A wedding in China (part 1)
So what happens at a Chinese wedding today? It is certainly very different to how we traditionally conduct weddings in the west! Here are my experiences:
2 days to go:
A traditional Chinese meal for lunch is served at the bride’s parent’s home, including dumplings, pork dishes, eggplant, cabbage, and noodle dishes. The parents of the bride and the parents of the groom exchange gifts for each other, and the bride and groom, and plenty of toasting to the couple goes on all round! (Instead of cheers we say “Gan Bei” literally translating as “empty glass”).
Afterwards, keen to engage in the more western occasion, stag and hen do’s are organised to a smaller extent, as the bride and bridesmaids head out to have their nails done in the centre of town, and the groom and his best men head for a walk around Tongling Lake…via a bar. In the evening the parties converge, and a hotpot is shared together in a nearby restaurant followed by a healthy dosage of KTV as the wedding party sing late into the night!
1 day to go:
After recovering from the festivities the night before, the groom arrives at the same hotel as all of us where he must stay tonight and not see or visit the bride. Meanwhile, the parents of the bride burn banknotes and set off some fireworks at their home in a ceremony that brings blessings on the wedding from their ancestors.
The day of the wedding!
We all have a big breakfast together (myself with the groom and best men) and dress in our suits for midday. To be smart in suits shows more our western values, with many of the Chinese guests expected simply in a shirt and jeans, or more casual clothes. Soon the cameraman arrives for the day (as opposed to the photographer) and we film scenes of dressing the groom and shaking his hands/ preparing him for the events to come/ handing him a bouquet of flowers and showing him say farewell to his parents.
The groom and best men then board a fleet of taxis outside the hotel and journey to the brides parents’ house. Health and Safety, not for the first time today, takes a backseat as I watch the drivers shove boxes and boxes of fireworks into the boots and the cameraman climbs through the sunroof to film from his front car!
Arriving at the parents’ house, the boxes of fireworks are retrieved and set off barely metres from us, causing a deafening noise, announcing the arrival of the groom. We all set off to the front door where we are encouraged to bang loudly and make a racket as the ceremony of taking the bride from the house begins. Occasionally the door opens slightly and we must hand small, pre-prepared red envelopes containing money to the bride’s relatives that are behind the door (this is known as “hong bao”). Once in the first door, this is repeated at the bedroom door of the bride, but this time only the groom knocks and gives red envelopes. Eventually, he is let in and the bride, in her dress comes out, to the release of more fireworks and rounds of applause, and the first steps to the marriage are complete, causing the bride’s parents to become quite emotional.
Next, the parent’s blessings on the wedding are needed, so we begin the tea ceremonies. First, still at the brides parent’s house, the bride and groom brew and serve tea to their mother and father and they show approval for the wedding by handing over more red envelopes. Then, journeying back to the hotel in the wedding cars to where the groom’s parents are, the process is repeated with them. With the wedding finally all ready to go ahead, everyone accompanies the bride and groom to the honeymoon suite where they help them settle in by jumping on the bed, draped in lucky red covers, and finding red eggs and sweets inside the duvet, signs of fertility. After some more formal photos (the cameraman has been following and filming all of this), the main event begins at a nearby restaurant…