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Published: September 23rd 2007
The Bride and Groom Arrive
Its the norm to rent a red convertible for the occasion.
When our IT Manager Mike sent out a mass email inviting everyone from work to his wedding, a number of us thought we should decline, surely he didn't mean us newcomers...he didn't know us well enough! We were soon informed that just the opposite, he would love nothing more than to have the school fully represented at the wedding. Chinese Weddings are large affairs. When we told Mike we would come he was absolutely thrilled and has since let us know several times that we are his very good friends.
Once we agreed to go, the next part was to find out what customs we ought to know about. My first source of information was Huilin Liang who runs the volunteer organization in Teda. Huilin let me know how it ought to be done. We should dress nicely, in bright colours, no black. She said a small gift is ok, but 200 rmb per person is generally the gift for guests who are not that close to the bride and groom. HOWEVER!!! She said that Craig and I should not put 400 rmb in, as 4 is very bad luck, it sounds like death. 6 is a very lucky number
Rosemary receives her pin
All the girls have red pins placed in their hair.
or 8. In the end there were six of us who went together, so we put in twelve hundred rmb, which is a multiple of six, so I figure its twice as lucky? To any of my improv students out there...doesn't this sound like fuzzy ducky??? Anyway, we knew we needed a card, so Shelby and I ventured into Hymall (ending the boycott I had vowed only a week previously). We had no idea which card was appropriate, and you can't open them in the store. So, when we got to the hotel and opened it up for everyone to sign, we were very amused to see we had actually purchased a "Happy Mid-Autumn Festival" card. We figure Mike will think its funny, and certainly, knowing its from all the new members of staff we figure he will understand. Its a very pretty card anyway. We also gave him a lightcatcher from Canada inside the closest thing to a gift bag we could find. It also had Chinese Characters on it, and we have no idea, and probably never will, just what the bag says. Hopefully it isn't congratulations on the birth of your baby.
The next trick was
Shelby, Beth and Rosemary
Resting our bellies after the big meal.
to figure out what to wear. We were told to avoid black (like any wedding), and to dress nicely, but not too formally. A bunch of us went dress shopping to no avail. The clothes here are all very interesting and generally pretty retro. We could buy really frilly dresses that a twelve year old might wear, or something really funky from another era altogether. We saw dresses that looked right out of Marie Antoinette! Of course, most of the clothes would never fit me... despite the pounds that have been dropped via my chopstick diet. In the end I managed to find a dress I liked at the department store near my house. Its definitely got a housewife feel to it, but kind of funky. And, as the store caters to foreigners, I barely fit into an extra-large. The day before the wedding we were told that some people would show up in jeans. We all figure it was better to overdress anyway, and I don't think any of us looked that out of place. Generally Chinese women dress up most of the time. You see them biking down the street in a flowing dress and high heels.
The front of the reception hall
It reminded me of a television set for something like the Newly Wed Game.
The event started at 10:30am.
The couple gets married before they arrive. Possibly days before. They arrive at the hotel in a red convertible. On the ground in the parking lot are two strings of fireworks laid out like two overlapping hearts. Its so loud we rushed into the hotel. Mike (the husband) carries his new wife (in a big white western style wedding dress) from the car into the hotel. The dress probably weighed as much as she did!
At the table, the bride and groom had laid out an assortment of goodies for the guests. There were licorice flavoured pumpking seeds, cigarettes, an assortment of juices and alcoholic beverages. A mother (I don't know if it was the Bride or Groom's mother) comes around and places a red pin in every woman's hair). Its a great souvenir.
Mike and his wife walked down the aisle, between the tables. A grade 10 student was the flower girl, a grade 8 student the ring bearer. As the passed our table indoor fireworks went off.
They hire professional MCs for Chinese Weddings. The fellow introducing the family and guests had a "gameshow" quality voice, and by
A generous spread
When you arrive at the table there is a spread of beverages, snacks and cigarettes for your enjoyment.
his intonations, we easily knew when to clap. Yes clap and clap often. An "applause" sign would not have been out of place. The whole ceremony had a TV feel to it. As the ceremony was almost entirely in Chinese you could just get a sense for the meaning. I can't deny, I still choked up when the bride was giving out her thank-yous, you could tell she was moved, so I felt it too.
After speeches we got down to the meal. It was an incredible assortment of dishes to choose from. I tried some fish (see picture), which although I don't know what it is called, I know for certain I have never had it before. It was really nice, and very fresh. Whenever you thought surely they are done, more dishes of food came. It was a very generous spread of food. Even if you didn't like everything, there was more than enough food to fill you up.
Mike and his wife dissapeared at the beginning of the meal, but then reemerged, this time the bridge in a beautiful traditional red dress. During the meal, Mike and his wife came around and took a drink
The bride and groom pass through the heart shaped arch beside our table.
with each table. We just had wine, but they were drinking something clear (and I think rather potent). They snuck off again and emerged a third time, this time she was wearing a gorgeous turquoise coloured dress. Sadly, most guests had left by this time. In fact, our table, feeling we had overstayed our welcome met them while we waited for the elevator, so I don't have a photo of that dress.
A few other fun tidbits from the wedding included the Kareoke singers (who several people from our table recognized from the band at the dance club the night before), and the fact that the moment the ceremony is over, the hotel begins packing everything up around the dining guests. By the time we left, there was nothing left to indicate it had been anything more than a big meal. All the flowers, and decorations were gone.
We were out of the hotel by 1pm. Most of us went home to nap. We have already received an invitation to our next Chinese Wedding. They are lots of fun, and I just love weddings, so I will keep going. Isabella (the bride to be), informs me she will
Fireworks went off along the procession as the flower girl and ring bearer passed by and continued until the bride and groom had passed.
only have one dress, so maybe it will a different experience.
A big thank you to Mike and his wife for including us in this special day. We wish them the best for their future together. Although I've tried to relay the event to friends back home, mostly by pointing out differences from weddings in Canada, I am not trying to judge one event as being any more authentic, or meaningful than the other. The wedding was lovely, and we were honoured to be part of it.
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