How to Propose In Chinese: 10 Ways to Pop the Question

how to propose in chinese

Marriage proposals can be stressful at the best of times. Once you add in the differences in culture, customs, and language, you can find yourself in a real pickle. Fortunately, there are ways to ensure that your engagement goes without a hitch! Here we will learn how to propose in Chinese and explore Chinese wedding customs that might blow your mind.

How to propose in Chinese: 10 popular ways

So you are getting ready to pop the question? Regardless of how you’d like to propose, this collection of beautiful, romantic, passionate, but also quirky and cheesy Chinese proposal phrases will come in handy when you decide to take the plunge.

1. 嫁给我好吗?– Jià gěi wǒ hǎo ma?

The scene is set: dimmed lights, rose petals, scented candles, the whole shebang. The dowry is settled, you pull out the engagement necklace, and…wait, what? Let’s rewind a little bit.

If you haven’t been paying attention so far, Chinese customs differ quite a bit from Western ones, and proposals are no exception. In ancient China, marriage was a union between families, not an individual endeavor. As such, family gift exchanges and dowries were very much a thing. Buying an engagement ring and going down on one knee? Not really a thing, sorry.

Times are changing, and many young couples embrace the more traditional Western ways. How you decide to go about your marriage proposal depends entirely on you and your partner. With that in mind, a romantic setting and a simple 嫁给我好吗?Jià gěi wǒ hǎo ma? (“Will you marry me?”) is still considered a universal and beautiful way to ask someone for their hand in marriage.

2. 你愿意成为我的妻子吗?– Nǐ yuànyì chéngwéi wǒde qīzi ma?

A slightly more formal way of proposing, the phrase 你愿意成为我的妻子吗?Nǐ yuànyì chéngwéi wǒde qīzi ma? literally translates to “Will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?” Straightforward and conventional, this phrase might be a good choice if you’re proposing in front of the bride’s family (obviously, make sure to get the parents’ permission first!)

The word 妻子 qīzi is an official term for “wife.” A less formal way to refer to your spouse is 老婆 lǎopo, similar to the English phrase “wifey.” The same goes for 丈夫 zhàngfu (husband) and 老公 lǎogōng (hubby.)

guy proposing to a girl in china

3. 让我们共度此生 – Ràng wǒmen gòngdù cǐshēng

Another common yet meaningful way to propose in Chinese is to say 让我们共度此生 Ràng wǒmen gòngdù cǐshēng. The words 共度 gòngdù mean “to spend together,” while 此生 cǐshēng translates to “this life.” Put them into one sentence, and you’ll get “Let’s spend the rest of our lives together,” a very sweet phrase that will earn you some brownie points with your future missus.

After you’ve done your homework, watched all the movies, got down on one knee, and given her the proposal she’s been waiting for her whole life, you’re ready for the next step! The next step will largely depend on the province, local customs, and family’s social class.

4. 我想和你一起变老 – Wǒ xiǎng hé nǐ yīqǐ biàn lǎo

If you want to express your love in Chinese, then tell your soon-to-be fiancée that you wish to grow old with her. Can you imagine anything more romantic?

To do this, you’ll need to remember just one simple Mandarin expression — 我想和你一起变老 Wǒ xiǎng hé nǐ yīqǐ biàn lǎo. Chinese girls admire men who know what they want and aren’t afraid to ask for it, so this romantic gesture will surely sweep her off her feet.

5. 想永远和你在一起 – Wǒ xiǎng yǒngyuǎn hé nǐ zài yīqǐ

A marriage proposal in Chinese culture is generally a formal affair and nothing like the Hollywood movies we’re all so used to. Keeping that in mind, respecting the local traditions, waiting for the right moment, and giving her the proposal she’s been waiting for her whole life is beyond important.

One way to make sure that your Chinese girlfriend accepts your proposal is to avoid surprises by talking to her beforehand. This way, you can learn more about her expectations about marriage and life in general. For instance, is dating for three weeks serious enough to warrant a proposal? How many months should pass between the engagement party and the actual wedding? Is someone acting as a go-between for you and your bride? Do you even know what a go-between does in this process? Communication is key in every relationship, especially when stepping into a union with someone from a different culture.

Once you are sure that you are on the same page and you want to be with her forever, express this by saying 我想永远和你在一起 Wǒ xiǎng yǒngyuǎn hé nǐ zài yīqǐ.

female hands with engagement ring

6. 你会让我成为最幸福的人吗?– Nǐ huì ràng wǒ chéngwéi zuì xìngfú de rén ma?

One thing you need to know about Chinese women is that they have high expectations, especially when it comes to relationships, engagements, and marriage. In fact, many young Chinese men still struggle with finding the right words to win over the hearts of their future brides. The way to their heart is through grand romantic gestures.

In these cases, simple phrases like “I love you” or “I miss you” won’t seal the deal. You need to go big. And what better way to show off your love (and language skills) than to use the phrase 你会让我成为最幸福的人吗?Nǐ huì ràng wǒ chéngwéi zuì xìngfú de rén ma? This is the English equivalent to “Will you make me the happiest man alive?” and a foolproof way to blow away your intended spouse. Bonus points if a nice dinner is included in the package!

7. 有你在我身边我的人生才完整 – Yǒu nǐ zài wǒ shēnbiān wǒde rénshēng cái wánzhěng

A young man, brought up and influenced by Western culture, will often wonder how to propose to a Chinese woman the right way. But unfortunately, Hollywood movies don’t teach us the proper etiquette when it comes to Chinese weddings.

You’ve probably heard some horror stories about outrageous proposals and customs in rural villages if you have a Chinese girlfriend. They include a hefty bride price, an overflowing red envelope for the girl’s parents, or a public dance involving people dressed up as giant carrots (yes, really.) These preconceived notions will prompt young men to purchase elaborate gifts and make grand romantic gestures to be a perfect “future groom.”

Obviously, all of this can be a little overwhelming. Even more so when you learn that plenty of young Chinese men have been rejected in the past because they “lacked originality.” So, what does this mean for your marriage proposal? Is an elaborate proposal really necessary? The truth is — it depends.

You can watch all the movies and read all the books, but none of them will tell you what your wife-to-be wants. Only you know that. With that being said, sometimes a simple romantic gesture and the words 有你在我身边我的人生才完整 Yǒu nǐ zài wǒ shēnbiān wǒde rénshēng cái wánzhěng (“Having you by my side is what completes me”) will do the trick.

guy hugging a girl

8. 我们在一起是天意 – Wǒmen zài yìqǐ shì tiānyì

Have you known, for the moment you laid eyes on her, that your girlfriend is “the one”? If so, there’s no better way to profess your love for her than to tell her 我们在一起是天意 Wǒmen zài yìqǐ shì tiānyì.

The Chinese words 天意 tiānyì literally mean “providence” or “the will of Heaven.” In the context of this sentence, the meaning could be interpreted as “The two of us being together is God’s will.” However, a more generic English translation would be “We are meant to be together.”

Although the Chinese language isn’t exactly a language of romance, it can be considered romantic. If your Chinese girlfriend believes in faith and destiny, this phrase might be the perfect marriage proposal.

9. 我无法想象没有你的生活 – Wǒ wúfǎ xiǎngxiàng méiyǒu nǐ de shēnghuó

High expectations in Chinese culture are not uncommon. Still, nowadays, even Chinese couples are deciding to forgo some of the traditions. For instance, you might not have to purchase a lavish new villa for her parents, but you should definitely try to follow at least some Chinese engagement rules. Otherwise, you’ll be playing the marriage game in hard mode.

A good rule of thumb is following one Chinese proposal custom for every Western tradition you decide on. So, when you decide to go down on one knee and propose with a diamond ring, you better get your dictionary ready. Surprise your girl with something along the lines of 我无法想象没有你的生活 Wǒ wúfǎ xiǎngxiàng méiyǒu nǐ de shēnghuó — or, in other words, “I can’t imagine my life without you in it.”

10. 我希望我可以给你一切,但我希望这枚戒指就足够了 – Wǒ xīwàng wǒ kěyǐ gěi nǐ yīqiè, dàn wǒ xīwàng zhè méi jièzhǐ jiù zúgòule

As far as cheesy expressions go, nothing can beat the 我希望我可以给你一切,但我希望这枚戒指就足够了 Wǒ xīwàng wǒ kěyǐ gěi nǐ yīqiè, dàn wǒ xīwàng zhè méi jièzhǐ jiù zúgòule. This phrase means, “I wish I could give you everything, but I hope this ring is enough.”

A diamond engagement ring will not be enough if you’ve been following China’s wedding culture. Obviously, the expectations from the future son-in-law may differ in many ways from family to family and largely depend on the city, province, and in many cases, the social class of the family.

woman surprised with engagement ring

What type of men do Chinese girls admire most?

Chinese girls admire it when a young man makes an effort to spoil them. But, of course, this doesn’t always include elaborate gifts and engagement rings. Sometimes a verbal proposal over a romantic dinner will do the trick.

One thing is certain, though — most Chinese girls expect the relationship to progress quickly to marriage, so make sure to start planning ahead. This is not to say that Chinese women are rushing to get married, but a marriage proposal is the logical next step if you’ve been dating for a long time. Usually, Chinese girls (and Chinese men) don’t share the same preconceived notions about marriage proposals and traditions typical in Western culture.

What do city-bred Chinese women expect from men?

Chinese women, especially city-bred ones, will often make elaborate plans for their upcoming wedding, sometimes even three weeks into the relationship! For an American man or someone brought up in the West, this might seem too rushed — and for a good reason too. However, don’t let this dissuade you from pursuing the relationship or taking it to another level.

In Chinese culture, relationships often progress quickly, and it’s not uncommon for couples to marry young. A marriage is considered a significant milestone of adulthood.

Another factor that plays a significant role here is peer pressure — from parents, relatives, friends, and the government. Because of this, many Chinese couples decide to marry simply to fulfill a duty to their family. Arranged marriages are still widespread, mostly in traditional households in rural villages. In such cases, the girl’s parents will expect a hefty bride price to be paid, which is commonly done with a cash-filled red envelope.

If all of this seems a bit too much, you’ll be pleased to learn that these traditions aren’t really set in stone. In fact, in recent years, Western-style proposals and weddings started catching on even in China. So to avoid surprises and disagreements with your future in-laws, talk to your intended spouse about your expectations for the upcoming wedding.

chinese engagement traditions

What role does the bride’s family have in the wedding process?

A girl’s parents will often expect their future son-in-law to throw an elaborate proposal. This dates back to ancient China, where weddings and engagements were considered formal. You want to go all out; after all, you wouldn’t wish to spend the rest of your life listening to your in-laws saying how you lacked originality when it came to popping the question.

Western-style proposals have started catching on among the young Chinese in recent years. They have become increasingly popular, especially with city-bred Chinese women. To the dismay of the bride’s family, the future son-in-law will often ignore local traditions and instead opt for a more modern approach.

The key here is finding the right balance between the two. After all, the future groom should try not to offend the girlfriend’s parents, regardless of how unusual or bizarre some customs can get.

What should you know about China’s Wedding culture?

In olden times, the Chinese would perform several traditional pre-wedding rites, including sending betrothal gifts, paying a bridal price, and selecting an auspicious wedding date. The groom was required to pay a large bride price and shower the bride’s parents with gifts. Often, the parents expected lavish presents like a new villa or a hefty hongbao. There’s no telling how many months would pass between the proposal and the actual wedding, as the customs differ quite a bit from province to province.

For many foreigners, navigating wedding customs in China is like playing the game of life on hard mode. This was especially true when families had a much bigger say in the whole wedding process. The parents are expected to act as go-betweens for the bride and groom to ensure that everything goes smoothly. Fortunately for those who aren’t quite used to the Chinese way of doing things, many young couples nowadays are ditching the whole go-betweens’ practice. Instead, the more individual and direct approach to wedding planning is becoming increasingly popular.

By the time you finish reading this article, you’ll be one step closer to your perfect wedding day — congrats! So which one of these phrases speaks to your heart?

Whether you opt for the traditional Chinese route or decide that Western-style proposals are the way to go, these Mandarin phrases will surely come in handy. Before you jump the gun, though, make sure to do your research, pick the right moment, and, we can’t stress this enough, take it easy. (Otherwise, you and your friends might do a public dance dressed up as giant carrots!)

A marriage proposal is probably one of the most memorable moments in a person’s life and something that you and your wife-to-be will remember forever. It’s a celebration of love and a union between two souls. Make it count.