When I say Western style, I don’t mean Country and Western, for all you Texans out there. What I mean is a wedding in China with some traditional elements known to us Westerners. We were invited to a Chinese wedding, the groom being a young man who used to work in our school as a liason helping to obtain work visas, etc for new foreign staff. He and Sean became friends, soon after our arrival last August. From what we’ve been told most weddings are held in hotels or nice restaurants, depending on the economic level of the families involved. It’s usually one big party with lots of drinking, karaoke, celebrations, etc.
But this couple desired something different. One of the teachers on our team has been doing premarital counseling with them, and the groom asked this teacher to officiate the wedding. His teacher’s wife became the wedding coordinator. She did a great job adding a “Western” style to the event, which was held in a nearby hotel ballroom. A center aisle was formed, with round tables on either side, which the bride walked down and onto a stage. They exchanged vows and rings, and lit a unity candle. One interesting tradition that Chinese couples do is to serve tea to their new parents in-law. Then each of the parents give red envelopes to the bride and groom with monetary gifts. Also during the reception, the bride changes dresses, make-up and hair, a few different times. Then she and the groom go around greeting each table with toasting. At that time the guests present red envelopes with monetary gifts to the bride and groom. No one really gives wedding gifts, only money. All the female guests are give an red “thing-a-ma-bopper” to put in their hair. I didn’t get what that represented. See picture below:
The food was very different than what we would expect at a wedding reception. There were over 26 course of food served, including cold vegetables dishes, chicken feet, two different soups, fish skin, shrimp, flounder, roasted chicken, stir fry vegetables, mushrooms, pork pieces (with a layer of skin, fat then the meat), clams, tofu, a dessert rice mold and fruit. The number of courses represent the status of wealth in the family. With the amount of food served we were able to find many that we liked. However, for the dishes we weren’t brave enough to try, the servers kept coming to take away, saying they would bring back a smaller portion; but we really think they were placing the untouched food on new plates and serving it to other guests!
We were joined by a few others on our team. One family with two young daughters were asked if their girls could be flower-girls. And another young boy on our team was the ring bearer. Here, Jessie helps to serve the cake (the flower girls and wedding coordinator’s daughter helped too).
We felt very honored to have been invited and hope to continue our friendship as we get to know our friend’s new bride.