comment here: We didn’t tell her the amount either, this is not for hiding it from her, but in order to protect her. At the moment she asked her hongbao was still pending and we didn’t want her to feel pressure. If the gap is big she will never know and she will never ever feel bad about it.)
    The rest of my relatives didn’t come but they sent gifts and my aunt went to the place I booked our wedding bands and paid them. She somehow knew I would buy it in our village.
    It doesn’t matter if the wedding is Chinese. I won’t push anyone to proceed in a way they don’t feel comfortable with (cash or gifts).
    Is already a big thing that relatives come to a wedding, which is in a different country, with different food, music….let’s give them the coice of doing with their money (they work for it) what they want.

  18. It seems it also depends on the people when it comes to hongbaos. My parents-in-law and family didn’t mind at all that my parents didn’t give any hongbao however many friends of the mother-in-law were shocked how European people can be so cheap, but then again my parents had to travel all the way to China and payed the whole engagement dinner + payed nearly the whole wedding in Europe…(crazy cheap European people). I guess we should just have prepared a little red pcoket for them just so the family friends have nothing to bad to bicker about Westerners.

    However in case of Stacy it is really “ugly” how the family behaves, as they refuse straight on any kind of foreign traditions. Either they accept that weddings are different in other countries or they can leave it (just my opinion when I would be in such situation).

  19. Listen ! Giving or not giving red envelope , it’s up to them. Don’t expect it then you’ll be fine. You always expect you will have to come up with more money period. This is not a business you know. This is not like selling your daughter away.

  20. Unless the family is expecting a BIG hongbao, I don’t understand the resistance to giving one. It is just a cultural tradition. It is not right or wrong for or against anyone. Like the giving of gifts at Christmas. If you can’t afford anything, still give a small token amount. The family should understand your situation. If the family is not happy, then they are the ‘ugly ones’. Like we are all so fond of saying, it is not the monetary worth of the gift itself that matters – it is the thought behind the giving. For the Chinese, the giving and receiving of a red packet on certain occasions, after all, is an important cultural symbol gesture.

  21. @Bruce: Of course, it is up to the siblings whether to give any hongbaos with their money. No one has suggested forcing the siblings to give hongbaos. The fact that Stacy has explained to them about the Chinese custom, and yet they refused to follow the custom is the end of the matter as far as they are concerned. As Laura has advised Stacy: “Do not stress out too much, making it a bigger problem will just cause you stress.” Option 2 advocated by Michelle, Chang, Nathalie and me would be consistent with Laura’s advice. I hope Stacy’s fiance has not told his parents about the refusal of Stacy’s siblings.

    @Sara: My apology for stating that you have also planned a wedding in Finland. My memory is not as good as it in the past. The fact is that planning for one wedding is already big enough a headache. Hope things are going well in your wedding plan.

  22. Thought #1 –

    “its a slap in the face for China and all Chinese people if they don’t give the hongbao “mei mianzi’ [no face]”

    OK that’s ridiculous.

    I’m sorry. Yes, it’s rude. Yes, it’s insensitive. Yes, it causes the family to lose face.

    But COME ON. I feel like every little thing some people (really, just some, most people are reasonable folks) get offended by in China is a “slap in the face for China and all Chinese people” and I’m sorry but no. No it’s not. IT JUST IS NOT, that’s preposterous. It’s over-the-top drama-llama BS. It angers me more because China also seems to run its foreign policy this way. “If you don’t delicately respect every demand we make on every other country in the world and ignore our human rights abuses it deeply hurts the feelings of the entire Chinese people!” FEH! NO!

    Sometimes people – especially foreigners but also other Chinese – do things you don’t like for whatever reason (sometimes just because they’re jerks, sometimes because they don’t get the culture, sometimes because they’re right and you’re being a baby) and you JUST. HAVE. TO. SUCK. IT. UP. It’s not about you and it’s not about “China”. It’s about them. Blowing this out of proportion to be a “slap in the face of China” is even dumber than some politician saying the same thing because some other country won’t give China what it wants.

    JESUS. Seriously! STOP IT ALREADY. It just makes you (your fiance or whever says it, not “you” the letter-writer) look bad.

    Thought #2 will be in another comment.

  23. Thought #2 – Actually, Jocelyn, you’re wrong about it being rude to open hongbao in front of others. Certainly if it’s between two people you would not open it in front of the giver, but at Taiwanese weddings someone other than the couple takes the hongbao and hands it to someone else who may more or less immediately open it to do the “bookkeeping”, which the entire family knows (most of them will end up seeing the book). Word does get around if your hongbao isn’t fat enough (especially if the person getting married has already given you a hongbao for your wedding, and you’re supposed to give the same plus a bit more) or is too fat (it would be weird for a friend to give a large amount that usually a close family member would give), or is an inauspicious number.

    So how about you just stuff the hongbao with the money you would have used to pay for their hotel and excursions in Beijing, give the envelopes to them and have them present it.

    Or if they won’t even do that, take Jocelyn’s suggestion and put the hongbao in there yourself. If anybody asks say “oh, foreigners, haha, they didn’t know they were supposed to present the hongbao here so they gave them to me early, here you go!”

    Then just drop it. Really not worth the drama. Especially as, well, I get your point about it being rude not to present a hongbao at a wedding, but taken the wrong way it could look like you’re hitting them up for money. Which obviously you’re not, but this is likely rubbing them the wrong way.

    Thought #3 – could also be that they – as Westerners – believe one should NEVER give money as a wedding gift, even if it’s a culture-difference thing, and think this whole ‘hongbao’ thing is a ruse to hit them up for cash. Perhaps if it were a wedding they were more accustomed to, where people give toasters and towels and such, it wouldn’t be such a big deal. Dunno? People do think these things and they can get their culture buttons pushed by these differences.

    Which is to say, just stuff the envelopes yourself and drop it. Forget it. No need for drama. It’s really not worth it. Nobody’s “slapping China” or slapping anybody.

  24. I agree with Jenna, 100%.
    Is not a slap in the face, let’s stop using those expressions to get what we want people, is a way to say ” you do it, or do it”, no slap to the country or the people.

    As I said before, and Jenna confirmed, plenty of hands touch the hongbao, so no empty hongbao. We didn’t touch them at all. And everyone saw them, actually relatives freely checked the accounting book and I remember a close friend going through it (when we still did not have time) and reminding us about the biggest number(800rmb) and the smallest ones (50rmb).

    I also don’t think is a big deal if you just say they gave them to you in advance, no reason to include those hongbao in the accounting. After all, when you go to their wedding I don’t think you will go through the chinese accounting book and check how much they gave you. So is not something you will actually use for your western friends or relatives. It can be avoided.

    In our family they also opened the hongbao inmediatly, no one thought it was rude or strange.

    But as I asked T again, all close friends know how it works and they don’t want their money to be on the hongbao table. They all came to us and slip it in our pockets. (Amounts where higher and they knew parents in law would take part of it).
    T’s mom didn’t think that was strange either, she laughed when she saw how big the pockets were.

    In fact, my mother in law did not give any hongbao. At the end of the wedding day, we were at home and after doing all the accounting she took us into the bedroom and gave us money and a talk about starting a life together. No red envelope.
    She actually said: ” This is for you to start a new life together. I just feel sorry I can’t provide you with more.

    Sister and brother in law called us days before the wedding to say they would not attend. After questioning many times they said that due to all the surgeries the baby needed to have they wouldn’t be able to give us anything.
    Reply was: Come to the wedding because you don’t need to bring anything. Just bring yourself and be hungry.

    See? No slap in the face and they are Chinese.

  25. A whole lot of stuff I find wrong here. Sorry but any bride who says she is not a bridezilla is fooling herself. Years ago I worked in the wedding industry and the term is almost always used appropriately. I think when you say “my wedding” you lose all rights to say you are not a bridezilla.

    Now as far as the hongbao goes I think you’re forgetting just what they are going through. You obviously know taking a trip to China involves a lot more than just buying a plane ticket. You need a passport, common in Europe but not the US. You also have to get a visa. The plane tickets are probably more expensive than the majority of the hongbao your guests will give.

    Since you mentioned this will be a traditional Chinese wedding, will your fiancé give your family a huge hongbao as a dowry? Do your parents know this tradition? What about your western traditions? Are his family members more than willing to go along with them? A mother-son dance or his parents dancing with the bridal party? My guess is that they will be about as willing to go along with this about as much as your siblings do. However if they don’t, it will be an insult to your country & all its citizens.

    I’m surprised that an empty hongbao was even suggested. If this was seen by anyone it would be quite the insult. Imagine a western wedding with an empty box at the gift table or an empty envelope. Why even bother risking that?

    I got married in China and some Chinese friends from Hong Kong came up to see me when they heard about it. They gave me a hongbao and apologized it for being so small but my Chinese wife & I didn’t care at all. We were just happy that they were able to come at the last minute. My family came but my sister couldn’t make it because she was in the hospital. I would have loved for her & her husband to have come so that the whole family was together but it wasn’t meant to be.

    You should consider what is really important getting both your families together for a once in a lifetime event or some quick cash you’ll forget about soon after.

    1. I don’t agree that just because you call it “my wedding”, that automatically makes you a bridezilla. I mean, who else’s wedding is it?

      I think it’s hard to say who’s right or wrong. But I do think that it’s a difficult situation because both sides (Chinese side and Western side) think they’re right and refuse to compromise. I don’t think Stacy cares about the cash at all – I think the dilemma is that culturally, it’ll look bad. Even if both families are together, it’ll be super awkward if her fiancee’s family regards her family as having bad manners for not giving a hongbao.

      Even in the States, if you fly to another state for a wedding, you still bring a gift. I know it’s not the same as getting a visa and flying to China, but if it were family, I’d hope that maybe some extra effort or thought would be put into trying to understand the situation.

  26. “Any bride who says she is not a bridezilla is fooling herself?”

    Really? So all women who get married (which is most women) are the same? Come on. Anyone who thinks they can lump all women together and assign them a pejorative adjective is fooling themselves.

    This attitude that every woman who gets married is a “bridezilla” is really insulting to women.

    The letter writer doesn’t sound like a bridezilla at all (although her fiance sounds like he’s being ridiculous from his “this is a slap in the face of all of China” quote). And if you think all women are bridezillas, then your work in the “wedding industry” exposed you to the wrong people.

    The women who treat a wedding like any other big event and plan well as they consider the comfort of their guests, well, they tend to avoid the wedding industry entirely, or as much as they can. You won’t see as many of them in professional florists’ shops, meeting with wedding photographers, at bridal gown stores, fancy bakeries or touring hotel ballrooms.

    You want to meet brides who are not bridezillas? Don’t look at brides running the “Wedding Industrial Complex” gauntlet – look for them among your sane, sensible female friends (you do have those, don’t you?) who just want to throw a nice party to celebrate a milestone.

    And remember, the bridezillas you did meet, Sabata, paid your salary while you worked in that industry.

  27. Of course not every bride is that way. However that term doesn’t get thrown around on a whim. Usually when a bride hears that she’s done things to earn it. It typically takes a lot for family or friends to even say that directly to a bride. A certain level of selfishness is expected and a lot of people will let it slide.

    Back then I met a lot of real cool couples and they typically referred to the wedding as “our”. They were able to take setbacks or changes in plans in stride. The brides that tended to use “my” were the ones you knew would be problems.

    BTW I agree with bringing a gift. I would expect the siblings to bring something.

  28. Eh, sometimes I use “my” wedding to refer to it if there’s a relevant story to tell, but the people listening haven’t met my husband (students, usually), especially if they’re not native speakers and not at a high level and so may have to think for a second about who “our” is.

    I just don’t think it’s that big a deal. You seem to have something of an axe to grind (which, hey, we all do – I get really upset about sexism especially when it’s excused away with ‘but that’s our culture’, as though that culture can’t exist without sexism, which is BS, of course it can). Otherwise I don’t see what the point of bringing it up is – at least to me, the letter writer did not come off as a bridezilla, if anything, she is trying too hard to placate her fiance.

    As for “family and friends calling a bride a bridezilla”, my experience was quite different. I tried very hard (yes, I, because I know how to plan a party and my husband is a quiet guy who doesn’t have those event planning skills) to plan a great party our guests would love, thinking of their comfort and what we needed to provide. I went out of my way to make sure the hotel was near the venue so people could drink and not worry about driving, that there were good bathrooms and seats available for the sick and elderly, that everyone got a full meal and full range of drink options, that the timing worked for people, that singles had a shared hotel room to save money and those who didn’t drive had a ride from the train station, that my bridesmaids and my husband’s groomsmen did not have to spend a lot of money (we didn’t do hair/nails/makeup beyond what people wanted to do themselves, and I had them all pick whatever dress they liked including choosing something they owned; the men only had to wear dark suits, no tux rentals) that vegetarians and my cousin with celiac had food options, that we cut out the boring ‘wedding crap’ (the dances nobody cares about, the flower-and-undergarments tossing). We threw a huge rehearsal dinner so our many long-distance guests would be entertained and fed when they arrived. We didn’t register and didn’t expect gifts (as expats, boxed gifts would have been impractical anyway), although we did get them (mostly money, which we hadn’t asked for).

    And yet, I got called a “bridezilla” because I dared – DARED! – to wear a fuchsia dress that I paid for myself and wouldn’t bow to pressure to wear white, and chose brightly colored decorations instead of some combination of white, silver, gold or pastel, and, being an atheist, wouldn’t choose a Bible verse as a reading.

    So I am completely not on board with “if someone calls you a bridezilla and you refer to it as ‘your’ wedding then you’re probably a problem bride”.

    Come on. 拜託!

  29. Jenna, point taken. You sound like you put a lot of thought and effort into your wedding, wouldn’t dream of calling you that. Your attention to detail and consideration for others is quite the contrast to the letter writer.

  30. Hm, I don’t want this to be taken the wrong way but I have to agree with the few who have said that perhaps the groom and his family’s response and attitude is the problem, not the hongbao envelopes themselves.

    My husband and I also decided to have a Chinese wedding ceremony in his hometown. My mother-in-law also planned all of it. Of course they wanted my family to come… and here’s the thing… realizing that my family are foreigners for whom it would cost a lot of money to get visas and fly to China, they offered to pay for everything as good hosts (hotel, food, transportation) for my family and any FRIENDS who could come. Now my Chinese family is not rich by any means – they are simply hospitable. It seemed to me that it wasn’t even going out of their way, it was simply an “of course we will host them if they can only buy a plane ticket to come” thing. They also hosted their out of town relatives like aunts and uncles, cousins… I was more concerned about the cost than my mother-in-law. But they told me it was normal. In the end my family couldn’t come – but 4 friends could, and they were hosted at our wedding hotel by my in-laws. She even got them all presents to welcome them to China. From what my husband says this is all pretty standard… no hongbao were expected… they were even allowed to be my “bridesmaids” (of course there was nothing really for them to actually DO as bridesmaids, but they all dressed up and followed me around all day and were in all the pictures).

    I guess I was just kind of surprised by the letter that the siblings are expected to buy plane tickets, make travel plans such as getting visas, AND pay for hotels and it sounds like food and everything else, and in addition give hongbao. Not my experience visiting anyone in China at all – I’ve had to fight to pay for anything.

  31. to Stacy, do not invite them. They do not NEED to be invited. I feel that if you invite your family and they’re going to be ungrateful, disrespectful people at your OWN wedding, they can go *insert inappropriate words here*. Your wedding should be the best and one of the best days of your life. Don’t let anyone ruin it for you!

  32. Do your siblings have enough money to travel to China..are they borrowing money? People think white skin = money, be it Asian or white. I saw this in a midwestern town..a young man working in a Bank married the daughter of a HK multimillionaire and moved to California to run their business. On a recent visit back home he was asked whether his wife is a poor mail order bride from China and for how much bride price she was sold by her father…in other words, whites are richer than Asians whether it is supported by statistics or not.

  33. It is not too late yet. I suggest you to run away from this kind of man and his family as far as possible. Your marriage will not last long.

  34. I don’t think it is a contrast to the letter-writer. She doesn’t seem to personally care if her siblings won’t give hongbao – she’s worried because her future in-laws seem to be gearing up for a fight over this.

    To me that means she’s putting a lot of thought into the wedding, and is trying her best to consider others. She understands that her siblings are paying a lot to attend, and is also trying not to get too judgemental about her in-laws’ attitude (although I still think her fiance’s is beyond the pale – if anything, there’s a groomzilla here, not a bridezilla). There’s no “culture difference” that makes his remarks acceptable.

  35. hahha You cant just stuff money and have them give it to you, that kind of formality is just going to look weird to them, probably fine with the chinese people there but your family will think weird of you. And tell me if I am wrong, but your family members sound like they might gossip this behind your back, yeah like that Stacy ever since she met this Chinese guy she’s been this and that. What kind of message are you sending. Best thing to do is pay for their hotels, and part of the plane fair if they cant get a deal, which is not hard at all. If you really want to get back at them, book the worst hotels and plane seats haahahaha

  36. Money isn´t the issue here. It´s the sense of belonging that matters. When the foreign bride is the only one not receiving or allowed to give red envelopes, she feels unwelcome in the family.

  37. hello! I’m Singaporean Chinese so my context is a little different and perhaps not so traditional. From what I know, the giving of the red packet is more symbolic of extending your blessing and well wishes for the couple, given from older to younger family members, which is why most of the time the sum is always some sort of lucky number or ending with an 8 – maybe if you tried that tack with your siblings instead, So it’s more about them giving you their blessing rather than any sort of money, which is where I think your husband might be coming from in terms of Mei Mian Zi if your siblings don’t even give you that ‘blessing’.

    They can just put in a token amount $8 for luck, or use it to write a note or a card to you instead. in Singapore it’s generally standard to try and at least cover the cost of your dinner at least, and people usually give more generously to family members or close friends, but since your family aren’t Chinese, you can always write that (them not giving a large sum or any money at all) off as them not being Asian or understanding the whole Asian culture, which I don’t think most people will question or be surprised by.

  38. I came back to the post for updates.
    How did you handle this?
    Just let you know, my father gave the money to us days before the ceremony and no one from our Chinese family was there, just didn’t want to travel so far and long with money when we could leave it in our apartment. No one asked, they all assumed for sure my dad gave money. As my mother in law did, she didn’t give hongbao till we were home that night, after doing all the accounting. We explained to her my dad gave money appart ad can’t be included in that accounting.

    Recently T’s cousin calles as to ask if he could borrow money from us, he needs to give money and presents to his gf’s parents and doesn’t have enough cause the amount went up. He borrowed 6,000rmb from us, and other quantities we dont know from other cousins.

    Even though he borrowed money and we can’t attend the wedding a hongbao was expected. My mother in law explained the money he borrowed and the hongbao are different stories. Therefore we transfered 6,000rmb and sent a hongbao (instead of telling him, take the amount out of those 6,000rmb).
    Hongbaos were expected anyways from all of the cousins.

    Maybe you just talk to them, but for sure no one should make a big deal out of it. Traveling to China is expensive, your parents in law and your husband and yourself shouldn’t think that will affect the whole Chinese culture, cause that’s a lame excuse, it won’t.
    Compromise and all will be fine.

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