Is Betrothal Money a Must in China?

Posted on May 10, 2013 by in Ask an Expert, Dating Advice

Ping Kam

It’s the tradition for the man to send the lady’parents betrothal money to show respects and ask permission to get engaged or married with their daughter in China. However, the amount is always a matter confusing him. What’s the proper amount? And is betrothal money the must? Let me explain with Jake’s story.

Question:

Hi Rebecca,

I have met what seemed like a great lady on ChnLove. She is 39, divorced with a daughter, very attractive and sweet. We corresponded everyday for a few months. I was planning a second trip to China to meet her parents and marry her. Then she told me that in order to marry her, I would be required to pay her parents some betrothal money. The amount of money that she said her family wanted was equal to about $ 30,000 dollars, which is enough to buy a new car of reasonable quality. In addition, she said that I would be required to financially support her family in China every month. In western culture, we don’t have this betrothal money concept. I felt that I would be taken advantage of by her and her family, so it was really disappointing. Can you offer some advice on this betrothal money issue? Is it really a common practice in China?

Jake

 

Expert Answer:

Hi Jake,

First of all, congratulations on finding your future wife! As to your question, let me explain a little about this betrothal money tradition in China. Traditionally, a man is required to give a certain amount of monetary gift to his future bride’s family when the couple is engaged. The exact amount is something that you can bargain/debate about, and generally reflects that you acknowledge the time, effort, and cost in raising the daughter. In response to this, some time after the betrothal gift, the “dowry”, which historically contained possibly jewelry and practical items, is given to the future groom.

Today, the betrothal money is still a custom in some parts of China, mostly in the countryside. Normally, it does not have to be a huge amount of money. Just something to show the lady’s parents respect. It is something for the parents to show the other relatives how smart there daughter is for choosing a good man, and to show the relatives how good a son inlaw you will be. They will probably use the money for the wedding reception if you plan to get married in China. Some families may expect a larger sum from you if they are poor and need you to help out financially.

In actual fact, this betrothal money is generally limited to the first marriage. So in your case, it is totally unreasonable to expect you to pay such a huge amount. It is unfortunate that foreigners in general do tend to be taken advantage of in this situation as they are often seen as filthy rich by Chinese people. So this is going to be one of those times where you have to discuss, and maybe even negotiate with your lady, explaining your actual financial situation and emphasizing that your future home together must come first. We suggest that you do offer something as a token of respect, but that should not be astronomical. You do not have to comply with the eastern traditions, but please be respectful and mindful of it, considering you wish to marry a lady born and raised in the eastern culture, and who has a family that you will be merging with, who lives in the eastern culture. We truly hope that you can work things out with your lady and start a happy family together!

All the best!

Rebecca

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