While every bride's brain spins with to-do-lists and ideas galore, for Chinese brides there are countless extra factors to continue - not least of which centres around what is "auspicious" - and traditional customs begin well before the big day itself.

Of course selecting a fortuitous wedding date comes first as it is imperative to avoid "clashing of luck". The hour of the marriage itself is carefully chosen, with most couples marrying on the half hour to commence their married life on an "upswing" - while the clock's hands are on their way up. Then, for three months before and after the wedding, conventional Chinese brides and grooms must not attend weddings, funerals or wakes, or visit any woman within a month of giving birth.

Chinese sky lanterns

Daniel Griffiths Photography

Chinese weddings are recognisable for their widespread use of everything red, a colour which signifies love, joy and prosperity. Besides the formal wedding gown, invitations and favours are often red (with gold accents), and the couple's families deck out their homes in spectacular shades of red for the big day too.

The "what to wear" dilemma is the same for brides' from every background - but Chinese brides often do it three times over - wearing one dress during the formal ceremony, another for the reception, such as a traditional red cheong-sam, and a sparkling cocktail dress for the latter part of the night.

A short time before the wedding day, brides may go into seclusion with a few close friends in a custom symbolising the loss of friends and family. Leading up to the wedding, the groom's family visits the bride with red baskets and gift boxes containing personal items, then three days before the marriage date the bride's family reciprocates, offering red-wrapped gifts to the groom's family in return.

Having been dressed by his parents, the groom heads to the bride's house on the big day armed with gifts of cash wrapped in red to offer to his wife-to-be's friends to request that they "let her go".

If two brides meet on the wedding day, their luck may clash. If this happens, the matchmakers, or the best men from each bridal party must exchange red packets on the couples' behalf to neutralise any negative effects of the meeting.

The first formality of the day - before the marriage ceremony itself - the Tea Ceremony is the most significant spiritual event of the day. Although there are modern variations on the theme, the groom usually "escorts" the bride to the ceremony - held at the wedding venue or home of the bride or groom - and once they arrive, the fun begins. Only family attend and the bride's family will refuse the groom entry several times until he offers a financial token for her hand, prompting much laughter among the families.

During the tea ceremony, the bride serves her in-laws, formally introducing her to the groom's family. In very traditional families the couple must serve tea kneeling down. Most modern families are happy for them to bow whilst serving tea instead.

After the tea ceremony, red packets or jewellery are presented on a serving plate. Beware - your relatives may want you to wear their gifts right away, ensuring you're sparkling like Christmas tree by the time the ceremony is complete.

After the formalities the couple head to the wedding reception, which can either be a less formal standing affair for modern couples with cocktails and canapés; while traditional brides may treat their guests to a 10 to 12 course feast carefully chosen to represent luck, wealth, health and success.

Cake time is much anticipated, and Chinese wedding cakes are typically enormous, boasting many layers symbolising the ladder the couple will climb on their way to success. The cake is cut from bottom to top and the couple feed each other cake before together feeding their parents and grandparents.

Another celebratory tradition is The Red Silk Cloth - a tradition in which guests sign a length of cloth which is later presented to the married couple.

While Chinese sky lanterns have been a much-loved tradition at wedding receptions, signalling good fortune and prosperity, they have recently been banned in Australia as a potential fire hazard. No doubt brides are coming up with innovative variations on the theme - using bright paper lanterns to decorate reception venues or even attaching them to fishing line so they don't blow away!

The options for decorating your reception venue are endless and colour schemes often feature red and black - picture bright paper lanterns, elegant bamboo centrepieces and glittering gold.

A modern take on a Chinese wedding take a look at the real wedding of Bernadetta & Nicolai

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