This past Sunday I was invited to my friend’s cousin’s wedding. It was explained to me that a traditional Chinese wedding is quite informal and is more of a dinner party during the day rather than a full service like we might be used to in Western culture. The dress was very informal; attire consisted of something you would wear to a family dinner at Atria’s or Red Lobster. I, however, had to wear a suit because I forgot to pack anything in-between. It was either suit or ratty everyday school-wear.
The main difference in a Chinese style wedding from a Western style wedding is the fact that the service and reception are lumped into one. As everyone eats delicious fried fish, roast duck, pork loins, and mounds of noodles the service goes on and speeches are given by friends and family members. The ring, “I do” part, and bouquet throw were all conducted in the giant hotel party hall while everyone was eating and drinking. This method is definitely a lot easier than moving around from place to place, because sometimes miscommunications happen and people get left out of pictures…uhhhh….(inside joke)
It was amazing how excited the bride and groom were to have a foreigner in attendance. My friend and I sat down at one of the head tables, even though he himself was not the closest of relatives with the groom. Soon after we sat down my friend’s cell phone rang and it was the bride from the other room! She told him to make sure that I had everything I needed and if I wanted anything they could get the servers to get it. She obviously meant to be secretive about it, but my friend thought it was too funny and told me anyway.
The dinner started at 10:30 in the morning on a Sunday and right away we began drinking bai jiu (Chinese liquor). My friend made it a point to tell the whole table I was in the Navy and because China has an infatuation with the military, from fashion to just plain curiosity, they began to pass me more and more shots. It is impolite to refuse anything, especially in this setting, so I looked at my watch and said here we go! I took the first shot at 10:45 am.
The dinner and festivities were about five to six hours long and I was going shot for shot with our table. I started to get pretty good at drinking bai jiu so I was feeling good, but still coherent. As the bottle reached its end I asked the eldest man at the table to finish it with me (polite custom). He said that he was driving and only drinking Sprite. I asked if anyone else wanted to and they all had the same response. Apparently the only two people actually drinking at the table were me and my friend. So we were basically going shot of bai jiu for shot of Sprite…not a fair game.
The ceremony consisted of segmented performances and picture slide shows being played on big screens. I took some pictures of the ceremonies performed by the couple and of some of the decorations. I have not really been to many weddings I can remember, but I believe that this is the way to do it. Money was definitely not an option and there were no stale cookies or fake bottles of wine on the table. Everything was real and real expensive. They did not expect gifts and they just enjoyed everyone’s company and wanted to allow everyone to celebrate WITH them not FOR them. My friend convinced me I should go up and say something to the bride and groom over the MC. I agreed and grabbed the microphone and said a few words, everyone clapped and I sat down. Not until the next day did I see the video of me literally standing up there for five minutes speaking fluid Chinese about how love is the most important thing on earth and how great the bride and groom looked so nice, all the time holding a glass of bai jiu. I was thinking about posting this, but my blog is not able to upload large video, so I will just keep this one to myself.
The dinner ended around 4:00 pm and we all went back home. My friend and I made it back to our dorm OK and could not believe we still had the rest of the day ahead of us. This experience was truly a lot of fun and I am thankful I had an opportunity to see an actual Chinese wedding.
Jordan J. Foley傅力波