Weddings and gifts

This is part 3 of a conversation I had with a taxi driver who took me to the airport in Shenzhen. The conversation was rather long, so I’ve split it into 6 parts. Click here if you’ve missed part 1 (“Is learning English hard for you?”) or part 2 (“Do you know Deng Xiaoping?”) and stay tuned for part 4-6: “Do you like China?”, “The most important thing is happiness” and “Does Austria also have birth planning?”.

Illustration by Ruth Silbermayr-Song (

Illustration by Ruth Silbermayr-Song (

He: “Are you flying back home?”
I: “I don’t, I’m flying to Kunming, one of my best friends is getting married.”
He: “Do you have a tradition of giving the couple gifts on their wedding?”
I: “We do. Since a couple used to move to their own place when they got married in the past, we would traditionally give them presents such as furniture or kitchen utensils. Nowadays, we often give them money instead, just like hongbao (红包 hóngbāo, little red envelopes with money inside), but without the red envelope.”
He: “Do you just shove the money into their hands then?”
I: “Oh no, that would be considered quite rude. We also put it into an envelope or something else.”
He: “I see.”

Do you have your own gift giving customs? I’d love to read about them in the comments’ section.

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15 thoughts on “Weddings and gifts

  1. Pingback: “Is learning English hard for you?” | China elevator stories

  2. Pingback: “Do you know Deng Xiaoping?” | China elevator stories

  3. In Canada nowadays, more and more people are selecting a store and having a gift registry. Guests can go to the store and buy one of the gifts on the registry for the bride and groom. However, when my husband and I had our Canadian wedding, most guests gave us money in a card. We were returning to Taiwan to live so gifts were not ideal. In Taiwan, we received the traditional red envelope at our reception.


    • I’ve heard that this is quite popular in the US too and I think it’s a great idea – that way, you can choose presents in different price categories and only things you’ll need. It was the same with our Austrian wedding – our suitcases were already filled with our clothes for the wedding and other stuff we needed for our stay, we wouldn’t have been able to carry a lot more than that.


  4. In August I went to a wedding in San Francisco. The bride and groom, who were Chinese American, mentioned on their website that they preferred receiving money for a gift. That sounded rude to me. Then the groom’s father told someone that it was an expensive wedding; therefore, the appropriate gift would be at least $200, the cost of the dinner. That also sounded rude. Usually newlyweds accept whatever they receive with gratitude, although they usually have an online registry, so the guests know what they like.


    • Asking for a certain number does sound quite rude. We also asked for money (well, not in such a direct way and we also didn’t tell people how much they should give us), but I think it was okay since we got married in Austria and live in China – we couldn’t possibly have transported all the presents from Austria to China. If you can’t afford an expensive meal for 200 USD/person than maybe you should look for more affordable options instead of asking the guests to give you so much money? I think it would be rude even in China to ask the guests for a certain amount, except if they ask you how much would be appropriate.


  5. I’ve been to weddings in Austria and was impressed by how people give money. One couple the bride and groom a tree of money with all the bills folded in such a way as to construct the tree. Then, coins were added to the scene. Even simple giving of money consisted of coins in treasure chests, quite often with sand and pirates inside the chest. In the US, the amount would be given with just a simple paper check or maybe cash.


  6. At our wedding we also asked for money, okay, not directly but still. In the invitations we had something like this written “As we have already nearly everything we need for our apartment we don’t need any gifts, however if you want you can help us a bit to finance our honeymoon in form of a Chinese red pocket” and so forth.
    We did not ask for any specific amount and anyone who wanted gave us a little envelope or transfered some money.

    Usualy weddings here also have some online list from some big department stores where you can select want you want to buy for the wedding couple but we decided against it as we planned back then already to move in near future and any extra piece of furniture or kitchen equipment would result in more work 🙂


    • I think for couples on the move this is the only way it makes sense – asking for money instead of things. Also, nowadays many couples already live together before getting married and don’t really need a lot of new stuff.


  7. Pingback: “Do you like China?” | China elevator stories

  8. Some time ago I attended a wedding in the Philippines and they had a tradition that I haven’t seen anywhere else: after the wedding banquet, the bride and groom dance and the guests can go and dance with either him or her, but they have to pay them pinning money on their clothes! So if a lot of people dance with them they end up covered in money, haha.


  9. Pingback: “The most important thing is happiness” | China elevator stories

  10. Pingback: “Does Austria also have birth planning?” | China elevator stories

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