Chinese wedding traditions are not to be taken lightly, even in today's Westernized world. In Chinese wedding, the bride's family has the right to request for certain items which the groom's family has to comply to allow them to marry and "take away" the daughter from her family.
The bride's parents often request the wedding dowry or Ping Kam as part of the proposal or negotiation session between the two families.
The tradition of presenting the Ping Kam to the bride's family dates back to ancient China where the bride price was given as a token to the bride's family for taking her away from her family, as a sign of respect to the bride's parents for having raised her and to tell them that their daughter is worthy and to form a bond of goodwill between the two families.
In olden China where families were often poor, this bride price also served as financial aid to the bride's family to help them purchase essential items required for the wedding celebrations.
In today's more affluent society, "face" and reputation is often the reason behind the presentation of the token. The lack of a bride price or Ping Kam in the wedding proposal is often misinterpreted by society that the bride has no value and is not worthy of anything, which reflects badly on her family.
The amount is sometimes discussed during the negotiation sessions between the two families with the matchmaker or go-between. Otherwise, the bride's family may leave it to the groom's family to set a suitable token sum based on the "standard" rate in society, which may range from anything between a few thousand dollars to over tens of thousands.
The Ping Kam also often includes a certain number of tables at the wedding banquet for the bride's family. Setting aside tables for the bride's family essentially means that any ang pows or cash gifts from these tables belong the the bride and her family instead of the groom.
Ping Kam is often given on an auspicious day, (3 weeks or a month before the wedding day,) together with the bethothal Gift (guo ta lai items). Traditionally, it's cash, today, a cheque will do.
The family will return a portion of the bride price to the groom to show that the bride's family is not greedy in accepting all the money. Nowadays, the bride's parents often present the newlyweds with the money to help them start their new life together.
The presenting of the bride price is an aged-old Chinese Tradition that is rich in culture. Sometimes, it may be sensitive if not approached correctly so please do ensure proper discussions are held so neither party misunderstands the tradition behind it.
Groom - please remember to give an ang pow to the bride's mother for bringing her up and to her grandparents (both side).