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Published: October 3rd 2011
The wedding was more wonderful than we expected for so many reasons. The bride was more than beautiful, in both of her dresses. Jacob, handsome and confident in his dragon coat, made the perfect groom. The young attendants were a great support team for the couple, and we really enjoyed getting to know them. We also met many members of Lynn's extended family from Chengdu and from a small town in northern Sichuan province. And Kathy and I were so proud to be in our Chinese outfits up front in seats of honor with the bride's parents.
Jacob pulled off his song to open the ceremony without a hitch, singing into the mike held by the wedding MC as he walked down the aisle, strumming a guitar, to retrieve Lynn from her father. Our performance of Tian Mi Mi later was appreciated, if less than perfect.
The ceremony included a "tea toast", after the vows, which involved Lynn giving each of us a cup of tea as Jacob was doing the same with her parents. This, and the hugs that followed, symbolized the joining of the families, and was a very emotional moment for both Kathy and me.
After the crowd dove into the immense seafood buffet at the reception, Kathy and I joined Jacob and Lynn and her parents to make the round of tables for congratulatory toasts. Lynn or her Dad told us, in English, who was at each table we visited: "my wife's family", "my family", "the referees" (a group of about 20 of Lynn's basketball referee colleagues), "the referee teachers" (an equally large group of apparently retired basketball referees), and so forth. At one table were the members of Lynn's college basketball team (Lynn was the captain).
Before the ceremony we had a nice conversation with Lynn's aunt Mei who is from Chengdu but now lives most of the time in Uganda for business. Last year we spent several nights in her apartment in Chengdu where her son, Jamie, was living,and it was nice to be able to thank her for that and to get to know her a bit (needless to say, her English is very good). We also had a nice time talking to Faith (American) and Penny (Australian) two ex-pats living in Chongqing who are long time friends of Lynn's family.
We have a posted a few photos here
that Karen was able to take in all the chaos while we were busy with our various duties. The lighting conditions were not conducive to capturing the scene with our little camera. I hope we will be able to get a set of professional ones later to post on a site for family and friends to view.
The wedding for us was a series of images since we understood nothing that was being said and little of the ceremony itself. I am still sifting through beautiful and emotional pictures:
Lynn in her red phoenix dress, symbolizing yin and the sky, and Jacob in his dragon jacket for yang and the earth.
Lynn's parents glowing as the perfect hosts, introducing us to all their guests.
Both of Lynn's grandmothers smiling and welcoming us into their families.
Many of Lynn's friends coming to our table to toast and wish us well.
Our wonderful friends Karen and Jim sharing our joy.
Jacob prepared a slide show juxtaposing photos of each of them from babies to their new life together. I am still amazed that while Lynn was being raised in a small Tibetan town in northern Sichuan province and
then in one of the largest cities of the world, her
husband was growing up in the northwestern U.S. We watched as they held hands, exchanged vows, and moved confidently into their future.
The first thing to understand about a Chinese wedding is that it is in Chinese. Since my Chinese is limited to three words - 'Hello', 'Sorry' and 'No good' - I can report that the words 'Thank you' were uttered three times and other than that it was all a verbal mystery.
That said, the essence of a wedding is the same in all languages and all cultures. A man and a woman committing their lives to each other. Their friends and families sharing in their joy and committing to support them in their lifelong undertaking.
You didn't need to understand a word of Chinese to translate Lynn's beauty in her elegant red gown with a phoenix running from shoulder to knee; her obvious love for Jacob through her shining eyes; Jacob in his dragon jacket singing to welcome his bride and chosen love to the marriage podium; four beaming parents occasionally wiping their eyes as they absorb the deep significance of the moment
for the adult children that they have raised and treasure.
The Chinese twists to this universal theme were many. The plates of cigarettes and candies offered to all guests as they entered the elegant hotel where the wedding was being held. The immense variety and quantity of food - probably at least sixty different dishes ranging from at least a half dozen kinds of chicken and as many different kinds of beef and pork; shark fin; chicken's feet (big on texture, low on flavor); seafood of many kinds; fifteen or so salads including melons, cucumber and other fruits. There were entire tables of food I didn't even look at.
The wedding banquet is rooted in a deep respect for the Confucian host/guest relationship. We were all guests and Lynn's parents were the gracious and generous hosts at the most important celebration of their family life.
At one point during the ceremony Jacob and Lynn came over to Jim and me and placed long white scarves around our necks; a Tibetan symbol of welcome. (Lynn spent the early years of her childhood in a Tibetan region of Sichuan.) This was a total surprise and brought tears to my eyes.
of her family treated us with incredible warmth. We received an enthusiastic thumbs up from an uncle at our table who approved of our use of chop sticks instead of the forks and knives that had been thoughtfully provided. We all stayed in the hotel as guests of Lynn's parents. Hospitality is a cultivated art in China and we are the happy recipients.
Jim and I are so fortunate to be with our dear friends at this most important event in their lives. It is a joy to have gotten to know Lynn as the sweet, capable and beautiful young woman she is and know first hand that she was raised by generous, good people. Of course we know that the same is true of Jacob. These feelings cross all international borders and give us a deep confidence that Lynn and Jacob will celebrate decades of happiness together. We are grateful to the core to have been part of all of this.
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