Given China’s immense history and the fifty-six ethnic groups encompassed in its boundaries, it should come as no surprise that wedding traditions vary from area to area. The weddings in the cities are coming more and more to resemble Western weddings.

Historically, the goal of a marriage was the joining and strengthening of two families, and the incorporation of the bride into the groom’s family. Marriages were – and sometimes still are – arranged. Therefore, the most important players in the marriage arrangements were the parents, not the bride and groom themselves. The criteria for choosing a bride varied depending on the wealth and status of the groom’s family. For a wealthy family, the important thing was that the bride bear many sons to continue the family (though this is no longer true in China). For a poorer family, it was critical that the bride be able to work hard to contribute to the family’s livelihood and to give birth to many sons who would also help out. Under the circumstances, wealthy families invariably sought to marry their sons to the daughters of other wealthy families, while the daughters of poor families married into a family of similar standing.

Although wealth and social status many still play a very important role in choosing a mate, education, character, and personality are increasingly more important to the younger generation. Parents may still try to arrange a relationship, but more often it is classmates, coworkers, teachers, and friends, who will play “matchmaker”.

The wedding negotiations and the ceremony itself were matters of great formality. Even today, most marriages incorporate the traditions handed down from generations ago.