It’s interesting that when I do a generic search on Google by keying the term ‘Lap Chai’ the first few links that appear are related to the Baba and Nyonya. I wasn’t really expecting such search results as I’m aware that the various dialect groups do go through this ceremony as well. They too probably have various items that differ.
Not knowing what to do with my ‘Lap Chai’ list (I must admit that it would be a pity to throw it into the bin) as well as the many weddings that would be taking place in 2014 ( 🙂 ), I thought it would be a perfect idea to document this down.
Loving put together by the mother-in-law as she wanted a customised basket, and so she did one
Arrange For Dinner With A Purpose In Mind
The ‘Lap Chai’ discussion took place about eight months before the Chinese wedding ceremony. This is because we decided to do the ROM and Chinese Ceremony on different dates. Both events took place about six months apart.
As a formality, the husband’s family thought that it would be necessary and respectful to my parents to have a discussion about the Chinese Wedding Ceremony before the ROM, as well as put both families on the same page.what We arranged for a nice Chinese dinner, with both families present (yes – with siblings too).
It wasn’t the first time both families met, so dinner was easy. There wasn’t a need to break the ice. BUT, we all know the purpose of the dinner. Inevitable, there were questions that ran through our minds like when was a great time to break the ice. What I do note is that if you have different personalities within the family, use it to your advance by delegating the task of commencing the wedding discussion. This should be arranged in advance and we were lucky to have T’s sister, who graciously offered to do so 🙂
This tiny arrangement really helped eased the awkwardness. Oh, and good food and service helps too!
Since the ‘Lap Chai’ Ceremony had to be done about one-two weeks before the wedding, one would naturally choose to go with the weekends leading up to the date. Unless, of course both families decide that it was important to choose the best date within that two weeks. Both families must agree on the dates as it would involve both sets of parents and the couple, naturally.
This was followed by a discussion of each item. I’ve further classified the items into two just to show which items are to be bought by the Groom’s family and which are to be bought by the Bride’s family. I’ve also included remarks on what to do with each item. Please note that this list is not exhaustive, and definitely not a MUST to have every item. You would note that some items are to
1. 12 Oranges – To return six oranges
2. Hard Liquor – Replaced with an Ang Bao (written on the packet – Hard Liquor) to represent hard liquor. The bride’s family is to return a small amount
3. Two sets of Dragon & Phoenix Candles – To be kept for prayers on the exact wedding morning
4. Pig Trotters – Replaced with an Ang Bao (written on the packet – Pig Trotters) to represent hard liquor. The bride’s family is to return a small amount.
5. Peanut Candies – To return half of the amount
6. Cash: Ang Bao – To put this crudely, it’s called the eat-shit and wash ang bao. This is to thank the bride’s parents for bringing up the bride-to-be. The Chinese believes that when a lady gets married, she no longer belongs to her original family. And this is to symbolise her ‘entry’ into her new family.
7. Cash: Dowry – For bride’s parents to keep and return an amount as desired
8. 四点金 – For the bride
Bride (all items are to be brought back by the groom)
1. Tea Set
2. Baby Tub
3. Two sets of towel
4. Two sets of tooth brush
5. Two sets of mouth rinse cups
Each item above was discussed down to the quantity (how much should be given and returned). And both families had to agree if they wanted those items, or would rather it be replaced with an Ang Bao instead.
Why the need to decide the quantity? Well, for example the oranges and peanut candies were used as offerings during the wedding day. Therefore, it would not be nice if the groom doesn’t provide enough. It would also not be nice if the bride’s family returned too little.
All items were discussed except for the Dowry amount 😉
That’s quite some work isn’t it!
Actual Day of Lap Chai
On the actual day, the groom brings along the Lap Chai items, neatly packed into two baskets as seen in my customised baskets image above. He could come alone or should the family be more traditional, with an aunt to represent the ‘mei por’ – this is totally not necessary. Anybody can come, except for the groom’s parents.
Why, you may ask?
I found out that it’s because the groom’s parents is supposed to be the ‘big shot’ for the day.
Once the groom presents the gifts, he should leave the bride and parents alone to decide on how much of each item to take. As this was discussed beforehand, there were no surprises 🙂
The bride then packs along a small luggage and follow the groom back to his house to pray to the ancestors.
Earlier, I said that those items were to be used during the wedding for prayers. The image below shows our tiny alter table and the burning of the candles on the actual wedding day. These days our alters are no where compared to what was done previously:
And that my about-to-get-married friends, is the Lap Chai Ceremony (simplified version).