过大礼 Guo Da Li : All you need to know about Betrothal Gifts

There are just so many different school of thoughts when it comes to 过大礼 (Guo Da Li). In fact Mr Oops and myself were clueless right from the start. It was through reading and understanding before we finally come to an agreement on the type of betrothal ceremony we want.

Our Guo Da Li
First up,

I respect the intention of having of a betrothal ceremony. But the most annoying thing about preparing betrothal gifts is the massive number of items required for a "complete" ceremony.

That sure gets on one's nerves.

If you want to have a better understanding of the betrothal gifts and the meaning of each individual item (specifically for the Teochews and Hokkiens), I feel that this website by topphotography.com.sg offers the best knowledge thus far. So do hop over to this website if you want the full complete list.

For this post, I'm not going to repeat what many other websites have been saying. I am here to relook at some prominent items in the betrothal gifts and offer you some alternatives.

GROOM SIDE:

A sample of how the betrothal gifts are like from the groom's side
Photo by Qh and Chit

The whole gist of betrothal gifts is meant to impress the bride's family, ask for the hand of marriage and to announce to the "whole kampung" that you are getting married. The type of gifts prepared for the bride's family assures them that the bride will be fed well and taken care well by the groom and his family.

So for the groom, how do you get the essential items at the lowest costs in Singapore?
  • The betrothal basket - Rent it or borrow it for free from those shops selling xibing. These baskets are the last thing you want to purchase because they are ultra bulky and of no use thereafter.
Photo by Qh and Chit

  • Special red packet bearing the bride price and nappy money - Seriously, it's just a larger than normal angpow, with the word 聘金 and 离乳礼金 written on it but these 2 pieces of special ang pow cost a few dollars. My take? Just buy larger angpows and write these words using gold marker. What's most important is the amount inside. Haha.
  • One pair of dragon candles and one pair of phoenix candles and the candle stands
  • A roast pig / A slab of roast pork : The famous place in Singapore would be to get from Tiong Bahru Roasted Pig Specialist. But it's cheaper if you approach the roasted meat stalls at the market area. Usually the Cantonese families will request for a roasted pig as a symbol of the bride's virginity.  But there is no hard and fast rule.
  • 2 bottles of hard liquor: Airport's DFS is the best place to buy alcohol in Singapore.
  • Traditional wedding cakes (喜饼) : I have done 3 detailed posts on Project Xibing on 7 different xibing stores in Singapore. Kindly visit Project Xibing if you want to know more about what where how when and why we buy xibing! 

We got our xibing and son-in-law biscuits from Thye Moh Chan.
  • Jewellery for the bride: Usually for Teochew families, they get 四点金 (4 types of jewellery: earrings, necklace, bracelet and a ring). The Cantonese and Hokkien families will get 龙风镯 ( Dragon and Phoneix Bangles). There are 2 prominent types of gold. 999 gold (pure) are more expensive and valuable with limited designs. However, they are not as durable for wearing as they bend easily. 916k gold is harder as other metals are being mixed into the gold. Therefore, it is more durable for wearing and has more modern designs. However, its value might not be as high as the 999 gold. Gold price fluctuates and I learnt that an additional workmanship fee is charged on top of the gold price! There are also couples who now opted for white gold. 
    Photo by Qh and Chit
  • Double Happiness signs or other wedding symbols: The pricing of double happiness stickers (approximately 30cm in length) in Singapore cost approximately $7 per piece. Smaller ones are going at about $4.90. The more elaborate the sign, the more expensive it will cost. Some will purchase cute wedding sculptures.
  • A red cloth to hang over the door This red cloth is to be hung above the door of the bride's family as a significance that a wedding will be taking place. The bright red colour is an auspicious colour to the Chinese and to dispel any bad luck that may attempt to enter the house. This specific red cloth from the Chinese Wedding Shop was marketed to us as high quality red cloth with handmade flower ball (绣球) and it costs an amazing $99! (-.-) Seriously... just get a simple one from the shops along Chinatown or your neighbourhood area. It should be less than $15 (if bought in Singapore). 
    The epic $99 cloth. Looks normal to me.
  • Food Products : For food products, get them from supermarkets and paste them with double happiness stickers. That will cost much lower than getting direct from wedding shops. Example of food products you may need to consider: Oranges, pig trotters can, dried longan, red dates, lotus seeds etc.
Photo by Qh and Chit

BRIDE SIDE:

For the bride's side, we do a return of wedding gifts (回礼). In ancient times, the return gifts were prepared with 2 intentions: (1) to highlight the wealth of the bride's family so that they are not looked down upon by the groom side and (2) to symbolize fertility and many children. These traditions are still practiced in today's context. These gifts are usually packaged with the bride's dowry. The dowry are basically items whereby the bride will need to use/have after the marriage. 

If you have been to a wedding shop, this is what the bride's family will be asked to buy.


We will get a long lecture from the promoter on the meaning and symbols of every single item. It's so important that nothing should be missed out (according to them). This will cost at least $150 and above in Singapore.
  • Portioned amount of the Bridal Price received: Amount is decided by the bride's family
  • Jewellery for the Bride: Similar to the groom side, the bride may get some jewellery from her own family.
  • Gifts which symbolizes fertility of the bride: This is probably the most interesting point in a bride's return gift. We need almost 10 items to symbolize the bride is fertile. It goes from chopsticks, ruler, bedside lamps, 4 types of plastic tubs/cups, toothpaste and toothbrushes etc. These items are also prominently the ones to be left in the stores after the wedding. For some families, they skip these physical items altogether and replace them with an angpow of similar value.
The symbol for早生贵子
Cost at Chinese Wedding Shop: $38.00
The symbol for 添丁发财
  • Gifts which symbolizes lasting relationship between the couple: Notably, the sewing kit. I remember the promoter telling me that the scissors is intentionally wrapped in red paper so that the sharp edges are not revealed.
Cost in Singapore's Chinese Wedding Shop : $28
  • A new set of bedsheets for the couple: We spend on our bedsheets since this is something we will be sleeping at a daily basis. We bought Egyptian cotton bedsheets with a thread count of 1000. These types of bedsheets may be pricier but they get more and more comfortable after every wash. A bright colour, usually red will be suitable for the wedding.
  • A new set of bowls, tea cups and teapot: These will be used during the tea ceremony and feeding of tang yuan and eggs on the actual day.
One set of such teacup cost approximately $40 if I remember correctly.
  • Gifts for the Groom: From the in-laws to their son-in-laws, items can be a belt, wallet, new clothes or some simply just give an angpow labelled 女婿礼金. Similarly to the Bridal price, I will say, just use more elaborate angpow and write the words in gold marker. P.S. the other 2 ang pows are supposedly given to bride and groom (one each) on the actual day.
Just 3 pieces cost me $3.80.
  • Affinity Coins (大缘小缘) and dried grass (草头): These affinity coins and dried grass are to be placed around the newly wed's bedroom and living room (tucked inside cupboards, drawers and under the bed) as a symbol that the bride has married into the family and will continue to have good affinity with the family. I got these from the Chinese wedding shop, $1 per pack for the coins and $5.80 for the dried grass. 
  • Food items: Similarly to the groom side, the bride family will prepare specific food items such as oranges, 2 bottles of orange syrup/orangeade, son-in-law biscuits. 
  • Red Umbrella and 2 fans (to be used on the actual day): On the wedding day, the red umbrella is used by the bride's father to shelter the bride from house to the wedding car. The 2 fans, one pretty-looking and one old-looking is carried by the bride till she is inside the wedding car. When the car is moving off, the bride will release one of the fan and received by bride's mother. This symbolizes the bride bringing the good habits with her to the groom's family, leaving the bad behind and at the same time the bride's family acceptance in even her ugly habits. I find it very meaningful! =)
Fans for sale. Lol!

Why is it a pain to prepare betrothal gifts?

We just want to get married with lots of blessings. That's pretty much it. But of course, it gets complicated because we need so many different items to ensure this betrothal  is done "right". It doesn't help when there are "side commentaries" about the purchased items. It also doesn't help when every single item get marked up by wedding shops.No wonder so many couples eventually chose to skip this altogether.

So here's some further tips for you if you are preparing for your Guo Da Li!


  1. Get them from cheaper sources if you have the luxury of time.
    • Consider heading out to neighbouring countries like Malaysia or Batam to purchase your wedding items. A one day trip is all you need. You can be amazed by the amount of savings you get from this "hassle" of travelling. (Consider the wedding shops located inside Johor's KSL, City Square or Taman Sentosa.)
    • If travelling is impossible due to the hectic schedule, do your purchases from Taobao and ship them over at an affordable rate. I shipped over many wedding necessities such as wedding ang pow, wedding stickers and some decor items etc.
  2. Do not wait till the last minute. When you are in a state of anxiety, you basically ended up paying for convenience.
    • Some local shops you can go is Chinese Wedding Shop (located at Ang Mo Kio Jubilee, Bedok Mall, Tampines 1 and Jem) or Shuang Xi Le (located at Square 2 and Sun Plaza).
  3. Different dialect groups have different significant gifts which must be inclusive in the package. The betrothal gifts are usually prepared in accordance to the bride's family dialect group. Never assume, ask both sides of the parents.
  4. If you are able to, replace the required items with an angpow (with cash inside). Think about it, we spent hundreds of dollars on items which are meaningful (yes, I don't deny that) but useless in day to day context. If you were to look at the list above, we will probably be using or eating about 60 percent of the items inside. The rest? We will most probably keep it in the storeroom till its all dusty and dirty before throwing it all away. So, if possible, replace with cash.
Ta-Da, and that's about it. Ending this post with a photo of Qh and Chit's betrothal gifts. I thank them for making this post possible. I also hope this is helpful for many couples who are struggling with Guo Da Li.

A sample photo of the bride's family return gifts and dowry
Photo by Qh and Chit
With Love,
Mrs OOPS.

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