A long road to the wedding day
Getting married involves countless protocols and traditions. For most couples, it's their first walk down the aisle and to find out the details of what to do, wedding experts Coco Wong and Mary Cheung share some advice on navigating through the engagement etiquette.
In Western cultures, the groom would traditionally ask the father of the bride for permission to marry his daughter. 'I don't think anyone does that now,' says Wong, founder of Coco Weddings (www.cocoweddings.com). 'I know men who have asked the bride, then the parents, but not [of a groom] going to the father first without the bride knowing about it.'
Also, a bride-to-be should be diplomatic with the groom if she does not like her engagement ring, Wong says. 'It really depends on the personality of the groom,' she says. 'You don't want to start on the wrong foot. He might be sensitive at the time. It's like saying you have no taste because you chose the wrong ring. I'd wait for a little while, then suggest a style that you like better.'
The engagement party is not an excuse for the parents to invite all their friends, Wong says. 'Nowadays, the groom and bride are more co-hosts,' she says. 'The engagement [celebrations are] no longer for the parents' friends. The bride and groom will also invite their friends.' In the past, one set of parents used to pay for an engagement party, but now both parties pool their resources for the soiree, Wong says.
Wedding organisers should also ensure that anyone who attended the engagement party should also be invited for the big day. 'That's the norm; you would assume those at the engagement party are close friends of the bride and groom, so they will need to be invited to the wedding as well,' Wong says.
Guests can decide for themselves whether to bring a gift to the engagement party, Wong says. 'Some do and some don't,' she says.
Cheung has 15 years' experience as an etiquette expert and wedding consultant at Mary Cheung & Associates (International) (www.marycheung.com.hk). She agrees most grooms won't ask the father of the bride for permission to marry his daughter, but they usually ask for a blessing after a proposal.
Many Hongkongers mix Western customs into their engagement parties, in which parents and grandparents attend the early part of the event and then leave the younger guests to party late into the night. Some high-society families want a big engagement party that may last two to three days and include 50 to 80 guests, Cheung says. Guests at an engagement party may give lai see, or red pockets of money, along with flowers or home decorations, as with wedding gifts, she says.